Accrington Stanley 0-1 Gillingham Six Things: Bonham masterclass sees Gills to victory

Wham Stadium – (credit: Anthony Greenwood, Neil Broadhurst, John Hurst and Steve Bingham(

Gillingham have their first away win of their campaign as a combination of a fine Regan Charles-Cook strike and a goalkeeping masterclass from Jack Bonham saw them to a 1-0 win at Accrington Stanley. Here’s Six Things from the clash in East Lancashire.

Even first half

In the first half, Gillingham operated high up the pitch for longer periods and had more of the territorial advantages, but Stanley looked more exciting in the final third. Gillingham forced stops and blocks via a Jack Tucker back-post header from Regan Charles-Cook’s floated cross, before Mark Byrne’s effort from outside the box. Stanley, aggressive in the press, hit the post via the in-form Colby Bishop following a right-sided byline cross from the influential Sam Finley, who was linking up well with right-winger Jordan Clark right-back Callum Johnson early on.

Gillingham’s press

Gillingham became more prominent in the press towards the first half’s midway point. Regan Charles-Cook and Mark Byrne are both central midfielders by trade, the advantage of which being that they, Byrne especially, found it easier to support the work out of possession, as the disciplined Alfie Jones and the aggressive Stuart O’Keefe got a handle on the midfield. Their work forced Stanley to go long, even though neither Bishop nor Offrande Zanzala represent aerial reference points. The disadvantage to Gillingham’s system though was that they lacked natural width and so, even though Stanley did not control the first half, the hosts could still create the better chances. Following a pin-point left-wing cross from the impressive Jerome Opoku, Bishop’s header forced a save from Jack Bonham on 27 minutes, before Zanzala’s close-range finish was disallowed three minutes later.

Defining second half minute

It was a quiet start to the second half but it was sparked into life when Zanzala saw a one-on-one shot saved before Bishop hit the post, then Sean McConville, Opoku and S̩amus Conneely were unable to convert from favourable positions due to a chaotic combination of blocks, stops and clearances. The Gills heroics were rewarded moments later, when Regan Charles-Cook was released in space on the edge of the box and produced the quality to curl into the far corner. Charles-Cook had had a quiet patch in the game at that point, but that finish demonstrated why Evans likes him high up the pitch Рhe can change a game.

Could Bonham be beaten?

Stanley continued to test Bonham, with Mark Hughes’ powerful header from McConville’s right-wing corner being well stopped by the Brentford recruit, who was having an excellent afternoon. The goalkeeper denied a back-post effort following substitute Joe Pritchard’s free-kick before palming away a shot from the wriggling Jordan Clark, then saving from Pritchard himself at the near-post in an extraordinary second half performance.

Stanley unlucky

Accrington Stanley were defeated here but they can take heart from the fact they posed more of a goal threat than their visitors; without having control, necessarily, when the game was goalless, they still looked exciting and enterprising, then when they were behind, they were merely unlucky that the opposing goalkeeper was simply possessed – that will give them further hope that they can remain competitive in this league. The individual performances of recent recruits Opoku and Alese were hugely encouraging, as was Finley’s midfield display, so despite the loss, an afternoon of 20 shots at goal lends them positives to take.

Gillingham end their away drought 

This was a first away win of the season for Gillingham, who were nothing if not committed; we saw their cohesive pressing in the first half, then heroic, last-ditch defending in the second. On the one hand, Steve Evans’ side were slightly fortunate that Bonham was on form but on the other hand, they had drawn five of their first seven on the road and had not been out of many of the games they had not won – Oxford aside – so maybe they were due some fortune. Can they use this win as a springboard for progression up the table? Maybe, but they still did not quite show enough to suggest they will finish in the top half.