LESTER HAT-TRICK SEES OFF PLUCKY GILLS
By Jamie Dixon
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Forest looked the better team at the start of the first half, coming out more confidently, and they were rewarded for their positive approach with the opening goal after just nine minutes.
Robbie Blake supplied the perfect pass through the centre of the field for Jack Lester, who latched onto the ball, rounded Adrian Pennock on the edge of the box and slotted the ball past Vince Bartram in the Gillingham goal.
However, this seemed to breathe new life into the home side, and they immediately looked to press forward in search of an equaliser.
Forest were then forced to play with only ten men for a short while, as left back Alan Rogers went down under the challenge of Paul Smith and had to go off for treatment on his knee.
Rogers did then come back on the pitch, but his return to the back line couldn't help prevent The Gills from equalising on 19 minutes, as Iffy Onoura rose well at the post to beat off the challenge of Chris Bart Williams and head the ball home to make it 1-1.
Rogers then had to be replaced by Ben Olsen on 25 minutes, after again going down clutching his knee as he seemed to turn awkwardly, and this meant that Forest had to restructure slightly.
Gillingham continued to press, determined to take advantage of their greater possession and on 37 minutes Paul Shaw saw his shot go just wide of the post, after Onoura had laid the ball off to his strike partner on the edge of the box.
However, despite a string of chances, the home side couldn't find the goal to give them the lead and they were punished for their missed opportunities in stoppage time at the end of the first half.
Ben Olsen passed the ball to Blake in the area and as the ball seemed to get tangled in Blake's legs Olsen continued his run and collected the ball deep in the area and laid it back across goal to Lester. The striker then slotted the ball past Bartram from inside the area to give the visitors a somewhat undeserved lead.
Lester was then unlucky not to get his hat-trick, after some good work on the edge of the box to beat two defenders, his shot bounced agonisingly slowly towards the goal but was hooked away by at the last minute by Chris Hope, although the ball may have hit the post if the defender had missed it.
The second half started rather more scrappily than the first, and it took a while for either side to find their rhythm. When the flow did return to the game, Forest had the best of the early exchanges, with Ben Olsen coming close to extending the visitors' lead.
As the ball dropped to the American on the edge of the box he fired it goalward, and Vince Bartram had to be at his best to get up and deny Forest a two-goal advantage.
Both sides then had chances to add to the goal tally in the match, with Gillingham looking to exploit Onoura's height and power in the area with some deep crosses, but some good goalkeeping at either end kept the scoreline at 2-1.
Forest did look much more disciplined in the second half, not allowing the Gillingham players the room to run at them that they had in the first half and they were rewarded for their tighter play after 77 minutes, when Jack Lester secured his hat-trick.
A long ball out of the Forest half bounced just in front of the outstretched leg of Chris Hope in the Gillingham half, and as Lester ran back from an offside position, Gareth Williams collected the ball and found, the now on-running, Lester, who calmly slotted the ball past Bartram to make it 3-1.
Gillingham however, having looked the better side for long periods of the match, were not ready to lie down, and desperately pushed forward in search of a way back into the game.
Then, with just eight minutes remaining, Iffy Onoura volleyed an off-target Ty Gooden shot, from inside the area, towards the goal from close range, but he was denied on the line by Chris Bart Williams, who did well to get his body behind the ball.
And, as the clock ran down, Forest did enough to keep the home side at bay and came away from the Priestfield Stadium with all three points, although the scoreline did not really do justice to the effort that Andy Hessenthaler's men had put in on the day.