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FOOTBALL: ANDY'S BIRTHDAY POINTS AND PINTS: Gillingham 1 Millwall 0; Lager top for Hessenthaler.

Byline: Ian GIBB

ANDY HESSENTHALER got stuck into a few beers last night to celebrate his 37th birthday - and taking Gills clear on their own at the top of Division One.

And even before he'd had a drink to celebrate Guy Ipoua's 61st minute winner, Hessenthaler proclaimed: "I know we usually look for 50 points to stay up, but we've built a good squad with promising youngsters and we're good enough for the play-offs."

Normally, that 50-point target would be the height of the player-manager's hopes for a club some tipped to be relegation material.

But Gillingham deserved to see off Millwall, extending their 100 per cent record of success this term.

Hessenthaler added: "It's been a fantastic day and I can have a good few beers now as we don't play Norwich until next Saturday."

For Millwall, it was a much more sobering experience and they still seek their first goal of the season.

But manager Mark McGhee refused to push the panic button.

"We are turning it around slowly after Rotheram last Saturday." he said. "I was quite happy with our commitment both at Watford in midweek and today.

"But you've got to remember we were without first-team players like Richard Sadlier and Steven Reid, and there's been no money to bring in other players."

Apart from Paul Ifill's close-range effort in the first minute, keenly intercepted by keeper Jason Brown, Millwall rarely threatened.

Lions keeper Tony Warner did especially well to deny Ipoua in the first half, before the outstanding Paul Shaw rattled the bar from 25 yards against his old club after the restart.

Again Warner did well to stop an angled effort by Ipoua but he was finally defeated just after the hour.

Millwall's David Livermore was booked and from Barry Ashby's long free-kick from his own half, giant striker Mamady Sidibe got in the deftest of flicks to send the ball to the left of the goal where Ipoua connected... squeezing the ball past Warner to claim his second goal in three games.

Millwall sent on veteran forward Steve Claridge but he could do little apart from getting booked near the end for dissent.

It was left to Warner to rush out and get in the way of another Shaw effort to signify that Gillingham, not the prettiest of teams, have shown they're effective enough to give anyone a game in Division One.

GILLINGHAM: Brown 6 - Nosworthy 7, Ashby 7, Hope 7, Edge 7 - Hessenthaler 7 (Saunders 73, 6), Smith 7, Osborne 7 (James 85), .*SHAW 8 - Ipoua 7, Sidibe 7 (Johnson 79, 6).

MILLWALL: *WARNER 7 - Lawrence 6, Nethercott 6, Ward 6, Bull 5 (Ryan 35, 6) - Ifill 6, Roberts 6 (Sweeney 74, 6), Livermore 6, Cahill 6 - Harris 6, May 6 (Claridge 67, 6).

Ref: R Beeby 6.

CAPTION(S):

TOP GUY: Ipou pounces to shoot down Millwall; LION TAMER: Tony Warner saves Millwall
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Aug 18, 2002
Words:482
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