Match ends, Coventry City 1, Gillingham 0.
Coventry City made a victorious homecoming as they edged out Gillingham on their return to the Ricoh Arena.
Striker Frank Nouble's cool 10th-minute strike on his debut won the points for the Sky Blues as they made an emotional return to the city.
But Gillingham came close to spoiling City's first home game at the Ricoh since 20 April 2013.
They went close with three second-half headers before an effort flashed across the face of goal in injury time.
As a result of safety restrictions and a clearly over generous allocation of tickets to Gillingham's 495 away fans, the gate of 27,306 was some way short of the stadium's 32,000-capacity.
But it did not stop the City fans, particularly the vast majority who had not seen a home game in 17 months, making a racket.
|Sky Blues return home|
|It was 503 days since the Sky Blues had last played at the Ricoh Arena - and 517 days since the home fans had celebrated a goal there.|
|Coventry City had seven players making their 'home' debut in the starting line-up - including first appearances for their two latest signings Frank Nouble and Seb Hines.|
|The Sky Blues' attendance on their return to the Ricoh was almost 5,000 more than all their 10 home gates for the second half of last season at Sixfields put together.|
After an understandably rousing start, Steven Pressley's Sky Blues had already twice gone close and had a penalty shout turned down when they finally elicited an almost deafening roar by taking the lead.
Conor Thomas played a neat ball down the inside-left channel before Ryan Haynes pulled back cleverly to allow the unmarked Nouble to slide home left-footed from 12 yards.
John Fleck was close to a second goal when his header glanced wide just after the restart.
However Gills wasted two even better chances in quick succession when Kortney Hause powered a header wide before centre-half partner John Egan was denied by Ryan Allsop's low, scrambling save.
Fleck was then denied by a combination of the bar and visiting keeper Stephen Bywater's outstretched finger tips after a stunning, improvised left-foot half-volleyed chip on the run from 50 yards, just as the ball was about to go out of play on the left touchline.
Yet despite Peter Taylor's men remaining a threat to the end, Egan twice more going close, they could not spoil City's night as the home side hung on to stretch their unbeaten run to six games.
Sky Blues manager Steven Pressley told BBC Coventry & Warwickshire:
"An outstanding night. A wonderful occasion, which showed the true potential of this club and left me feeling very proud to be the manager. We've given people hope.
"The result was very important. I've seen too many of these scripts where you want to win so much that you can end up with egg on your face, but we'd talked about the importance of that old cliche of playing the game, not the occasion.
"I've got enormous sympathy for the fans. They voted with their feet and ultimately forced the club to return where it belongs. They should feel proud of themselves.
"For all the hard work we've put in and the strain of having to play our home games somewhere else, we could never have moved forward without returning to the city. Now we're back, we have the freedom to build the club again."
Gillingham manager Peter Taylor told BBC Radio Kent:
"I'm really chuffed with the way my lads played. You fear the worst with that atmosphere and the way Coventry were flying at the start.
"They're a very good footballing side. And, if they can keep that sort of atmosphere here for all their home games, teams could really melt.
"But, especially in the second half, I was delighted with how we played.
"If we can carry on creating chances like that, we won't be far away. I still cannot believe we didn't score."
- 24ClarkeBooked at 36mins
- 7FleckBooked at 83mins
- 6ThomasBooked at 87minsSubstituted forFinchat 89'minutes
- 20TudgaySubstituted forHinesat 89'minutes
- 19NoubleSubstituted forMcQuoidat 59'minutes
- 20DaviesSubstituted forNorrisat 75'minutes
- 3MartinBooked at 36mins
- 11McGlashanSubstituted forGermanat 85'minutes
- 24DickensonSubstituted forPritchardat 75'minutes
- Keith Stroud
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Coventry City 1, Gillingham 0.
Attempt saved. Cody McDonald (Gillingham) header from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Jake Hessenthaler with a cross.
Foul by Ryan Haynes (Coventry City).
Antonio German (Gillingham) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Corner, Coventry City. Conceded by John Egan.
Foul by Reda Johnson (Coventry City).
Luke Norris (Gillingham) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Substitution, Coventry City. Sebastian Hines replaces Marcus Tudgay.
Substitution, Coventry City. Jack Finch replaces Conor Thomas.
Attempt missed. Jim O'Brien (Coventry City) right footed shot from the left side of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Conor Thomas.
Conor Thomas (Coventry City) is shown the yellow card.
Foul by Conor Thomas (Coventry City).
Antonio German (Gillingham) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt missed. Cody McDonald (Gillingham) right footed shot from the right side of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Bradley Dack with a through ball.
Substitution, Gillingham. Antonio German replaces Jermaine McGlashan.
John Fleck (Coventry City) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by John Fleck (Coventry City).
Joe Martin (Gillingham) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt saved. Jim O'Brien (Coventry City) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Josh McQuoid.