A fairytale finish from Cody McDonald on his return to Priestfield saw Gillingham take a point from a keenly contested encounter with League new boys York City.
With the match being the first of three home games in the space of 10 days, Martin Allen opted to shuffle his playing staff, handing starts to Charlie Lee, Steven Gregory, Charlie Allen and Adam Birchall. Fish, Payne, Weston and Burton were the men to make way, while loan signing Cody McDonald was named on the bench.
Gillingham made a positive start and were unfortunate not to take the lead in the sixth minute as Charlie Allen climbed above the visitors defence to meet a long Lee throw, sadly his looping header dropped agonisingly wide of Ingham’s left hand corner.
York fashioned their first opening on 15 minutes, McLaughlin firing a ball across the face of goal for Chris Smith at the far post, fortunately Charlie Lee was perfectly placed to clear the danger as the ball bounced towards the far corner.
Two minutes later the visitors took the lead from a corner from the right, Patrick McLaughlin’s delivery came to Lee on the near post whose clearance somehow found its way into the net before Stuart Nelson could hook it back over the line.
The home side went close again on the half hour from a Charlie Allen corner which was headed across goal by Adam Barrett, it carried to Danny Kedwell at the far post who held off his marker before hooking back for Barrett to head on to the roof of the net.
Three minutes later Charlie Lee nearly caught York keeper Michael Ingham off guard with a sweetly struck drive from the right hand touchline, unfortunately Lee’s angled strike struck the side netting with the custodian scrambling to recover his composure.
By now the home side were firmly in the ascendancy and had Ingham under pressure again on 36 minutes, Kedwell met Chris Whelpdale’s corner with a firm header to the far post that was inches away from levelling the scores.
Seven minutes before the break Martin Allen chose to make his first change, introducing an injection of pace with Myles Weston coming on for Andy Frampton. Weston moved to left wing, with Whelpdale swapping flanks and Allen replacing Frampton in the centre.
The move almost paid instant dividends as Weston forced a 41st minute corner, from the resulting set piece Allen picked out the head of Barrett who was denied by a sensational reflex save from the visiting keeper.
On the stroke of half time the visitors created another good chance, Matty Blair with a precision pass to send Jason Walker clear, Leon Legge was there to mop up the danger with a well-timed challenge to check the forward’s progress.
The Gills made a second change at the half time interval, Matt Fish coming on at right-back for Charlie Allen, allowing Lee to move into a midfield role. Against the run of play though, it was Nelson that had to make the first save of the half, diving to his left to push Blair’s early chance around the post.
The home side’s first opening came on 51 minutes, Joe Martin with a pin point free-kick onto the forehead of Leon Legge, the centre-half’s header beat the keeper but fell the wrong side of the crossbar and onto the roof of the net.
With ten minutes of the half gone, Martin made his final change of the game introducing returning hero Cody McDonald for the first appearance of his second spell at the Gills. It was a popular move with the Rainham End faithful who greeted Cody with a standing ovation.
On 58 minutes Steven Gregory collected the games’ first booking after clipping the heels of Jason Walker. His side almost paid dearly from the free-kick as Chris Smith headed against the post from McLaughlin’s delivery.
Three minutes later Kedwell and Weston combined well to set up Charlie Lee who tested Ingham with a powerful effort from 25 yards that the York keeper did well to hold. While at the opposite end Potts effort was saved by Nelson before Gregory did well to block the follow up from Kerr.
There was a lengthy break in play brought about by the 67th minute clash of heads between Lee and Lanre Oyebanjo, as both players contested a 50/50 ball. Fortunately both were ok to continue after a four minute stoppage.
Five later Chris Whelpdale was desperately unlucky with the Gills best effort of the game so far. His low free-kick fizzed underneath York’s two-man wall but was kept out by another superb stop from Ingham low at his near post.
Ten minutes from time and with Charlie Lee still feeling the effects of the clash of heads Martin Allen had no choice but to go down to ten men. The Gills midfielder was desperate to stay on the field though and after a four minute rest he returned to the action.
Within seconds the Gills found the net and it was fans favourite Cody McDonald that did the damage. Myles Weston delivered a wicked cross from the right and Cody climbed above the York defence to score on his second debut for the club.
With both sides going in search of the win it was end to end stuff in the closing stages as Walker struck a 25 yard howitzer straight at Nelson before Ingham pulled off a fine save to deny McDonald a second from point blank range.
On 90 minutes the visitors missed a gilt edged chance to take all three points as Blair raced onto Walker’s square pass only to slice wide with only Nelson to beat. Both sides had further chances in seven minutes of time added on but the scores remained tied at the final whistle.
Attendance: 4893 (258 York)
Gillingham: Stuart Nelson, Charlie Lee, Joe Martin, Leon Legge, Adam Barrett, Andy Frampton (Myles Weston 38), Chris Whelpdale, Charlie Allen (Matt Fish H/T), Steven Gregory, Danny Kedwell, Adam Birchall (Cody McDonald 55)
Subs: Tommy Forecast, Callum Davies, Deon Burton, Sam Muggleton
York City: Michael Ingham, Lanre Oyebanjo (Jon Challinor 81), Chris Smith, Daniel Parslow, Scott Kerr, Jason Walker, Matty Blair, Michael Potts, Jack O'Connell, Patrick McLaughlin, Alex Rodman (Lee Bullock 90+2)
Subs: Paul Musselwhite, Oli Johnson, John McReady, Ben Everson, Tom Allan