Gills continueD their impressive away record with a hard fought but richly deserved point at St James Park
Martin Allen made two changes from the side that beat Plymouth Argyle 2-1 at Priestfield on Saturday. Danny East made his full debut in midfield, while Deon Burton partnered Antonio German in attack,
Whelpdale and Kedwell taking their places on the subs bench.
In a closely contested first half the Gills started very positively and took the game to their hosts direct from the kick-off. Bradley Dack tested keeper Krysiak in the opening 20 seconds, with a shot from the edge of the area, while Leon Legge headed a Dack corner just over the cross bar in the second minute.
Legge then went close once more, from an identical set piece, two minutes later, as the Grecians struggled to find a foothold in the game. 16 minutes had elapsed before Exeter fashioned their first opening, Jamie Cureton racing onto a ball over the defence before hitting a tame effort straight at Nelson.
As the half wore on the home side grew in confidence, Cureton and Matt Oakley both spurning chances when well-placed. The home side’s most effective tactic was a diagonal ball into the box from left–back Craig Woodman and it was from one of these that Cureton threatened again, with a glancing header on 28 minutes, that failed to seriously test Nelson.
Five minutes later Deon Burton had Krysiak scrambling to his left to stop his low effort from 25 yards, while Jake Gosling’s deflected shot from distance caught Stuart Nelson off his line but the ball dropped the wrong side of the crossbar.
From the resulting corner Danny Coles helped the ball into the path of Oakley, who struck a rising drive just over the bar from the right side of goal. On 38 minutes the Grecians wasted another good opportunity as Oakley played in Cureton in the box, only for the veteran striker to scoop over from 12 yards.
Martin Allen introduced Charlie Lee at the start of the second half, in place of Danny East, to add creativity to the Gills midfield. But it was Exeter who made the first chance of the half, Barrett doing well to block a powerful effort from Woodman on 52 minutes.
Shortly before the hour mark the home side were forced to make a substitution after Matt Oakley fell awkwardly on the edge of the box, under the challenge of Steven Gregory. Fortunately Gregory was alert, after a lengthy stoppage in play, to head clear the resulting free-kick.
Soon after a wayward Gosling shot fell kindly for Mark Molesley, he made space to shoot but lifted his effort over Nelson’s far corner before Martin Allen made his second change, strengthening the spine of the side by introducing Andy Frampton for Bradley Dack.
Gills final change came five minutes later, Danny Kedwell replacing Antonio German as the Gills went in search of a winning goal. It almost came twenty minutes from time as Kedwell was well placed to beat the keeper with a hooked shot from the right of goal that sadly evaded Deon Burton before dropping the wrong side of the back stick.
Cureton should have tested Nelson from another long ball forward from Woodman but Leon Legge did superbly well to take the ball off his toes as he shaped to shoot, while moments later Anton Robinson was denied by Artur Krysiak with a low drilled effort from the right of goal.
Chances came thick and fast in the closing stages as players found space opening up around the park. Keeper Stuart Nelson was Gills saviour again with a great stop to take the sting out of Scot Bennett’s rising drive on 76 minutes.
Three minutes from time Exeter wasted another great opening, substitute Guillem Buaza the offender this time. Having dispossessed Legge on the edge of the Gills area, he rushed his finish, pulling the ball well wide of Nelson’s right hand upright.
That proved to be the last chance of note for either side as Gillingham ground out four minutes of time added-on to secure another precious point.
Attendance: 3608 (Gillingham 237)
Gillingham: Stuart Nelson, Matt Fish, Joe Martin, Danny East (Charlie Lee H/T), Leon Legge, Anton Robinson, Bradley Dack (Andy Frampton 60), Antonio German (Danny Kedwell 65), Deon Burton, Adam Barrett, Steven Gregory
Subs not used: Tommy Forecast, Chris Whelpdale, Callum Davies, Adam Birchall
Exeter City: Artur Krysiak, Craig Woodman, Scot Bennett, Pat Baldwin, Danny Coles, Matt Oakley (Jimmy Keohane 57), Arron Davies, Jamie Cureton (Guillem Buaza 74), Kevin Amankwaah, Mark Molesley (John O’Flynn 74), Jake Gosling
Subs not used: Ryhs Evans, Steve Tully, Aaron Dawson, Jordan Moore-Taylor