Gills put in another battling performance and were unlucky to lose in an end to end encounter at Sixfields Stadium
After last week’s defeat to Crawley Town Martin Allen made five changes to his starting line-up, Michael Harriman returned from international duty at right-back, Amine Linganzi, Myles Weston and Charlie Allen replaced Whelpdale, Gregory and Dack in midfield, while Cody McDonald came in for Akinfenwa up front.
The hosts, on a great run of form, made the perfect start to the match, scoring within 60 seconds of the kick-off. Full-back Cyrus Christie whipped over a dangerous cross from the right hand touchline and Leon Clarke found space at the far post to crash home from close range.
Far from being overawed, the Gills responded well and were unlucky not to level the scores five minutes later. First Sky Blues keeper Joe Murphy reacted quickly to save Amine Linganzi’s header from a Myles Weston free-kick, before the keeper denied Linganzi, once more, at point blank range from the resulting corner.
The visitors constant pressure was finally rewarded on nine minutes as Cody McDonald popped up in the box to score against his former employers. Weston’s corner from the left was knocked down by Leon Legge and McDonald placed his effort firmly beyond Murphy from six yards out.
Just three minutes later Coventry nearly retook the lead as Leon Clarke tucked a shot past Stuart Nelson but was denied by a brilliant sliding block from skipper Adam Barrett. Moments later Carl Baker picked out Callum Wilson on the left, his first time shot was saved and the Sky Blues leading scorer fired the rebound over the crossbar.
Chances continued to come thick and fast as play ebbed and flowed from end to end. Legge headed Danny Hollands’ throw into the keeper’s arms, while Nelson saved, once more, from Wilson before Weston dragged an angled shot across goal, inches wide of Murphy’s left hand upright, on the half hour.
Five minutes later Franck Moussa rose to meet Baker’s corner from the left but headed over. Then Jordan Clarke, Leon Clarke and Moussa all had efforts blocked, from another Baker corner, as the home side scrapped to regain their advantage, but the Gills held strong to keep the scores all square at the break.
75 seconds after the restart the home side came close to retaking the lead with a carbon copy move of the one that lead to their first-half goal. Christie supplying a cross from the right which Leon Clarke met on the volley, his finish clipping the crossbar as it went behind.
On 50 minutes Charlie Allen collected a wayward pass in midfield and raced down the left channel, he was brought down on the edge of the box by Blair Adams, who collected the games’ first booking, and Legge’s finish from the subsequent free-kick was deflected away for a goal-kick.
Nelson was called into action at the other end to stop a low drive from Baker, and John Fleck chanced his arm with an effort from distance that failed to test the Gills custodian. Though there was nothing he could do about Baker’s drive on the hour which crashed against his left hand upright.
Coventry had a let off on 64 minutes as Joe Martin joined the attack with a low cross from the left of the area, Jordan Clarke attempted to clear with a wild hack that just cleared the Sky Blues crossbar, much to the defender’s relief.
Leon Clarke headed over from a 70th minute corner and was guilty of missing another great opening two minutes later as the home side burst through the middle and helped the ball to Clarke who blazed over with the goal at his mercy.
With the clock ticking down, and the home fans becoming increasingly anxious, Gills keeper Stuart Nelson was controversially booked on 74 minutes for time wasting over a goal-kick. Then, with 12 minutes to play, Martin moved to secure his side’s point by introducing Steven Gregory for Cody McDonald.
Nine minutes from time Callum Wilson struck the post again with a low effort across goal that came back off Nelson’s far post before the home side took the lead on 82 minutes. A corner from the right bounced around the Gills box and fell kindly for Franck Moussa to head his side in front from close range.
After an interminable wait to make a substitution Martin went on the offensive for the closing stages, bringing on Bayo Akinfenwa and Sam Muggleton for Harriman and Hollands but the hosts were in no mood to relinquish their lead.
Adam Barrett was yellow carded in time added on for a professional foul on Leon Clarke and almost gave the striker a goal moments after when the Coventry forwarded intercepted his back header, fortunately Stuart Nelson stood up well to block his finish.
Attendance: 2,046 (Gillingham 371)
Gillingham: Stuart Nelson, Joe Martin, Amine Linganzi, Leon Legge, Danny Kedwell, Cody McDonald (Steven Gregory 78), Myles Weston, Charlie Allen, Danny Hollands (Bayo Akinfenwa 88), Michael Harriman (Sam Muggleton 88), Adam Barrett.
Subs not used: George Howard, Callum Davies, Bradley Dack, Jake Hessenthaler.
Coventry: Joe Murphy, Cyrus Christie, Blair Adams, Andy Webster, Conor Thomas, John Fleck, Carl Baker (Mathieu Manset 72), Leon Clarke, Franck Moussa (Jordan Willis 88), Callum Wilson, Jordan Clarke
Subs not used: Lee Burge, Adam Barton, Billy Daniels, Louis Garner, Ryan Haynes