Jake Hessenthaler’s long-range strike wasn’t enough for the Gills, who lost 2-1 away at Fleetwood Town on Saturday.
David Ball opened the scoring on 19 minutes, before Hessenthaler struck from 20-yards, but Ashley Hunter won it for the home side with a superb volley with just eight minutes of normal time remaining.
Justin Edinburgh made two changes to the starting XI from last weekend’s match against Charlton, with Josh Wright and Deji Oshilaja coming into the team, after serving their one-match suspension. Both Bradley Dack and Ryan Jackson were left out of the matchday squad through injury.
The first effort of the game came on six minutes, with Oshilaja meeting Hessenthaler’s corner, however the defender’s header was gathered comfortably by Chris Neal in the Fleetwood goal.
The Gills saw plenty of the ball in the opening stages and were looking to get it out to the wide areas at every opportunity. On 16 minutes, Frank Nouble delivered the ball into a dangerous area, after promising interplay with Paul Konchesky, but Fleetwood managed to clear their lines.
Uwe Rosler’s team were in front on 19 minutes. Kyle Dempsey seemed to drift past everyone with ease down the right-hand side, before unleashing a cross-shot that was turned into the net by forward Ball.
Conor McLaughlin was played in down the right with 24 minutes gone, but a great interception from Wright prevented any danger at the back-post.
The Gills looked to get back into the match with the half-hour mark approaching, and controlled possession for a five-minute period, however couldn’t find the finishing touch despite a great bit of play from Cody McDonald. The forward took the ball down from over his shoulder, and managed to shoot inside the area but a Fleetwood defender slid in to block the effort.
With 31 minutes played, Bobby Grant turned inside on the 18-yard box and tried curling a right-footed shot into the top corner, but instead ballooned his effort high and wide into the stand, to the dismay of the home supporters.
Nouble played a clever one-two with Jay Emmanuel-Thomas on 34 minutes and managed to get a shot away from a tight angle, but Neal got down low to smother the ball.
With just two minutes left of normal time Chris Herd, playing as centre-back, went down following a challenge to the disapproval of the Gills bench. However, the Australian recovered and got back on his feet to see out the remainder of the half.
With just two minutes of the second-half played Chris Long went on a mazy run down the right, beating Max Ehmer and fizzing a low cross, but Oshilaja slid to the rescue and played the ball to safety.
The Gills drew level on 53 minutes with a long-range effort from Hessenthaler. The Cod Army only half-cleared a Gillingham corner, and Hessenthaler struck low from 25-yards into the corner of the net to make it 1-1 with all to play for.
The travelling Gills fans were sarcastically cheering the home side on the hour mark, after a mix-up in attack. Long’s bad touch on the edge of the area looked to set up one of Ball or Jimmy Ryan, but both went for the ball, got in each other’s way and ended up on top of each other on the ground.
Hessenthaler, who had rarely put a foot wrong all game, then had two efforts in as many minutes, the first coming on 65 minutes. The midfielder found himself in a similar position to his first goal, and was the first to react to a Fleetwood clearance, shooting from outside the area but his effort went wide.
A minute later, Hessenthaler shot from a tight angle to the right of the Fleetwood goal, but Neal managed to palm the ball over for a corner with a strong hand.
Down the other end substitute Hunter was played in on the left and was able to cut in a get a shot away, but his effort flew just over the bar.
The Cod Army took the lead once again on 83 minutes, thanks to a great finish from Hunter. Konchesky lost the ball in the left-back position to McLaughlin, whose inch-perfect cross was met by the substitute, Hunter, and his powerful volley flew into the top corner.
Three minutes later Hunter nearly turned provider, but his through-ball was cut out by Ehmer before it could reach Devante Cole, who would have had only the ‘keeper to beat.
Gillingham weren’t done, however, and Frank Nouble tried his luck with a solo run on 88 minutes. The forward cut inside, beating two players before curling an effort that looked destined for the bottom corner, but the effort went just wide of the upright.
Edinburgh brought on both Elliott List and Rory Donnelly in place of McDonald and Nouble for the five minutes of injury time, as the manager looked to inject some fresh legs and pace in attack.
However, Fleetwood held on comfortably through stoppage time to take maximum points from the game, winning 2-1.
Fleetwood: Neal, McLaughlin, Bell, Pond, Ryan, Ball (Cole,78), Grant, Bolger, Long (Hunter, 68), Sowerby (Nirennold, 54), Dempsey
Unused subs: Cairns, Jonsson, Eastham, Woolford
Gillingham: Nelson, Oshilaja, Ehmer, Herd (Pask, 81), Konchesky, Wright, Knott, Hessenthaler, Nouble (Donnelly, 88), McDonald (List, 88), Emmanuel-Thomas
Unused subs: Hadler, Oldaker, Byrne, Osadebe
Referee: Richard Clark
Attendance: 2,600 (198 away)