Gillingham showed great character to bounce back against Peterborough on Boxing Day, drawing 1-1 at the ABAX Stadium. Lee Angol’s opener looked to be giving Posh all three points, however, Baily Cargill’s fine volley in stoppage time meant both teams shared the spoils.
Justin Edinburgh made one change from the win over MK Dons last weekend, with Ryan Jackson replacing Frank Nouble. Scott Wagstaff was deployed into the former’s left-wing position, and Jackson slotted into right-back.
The Gills nearly took an early lead through Bradley Dack after great play down the left-hand side. Wagstaff played the attacking midfielder through, and he nutmegged Michael Bostwick on the by-line, before shooting from a tight angle, however Luke McGee was equal to the effort.
Five minutes later Jay Emmanuel-Thomas went close for the away side, cutting in from the left after Dack’s cross, and forcing a needed save from McGee in the Posh goal.
Peterborough’s first chance came on nine minutes, after a short-corner routine. After neat interplay, the ball found its way to Andrew Hughes, who was just inside the box, but the left-back fired over when he should have at least hit the target.
Posh should have been ahead on 14 minutes. Gwion Edwards played Tom Nichols through on goal with a first-time pass, however the attacker fired wide from 15 yards, with only the ‘keeper to beat.
Wagstaff struck a stinging shot just two minutes later, forcing a quality save from McGee, diving down to his right. The winger cut inside from the left-wing, and could have passed, but had McGee not been alert to the shot, it would have nestled into the left side of the net.
The Gils defence were in trouble with a quarter of the game played, when Max Ehmer tried shielding the ball from Nichols to see it out of play, however the attacker managed to squeeze past Ehmer and was through on goal, but the Gills number five did extremely well to recover and clear the ball from danger.
The away side were playing some easy-on-the-eye football in attacking positions, and nearly took the lead on 29 minutes. Emmanuel Thomas plucked the ball from the air on the left-wing, and played the ball to the overlapping Jackson, who passed inside again to Josh Wright. The skipper sent a low cross to the far post, where both Cody McDonald and Dack were waiting, and the former let the ball roll through his legs to Dack, who’s powerful shot was blocked on the line by Michael Smith to keep the score level.
Posh should have opened the scoring through Nichols just three minutes into the second period, but Stuart Nelson came to Gillingham’s rescue after a fairly quiet first-half. Nichols was played through on goal by Edwards, and had his first effort saved by Nelson, but couldn’t convert the rebound after it fell kindly to him 12-yards from goal.
On 50 minutes Emmanuel-Thomas nearly created a carbon copy of the opening goal against Southend back in August. Paul Konchesky fired in a low corner towards the striker, whose shot flew centimetres over the bar.
As the game entered the final 20 minutes the nose levels ramped up, and both sides were flying into tackles. Leo Da Silva was the first to go into the book for a foul on Wagstaff, who was next to be cautioned for a foul on Edwards on the edge of the box.
Substitute Lee Angol had the chance to score just minutes after coming off the bench, but dragged his shot from 25-yards wide of Nelson’s goal on 71 minutes.
The 22-year-old did punish the Gills seven minutes later. The striker had just Nelson to beat after being played through one-on-one, and the Gills’ number made another great save when the odds were against him, however Angol showed great composure with the rebound, finishing from a difficult angle to make it 1-0.
The Gills brought on Rory Donnelly to replace Jake Hessenthaler on 85 minutes, as Edinburgh tried to push more men forward to grab an equaliser.
Ehmer had a half-chance from a flicked-on header with two minutes of normal time remaining, but McGee was quick off his line to smother the effort.
The Gills had all of the possession going in the four minutes of injury time, and Nouble went close with a stinging effort on 91 minutes.
Gillingham’s dominance and pressure payed off two minutes into injury time when Cargill scored his first goal for the club with an exquisite finish on the volley from Wagstaff’s cross, giving McGee no chance.
Peterborough: McGee, Amith, Hughes, Bostwick, Tafazoli, Edwards, Forrester, Maddison (Moncur, 68), Coulthirst (Angol, 61), Lopes. Nichols (Oduwa, 90+1)
Unused subs: Tyler, Santos, Inman, Binnom-Williams
Gillingham: Nelson, Jackson, Ehmer, Wagstaff, Hessenthaler, McDonald (Nouble, 74), Konchesky, Cargill, Dack, Wright, Emmanuel-Thomas
Unused subs: Hadler, Oshilaja, Donnelly, Knott, Oldaker, Byrne
Referee: G Horwood