Gillingham sealed their first points of the SkyBET League One season after a 1-1 draw against Brentford at MEMS Priestfield on Saturday afternoon.
Bayo Akinfenwa opened the scoring on 40 minutes to register his, and the club’s, first goal of the season, and it wasn’t until the dying moments that the Bees got on level terms after substitute Farid El Alagui converted from close range following an Adam Forshaw free-kick.
Martin Allen made two changes to the side that were beaten by Wolves. Chris Whelpdale and Akinfenwa came in to the team with Cody McDonald and Amine Linganzi missing out.
Harry Grant was named among the substitutes with McDonald and Bradley Dack, among others, keeping him company.
The opening exchanges were fairly even with both teams playing at a high tempo early doors, but the first chance fell to the visitors.
Shaleum Logan used his pace to cut inside and fend off a challenge before launching a right foot strike which went well wide of Stuart Nelson’s left hand post.
The Bees continued to press and on nine minutes should have taken the lead.
Forshaw delivered a fine cross towards the far post, and Harlee Dean leaped highest to get on the end of it, but Nelson was well positioned and made a comfortable save.
Forshaw, who seemed integral to Brentford’s early dominance, then struck a free-kick over the bar three minutes later before Logan failed to hit the target after a delicate layoff from Diagouraga 20 yards from goal.
The visitors were certainly having more of the possession but the Gills were far from intimidated – Lee’s long throws and Danny Kedwell’s aerial ability giving the Brentford defence something to think about.
On 23 minutes the Gills had their first sight at goal. Joe Martin’s cross made its way to Akinfenwa on the edge of the area, he passed it short to Lee who took two defenders out of the game by cutting in to his right hand side, but his shot failed to trouble David Button.
The noise of the crowd stepped up a notch as a few fiery tackles were thrown in to the mix – both sets of players, including the Managers, getting very animated as the half progressed.
Diagouraga got in on the act once more on 31 minutes – he found a yard of space on the edge of the area and attempted to delicately place a low shot in the opposite corner.
However, with Nelson at full stretch, it cleared the post and out for a goal kick.
Will Grigg was next to have a go – a through ball by George Saville picked out the Northern Ireland International on the edge of the area, but once again the effort was off target.
On 38 minutes the visitors had a goal disallowed when McCormack’s cross from the right hand side was headed in by Clayton Donaldson. His celebrations were short lived though as the linesman raised the flag.
Two minutes later and the Gills went in front – a deep cross to the far post was headed back by Kedwell, and Akinfenwa, via Button’s right hand, did just enough to score in the bottom corner.
His right foot strike was nearly kept out by the diving stopper, but he was unable to prevent the Gills scoring their first goal of the season.
Brentford were not to be fazed though and nearly equalised through Tony Craig. A cross from Harlee Dean was met with a firm header, but the effort lacked accuracy and Nelson happily watched it go over the bar.
The second half began just as the first had done, with both teams looking to assert authority early on.
Brentford did their utmost to get an equalizer as soon as they could, and they nearly did on the hour mark when Forshaw struck the outside of the post with a 20-yard right footed effort.
The Gills stopper looked to have had it covered but it gave the hosts a warning that the game was far from over.
Akinfenwa was then replaced by Cody McDonald as Martin Allen sent his own reminder that the boys in blue were not going to settle for a one goal lead.
The striker was involved instantly as he found Myles Weston through the middle; he shrugged off two advancing defenders and looked to find the bottom corner.
However Button was equal to the strike before saving Whelpdale’s rebound with his legs.
Uwe Rosler’s side had a couple of half chances to draw level, but Nelson’s clean sheet remained intact as the final 20 minutes approached.
The Gills stopper was booked however on 72 minutes for kicking the ball away prior to a goal kick.
The former Brentford number one was called in to action with just five minutes to go when Donaldson tried to beat him at his near post.
Nelson spotted the danger early though and smothered the effort, with Leon Legge, later voted `Man of the Match` clearing to safety.
Venta, on for Bidwell early in the first half, produced a great cross for Logan two minutes from time towards the back post, but the resulting header was no threat to Nelson as it whistled past the side netting.
Four minutes of added time was signalled as the clock ticked down, and the Bees did everything they could to produce a late sting as Donaldson struck the post with a deflected shot before Legge headed away the resulting corner.
Gills resistance was finally broken in the dying moments though with substitute Farid El Alagui getting on the score sheet.
Another Forshaw free kick was fired towards the far post, a header was aimed back across goal and the striker swung the ball in to the ground which gave Nelson no chance to claw it out.
The hosts therefore had to settle for a point as the final whistle sounded soon after – the Gills now off the mark in the league campaign, and the performance against the Bees will give everyone a huge boost going forward.
Gills:Nelson, Harriman, Martin, Legge, Barrett, Gregory, Lee, Whelpdale, Weston (Allen 82), Akinfenwa (McDonald 62), Kedwell.
Unused subs: Howard, Davies, Grant, Dack, German.
Brentford:Button, Forshaw, Craig, Dean, McCormack, Logan, Saville, Diagouraga (McAleny 56), Bidwell (Venta 16), Grigg (El Alagui 74), Donaldson.
Unused subs: O’Connor, Saunders, Bonham, Filio.
Referee: Mr Gavin Ward
Attendance: 6225 (1144 Brentford)
Goals: Akinfenwa (40), El Alagui (90)
Bookings: Nelson (72) Craig (90), Legge (90), McDonald (90).