Richard Day reports from MEMS Priestfield Stadium
Martin Allen’s Gillingham may have lost their 100% winning start to the new season and bowed out of the Capital One Cup but they certainly made Championship outfit Middlesbrough fight for their place in Round Three.
That said the early pace of front duo Mustapha Carayol and Marvin Emnes proved just a bit too much at times and it was the former that fired the North East side ahead in the 23rd minute before Cameron Park struck a late second.
Yes the home side did have openings but it wasn’t until the closing stages that they really forced keeper Jason Steele to earn his money when he kept out efforts from Chris Whelpdale and Jack Payne.
There were four changes to the Gills starting XI that had won at Dagenham on Saturday, Adam Barrett, Jack Payne, Danny Jackman and Danny Kedwell replacing Andy Frampton, Lewis Montrose, Chris Whelpdale and Myles Weston. The latter was unable to play having appeared for former club Brentford in the previous round.
The game started at a quick tempo and former Bristol Rovers winger Carayol had already shown what a threat he could be with a direct run at the Gillingham backline before putting a decent fourth minute ball through for the former Dutch Under-21 international Emnes who was denied by the left-foot of Stuart Nelson.
Carayol tested Nelson with a fiercely struck long range effort before a forlorn looking Charlie Lee limped off to be replaced by Whelpdale in the 10th minute.
With the Gills under pressure the keeper was again tested in the 20th minute when Dutchman Enes tried his luck from distance.
Gillingham’s first opening of the night came two minutes later when a neat build up down the right involving Charlie Allen, Matt Fish and Danny Jackman ended with Kedwell firing a shot across Steele in the Boro goal but wide of the post.
A minute later though it was Tony Mowbray’s side that opened the scoring, Carayol, a villain of the piece with the Rainham End, drilled home a shot low to Nelson’s right much to the delight of the travelling army of 463 from Teeside.
In response Burton was off target with a free-kick, Allen put another shot onto the Town End following a Payne long throw and Barrett put a header just over the top from an Allen free-kick.
Fish made a timely last ditch tackle to thwart the marauding Emnes, previously with Spata Rotterdam, in the 32nd minute and the right-back required treatment from physio James Barker. Boss Martin Allen used the break in play to give his squad another team talk.
Moments later Fish received a lecture from referee Gavin Ward following a late challenge on Argentinian Julio Arca.
Five minutes before the break the Gills had what looked like justifiable appeals for a free-kick, and possibly a penalty, waved away when Kedwell seemed to be held by George Friend as he broke into the box having made a quick turn on the edge of the area.
There was a let-off for the Gills four minutes into the second-half, Carayol cut inside from the left and when Callum Davies closed him down his shot spun behind Nelson and bounced wide off the base of the keepers right-hand post.
Although Allen (Charlie) had required some treatment shortly after half-time it was fellow midfielder Jackman who was withdrawn when Bradley Dack was introduced in the 53rd minute.
Barrett cleared his lines with a diving header over his own bar from another dangerous Carayol ball in before Burton sent a speculative volley just wide at the other end.
On loan Nottingham Forest striker Ishmael Miller replaced Emnes before the next half chance also fell to the home side, Allen broke forward and crossed from the right but Kedwell couldn’t get his glancing header on target.
Then just after Kedwell had fired a shot across Steele’s goal boss Allen made another attacking change with Ben Strevens replacing Fish, with Whelpdale switching to right-back.
With the minutes ticking away the Boro defence began to look nervy as the Gills pressed for an equaliser, that said Steele didn’t really have a save to make as Stephen McManus and Seb Hines stood strong at the back.
Then as the clock ticked over to 90 minutes Middlesbrough added a second against the run of play, Kedwell’s misplaced pass saw Cameron Park break away down the left and he delicately chipped the stranded Nelson.
In the seven minutes of time that were added on Steele was forced to make a save low down to his right to keep out Whelpdale’s drilled strike from 20 yards. Then Payne struck a curling shot from around the same place but it was straight at the keeper.
Gills – Nelson, Fish (Strevens 71), Martin, Payne, Lee (Whelpdale 10), Kedwell, Jackman (Dack 53), Allen, Davies, Burton, Barrett
Unused subs; Flanagan, Frampton, Montrose, Forecast
Boro – Steele, Emnes (Miller 59), McManus, Smallwood, Hines, Halliday, Williams (Haroun 74), Arca, Carayol (Zemmama 66), Friend, Park
Unused subs:, Ledesma, Reach, Williams, Ripley
Attendance: 5,146 (463 Boro)
Referee – Gavin Ward
Assistant referees – Oleksandr Saliy & Adrian Sannerude
Fourth Official – John Hopkins