Richard Day reports from MEMS Priestfield StadiumOnly some dogged, last-ditch defending and sound goalkeeping prevented the Gills from getting at least a share of the spoils against Barnet at MEMS Priestfield this afternoon.
The Gills were surprisingly off the pace in the first-half but rallied well after the break, especially in the last half-hour, when they threw everything at the visitors but came up against the experienced Graham Stack as the last line of defence
The Bees had arrived lying 22nd in the League Two table, with just one away win to their name this season, but they were buoyant after a home victory over Burton on Friday evening and played some neat football.
There were two changes for the Gills from the 2-2 draw with Fleetwood last time out with Callum Davies and Lewis Montrose replacing Andy Frampton and Jack Payne.
While Barry Fuller made the starting XI for the Bees under joint Head Coach Mark Robson while fellow ex-Gills Olly Lee, Curtis Weston and Jordan Brown, once here on trial, were all on the bench. Also included in the visitors side was former AC Milan and Barcelona (amongst others) midfielder Edgar Davids.
The festive spirit went out of the window with just a minute on the clock when referee’s assistant Ian Rathbone felt the wrath of the Gills supporters when flagging for an offside.
In the opening stages clear cut chances were at a premium, Charlie Allen smacked a speculative effort wide, Joe Martin curled a free-kick into the hands of Stack and Myles Weston had a shot blocked.
At the other end the lively Ricky Holmes escaped down the left and his low cross saw Davids attempt a back heel that hardly troubled Stuart Nelson before Holmes himself struck a long range shot straight at the Gills keeper.
Then in the 19th minute Barnet took the lead, Davids intercepted a pass, Mark Byrne fed Jake Hyde just inside the area and the Bees leading scorer thumped a shot past Nelson.
Gillingham’s best chance of the half came in the 27th minute, a quick Allen saw Matt Fish break into the area following a neat one-two with Romain Vincelot but the marauding right-back’s low shot cannoned off the legs of Stack.
There was another scare for the Gills in the 36th minute, former Welsh international John Oster whipped in a free-kick to the near post which Nelson had to tip over the bar. In their next attack Holmes failed to hit the target from distance.
H/T: 0 – 1
Immediately after the break it was the visitors that created the first chances, first Andrew Yiaddom failed to get a telling touch on a Davids cross, man-mountain David Stephens headed over while Fuller tested Nelson with a fizzer from distance.
With 59 minutes on the clock, and as the rain began to sweep over the ground, boss Martin Allen made a triple substitution with Jack Payne, Chris Whelpdale and Adam Birchall replacing Montrose, Lee and Vincelot.
The switch saw Weston fronting Fuller down the left, Whelpdale playing wide right, Allen moving into central midfield and Birchall partnering Burton in attack. The changes certainly got the crowd going.
Joe Martin fired a right-foot shot wide before, in the 65th minute, a slip from Andy Iro enabled Allen to break into the area but his shot was beaten away by the former Hibernian keeper.
A neat ball from Allen then set up Birchall but the keeper blocked at close range then when the ball came back in Burton headed straight at Stack.
Whelpdale received the first yellow card of the afternoon in the 78th minute for a foul on Holmes, referee Tim Robinson had seemed to miss a foul on the Gills winger seconds before.
After Yiadom had fired wide in a now rare attack for the Bees the action immediately returned to the other end.
Birchall saw Stephens make a last-ditch tackle to deny him a shot then both Martin and Burton saw Stack react brilliantly to tip over their respective shot and header.
Curtis Weston was introduced by Barnet with six minutes remaining and just four minutes later he was booked for time-wasting.
In the four minutes of stoppage time the Gills continued to surge forward but without luck. Birchall had a shot blocked by Stephens, Yiadom deflected an Allen free-kick just wide of his own goal and Martin curled a free-kick inches wide. It was one of those days.
Gills: – Nelson, Fish, Martin, Davies, Barrett, Allen, Montrose (Payne 59), Vincelot (Birchall 59), Lee (Whelpdale 59), Burton, Weston Unused subs: Kedwell, Strevens, Frampton, Forecast.
Bees: – Stack, Fuller, Byrne, Holmes (Weston 84), Yiadom, Hyde, Johnson, Stephens, Oster, Iro, Davids Unused subs: Brown, Fortune, Nurse, Cowler, Lee, Atieno.
Attendance: 7,448 (197 Barnet)
Referee : Tim Robinson
Assistants: Matthew Buonassisi & Ian Rathbone
Fourth Official: Nigel Lugg