Gills make it three draws in a row thanks to Bayo Akinfenwa’s first half goal
The Gills extended their unbeaten run to three games with a hard fought point against Bristol City
Martin Allen selected the same starting XI that performed so well to earn their first away point of the season at Swindon a week earlier, meaning new loan signing Danny Hollands had to settle for a place on the subs bench.
The home side went for the jugular direct from the kick-off, with Charlie Lee firing a powerful effort goalwards inside the first minute, Marvin Elliot blocking his shot as it headed towards the keeper’s top right corner.
Gillingham refused to allow their opponents to settle into the game and went close again on 12 minutes from a Lee throw, which City managed to scramble clear before Chris Whelpdale or Leon Legge could force home the loose ball.
Soon after, Lee drilled an effort straight at Derrick Williams before Sam Baldock tested Stuart Nelson with a quickly taken 20th minute free-kick that fizzed across the keeper’s goalmouth and wide of his right-hand upright.
Moments later the Gills took a thoroughly deserve lead at the opposite end. Lee the provider, once again, with a throw-in to the near post, Bayo Akinfenwa outmuscling the City defence to beat the keeper with a well-placed header.
On 35 minutes, play was held up for a substitution to the referee, Mick Russell, having picked up a groin strain, made way for Fourth Official Barry Holderness but the Gills continued to control proceedings. Myles Weston saw a fierce drive blocked by Aden Flint before Danny Kedwell planted a looped header into the side-netting.
Five minutes from time Greg Cunningham drew a save from Nelson with a shot from the left side of goal, the Gills keeper was called into action again seconds later to gather Marlon Pack’s effort from long range.
Having dominated the half the Gills were dealt a cruel blow when Bristol City equalised in time added-on at the end of the half, Scott Wagstaff finding space to cross from the left, Marvin Elliott rising at the far post to head into the bottom corner and level the scores at the break.
Two minutes after the restart Emmanuel-Thomas stung Nelson’s gloves with a shot from the edge of the box and from the resulting Reid corner, Flint sent a glancing header over the top corner, as the Robins looked to impose themselves on the game.
Five minutes later Pack blazed an effort just wide of Nelson’s near post prompting a double substitution from Martin Allen. Debutant Danny Hollands came on for Myles Weston while goalscorer Bayo Akinfenwa made way for Cody McDonald.
The move brought fresh impetus to the Gills attack and almost delivered a goal within moments as Leon Legge rose to meet a 55th Whelpdale corner but his header ran across the face of goal before being cleared to safety, while Cody McDonald struck an effort into the side-netting from the right side of goal.
On the hour mark, and against the run of play, City almost added a second after Wagstaff got through on the left side of goal. He centred for Baldock who stabbed the ball goalwards only to see his effort stopped on the line and cleared by Adam Barrett.
McDonald brought a save from Frank Fielding with a low shot on the turn, while Nelson showed tremendous composure to deny Baldock from close range in the 67th minute, after the striker had run on to a precise Brendan Moloney through-ball.
The visitors fashioned further half-chances for Wagstaff and Emmanuel-Thomas before Hollands almost made the perfect start to his Gills career, first dispossessing a Robins’ defender, then dropping a volley just over the crossbar with the keeper stranded.
Four minutes from time Nelson made a stunning block to keep out a ferocious free-kick from Baldock. Two minutes later the Gills custodian denied Emmanuel Thomas, then saved Harriman’s backpass from the resulting throw-on as the visitors pushed for a winner.
But the Gills defence stayed strong to record their third successive draw in a row.
Attendance: 5,616 (416 Bristol City)
Gillingham: Stuart Nelson, Joe Martin, Leon Legge, Chris Whelpdale, Bayo Akinfenwa (Cody McDonald 52), Danny Kedwell, Myles Weston (Danny Hollands 52), Steven Gregory, Charlie Lee (Charlie Allen 79), Michael Harriman, Adam Barrett.
Subs not used: Callum Davies, Bradley Dack, Antonio German, George Howard.
Bristol City: Frank Fielding, Brendan Moloney, Derrick Williams, Aden Flint, Sam Baldock, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Scott Wagstaff, Bobby Reid (Nicky Shorey 60), Greg Cunningham, Marlon Pack, Marvin Elliott.
Subs not used: Liam Fontaine, Elliot Parish, James Wilson, Jordan Wynter, Marlon Harewood, Wes Burns.
Referee: Mick Russell
Assistants: John Magill & Adrian Sannerude
Fourth Official: Barry Holderness