Gills battle back from a goal down, only to be denied a win in time added on
A late goal from Britt Assombalonga denies the Gills a win after great goals from Joe Martin and Cody McDonald overturned a first half deficit at MEMS Priestfield Stadium
Gills boss Peter Taylor made three changes from the side that lost at Notts County on their last league outing, Leon Legge returned to the back four in place of Donervon Daniels, Chris Whelpdale came in for the injured Charlie Lee and Myles Weston dropped to the bench to allow Cody McDonald to partner Danny Kedwell in attack.
Despite Posh winning the toss, and forcing the Gills to play towards the Rainham End in the first half, it was the home side that made the better start. Jake Hessenthaler, on his home debut, created the first chance of the game, for fellow youngster Bradley Dack, with a neat through ball to send him clear on the right of goal, but visiting keeper Bobby Olejnik rushed off his line to narrow the angle and was able to push his rising drive to safety.
Against the run of play and with 11 minutes on the clock, it was Peterborough that took the lead with their first sight of goal. Michael Bostwick smacked a powerful effort at Stuart Nelson, who was only able to parry the ball into the path of Posh leading scorer Britt Assombalonga, who thumped the ball into the roof of the net.
With the visitors gaining the upper hand, the Gills found themselves on the back foot for a spell, and Lee Tomlin was next to test the home keeper in the 22nd minute. The tricky winger cut into the box from wide on the right touchline and sent a low effort curling towards Nelson’s left hand upright but the keeper got down smartly to make the save.
The Gills continued to combine well though and it as the understanding between Hessenthaler and Dack that created space for Danny Kedwell to try his luck just after the half hour. Jake’s ball from the right was laid off by Dack and Kedwell lost his marker before unleashing a powerful shot from distance that Olejnik was fortunate to gather at the second attempt.
Peter Taylor was forced to make a double substitution, shortly before the interval, after both Danny Hollands and Chris Whelpdale collected injuries, Steven Gregory came on, partnering Hessenthaler at the heart of the midfield while Weston dropped into the right side of midfield.
Gills made a fantastic start to the second half after Cody McDonald had been brought down for a 50th minute free-kick. Left-back Joe Martin stepped up to the ball and curled home a stunning delivery that crept inside the keeper’s left hand post to send the home fans berserk.
But the away side were in no mood to surrender and Peterborough almost hit back from the restart. A deep ball down the left sent Assombalonga clear in the area but the impressive forward was off target with his finish, sending the ball wide of Nelson’s far post. While Leon Legge collected the game’s first booking on 56 minutes for a foul on Shaun Jeffers as the Gills battled to maintain their foothold in the match.
With the game moving into the final half hour, the action ebbed from end to end as both sides sought the advantage. Tomlin crashed an effort over from just outside the box, at the opposite end Kedwell fired over the keeper’s near post from a tight angle, before Grant McCann blazed a set-piece into the Rainham End.
It was the Gills who got the breakthrough in the 69th minute, and richly deserved it was too! Myles Weston’s corner from the right was cleared back to the winger, he carried the ball to the edge of the area before floating a ball across goal for Cody McDonald to climb above the Posh defence and place a precision header into the keeper’s far corner.
With young Jake Hessenthaler having completed an impressive 75 minutes on his home debut and Posh looking dangerous, Peter Taylor opted to bring Callum Davies on to add some fresh legs to the midfield.
The home side found themselves fighting a rear guard battle but, urged on by a Rainham End in full cry, there was a man on hand to make a crucial intervention at the end of every Posh attack. Then with three minutes of normal time remaining play was interrupted for a change of referee, with Dean Treleaven replacing Tim Robinson.
But the break did not affect the Gills concentration and Stuart Nelson did superbly well to deny sub Tyrone Barnett’s 90th minute header at point black range following a good cross from Kgosi Ntlhe. Though there was a collective groan from three sides of the ground when the board went up to announce eight minutes of time to be added on.
A perfectly timed tackle from Callum Davies, soon after allowed, Kedwell to pick out the run of McDonald, the striker burned off the last defender for pace to go one-on-one with Olejnik, only to be denied by a sensational stop from the Posh custodian.
Then in the seventh minute of stoppage time a partially cleared corner fell kindly for Britt Assombalonga to back-heel home his second of the game and earn his side a last gasp point.
Attendance: 6,949 (595 Peterborough)
Gillingham: Stuart Nelson, Joe Martin, Leon Legge, Chris Whelpdale (Myles Weston 42), Danny Kedwell, Cody McDonald, Bradley Dack, Danny Hollands (Steven Gregory 42), Michael Harriman, Adam Barrett, Jake Hessenthaler (Callum Davies 74).
Subs not used: George Howard, Bayo Akinfenwa, Antonio German, Donervon Daniels.
Peterborough: Robert Olejnik, Kgosi Ntlhe, Shaun Brisley, Michael Bostwick, Britt Assombalonga, Lee Tomlin, Grant McCann, Jermaine Anderson (Tyrone Barnett 86), Joe Newell (Hogan Ephraim 77), Mark Little, Shaun Jeffers (Nathaniel Mendez-Laing 65)
Subs not used: Jack Payne, Joe Day, Kane Ferdinand, Nathaniel Knight-Percival.