A late strike condemns Gills to home defeat
The Gills missed out on the opportunity of returning to the top of League Two as a late Matt McClure effort gave Wycombe all three points in a 1-0 win at MEMS Priestfield on Monday evening.
The substitute striker converted with just a few minutes left to play to give the visitors victory in a proverbial ‘game of two halves’ in front of the Sky cameras.
It was the Gills that had the better of the opening 45 minutes but the visitors took advantage of some lackadaisical play after the break to gain a foothold in the game and eventually take all three points back to Buckinghamshire.
Gillingham created but failed to take a number of chances throughout while at the other end goalkeeper Stuart Nelson, not surprisingly named man-of-the-match, was called into action on numerous occasions and pulled off a couple of fantastic saves.
Going into the game Gills boss Martin Allen named an unchanged line-up for the visit of the Chairboys with new signing Anton Robinson having to make do with a place on the subs bench in place of the departed Ben Strevens.
Cody McDonald and Deon Burton continued in attack with Steven Gregory occupying the holding midfield position.
Among the Wycombe replacements was Player/Manager Gareth Ainsworth who was hoping to guide his side to another victory after a recent run of good form.
The home side made a positive start with Myles Weston and Charlie Lee in particular looking to exert pressure on the Wycombe full backs, but it was in fact a Gills full back in Matt Fish who had the first clear cut chance in the 11th minute.
A loose ball on the edge of the box was pounced upon by Fish, but his left foot effort was rather tame and Jordan Archer in goal collected with ease.
Six minutes later Charlie Lee tried his luck as he struck a right foot effort on the bounce having been played in by Burton. The midfielder sliced his effort though and Archer was untroubled.
However the keeper had to be alert a minute or so later when Burton tried to catch the keeper off guard. On the turn he attempted a right foot effort in to the bottom corner but the Wycombe stopper was quick to get down and prevent the opening goal.
A spell of good pressure from Gillingham resulted in a couple of back to back corners, the latter of which McDonald very nearly connected to. Anthony Stewart though, with the help of a slight nudge, prevented the striker from getting a clean header at goal.
On 28 minutes Myles Weston decided to muscle in on the action and after being given some space 30 yards from goal decided to have a crack. He struck the shot well with his left foot but the effort was always going wide and the goalkeeper watched it whistle past the post.
Moments later and Burton tried again – on the stretch he managed to get a shot away inside the box, his body position was slightly backward and so was unable to keep the effort down and it cleared the crossbar.
After a slightly fortunate ricochet McDonald was then able to use his pace down the left wing to drive in to the penalty area. A heavy touch forced him wide, and with Archer forever narrowing the gap the striker could only find the side netting.
As the half drew to a close it sparked a response from the visitors and Nelson was at full stretch to deny a great strike from Sam Wood. The winger let fly with an effort just shy of 30 yards and the Gills stopper flew to his right and managed to get a fingertip to it and concede just a corner.
With just three minutes to go until the break McDonald had arguably the best chance of the half – a long throw by Lee was flicked on by Legge, but the ball was travelling too fast for the striker and he was unable to adjust as his header went just wide.
Seconds later Joel Grant should have put Wycombe a goal up. He was allowed to run the majority of the field before firing a strike at goal – Fish looked to have taken some of the pace off the ball but Nelson made his second meaningful stop of the game to palm it past the post.
The Gills faithful got a glimpse of new signing Anton Robinson at the break with the midfielder coming on to make his debut in place of Andy Frampton.
Three minutes in to the second half and the Gills came close to breaking the deadlock. Another Lee long throw was met by Weston at the back post but David Winfield managed to head off the line and subsequently received treatment after injuring himself in the process.
On 54 minutes Robinson made his first impact on the game after clearing Winfield’s header off the line when it looked destined for the net. Former Gills striker Jo Kuffour having had his shot blocked by Nelson just moments before to win the corner kick.
Weston then had a set piece of his own go wide before Burton struck a right foot shot well over the cross bar from around 20 yards.
On the hour Kuffour had the best opportunity to grab the first goal – Scowen’s free kick found its way to the forward and all he had to do was glide the ball past the keeper, but the keeper made himself big and somehow managed to get it away from danger using his chest.
Whelpdale, on for Weston, was soon involved and launched a long throw in to the area. Barrett got up well and Burton very nearly tapped in from close range but Archer kept his eye on the ball and collected before the striker could take advantage.
On 71 minutes Nelson, yet again, was on hand to deny a great Wycombe chance. Morgan outpaced Legge just past the centre-circle and raced through on goal – the keeper held his position and blocked the shot before the defence were able to clear.
At this stage the game could have gone either way with both teams making chances and having plenty of the ball.
It was another former Gills man, this time Stuart Lewis, who had the next chance. His long range effort following a free-kick was struck well but failed to trouble Nelson who this time wasn’t required to make a save.
With 11 minutes to play Grant managed to get past Joe Martin and drive to the bye line where he was able to cut a pass back to Morgan, the striker hit it first time but Fish had got his body in the way and eventually it was scrambled clear.
In the 86th minute the visitors did finally break the deadlock. Wanderers leading scorer McClure was played in one on one with Nelson and he made no mistake to convert past the keeper and put Wycombe in front.
The sub striker would have been mightily relieved having missed a similar chance just moments previously side-footing wide of both Nelson and the post, but this time got everything right and the Gills had less than five minutes to conjure up an equaliser.
They very nearly got it in the 89th minute when Lewis headed off the line following a Barrett effort from a Martin corner. The centre-back got up above his marker and his header looked destined for the top corner, but the midfielder was on the back post and cleared his lines.
Unfortunately that was as close as the Gills were to come and if the defeat wasn’t bad enough the stupidity of one fan in the closing stages made things even worse on the national stage after an altercation with Archer.
Gills: Nelson, Fish, Legge, Barrett, Martin, Gregory, Frampton (Robinson 45), Lee, Weston (Whelpdale 63), Burton (Kedwell 67), McDonald.
Unused subs: Forecast, Davies, Allen, Birchall.
Wycombe: Archer, Winfield, Lewis, Wood, Grant, Dunne, Morgan, Kuffour (McClure 76), Harriman, Stewart, Scowen.
Unused subs: Harrison, Ainsworth, Spring, Andrade, McCoy, Hause.
Referee: Mr R East
Attendance: 4,758 (87 Wycombe)