Mike Petrasso's second half header condemns the Gills to a frustrating defeat
Peter Taylor made five changes from the side that exited the FA Cup at Brackley earlier in the week, Micahel Harriman returned from international duty on the right side of midfield, on loan players Elliot Hewitt and Danny Hollands started at right-back and centre midfield respectively, Chris Whelpdale came back into left midfield while Danny Kedwell shrugged off a shin injury to lead the attack.
In a lively opening period the visitors seemed determined to silence the home support and Stuart Nelson had an early taste of the action. The game was only two minutes old as James Dayton delivered a pin point cross from the left for Danny Philliskirk to head goalwards, fortunately the Gills keeper was alert to the danger and saved comfortably.
Gills survived another scare on 18 minutes as Adam Barrett glanced an Oldham cross wide of his own far post, and from the resulting corner Danny Hollands failed to connect cleanly with his attempted clearance and sliced an effort uncomfortably close to Nelson’s left hand upright.
Nelson was called into action again in the 26th minute to claim Philliskirk’s deflected effort from distance, while Latics skipper Korey Smith found his way into the book shortly after for a clumsy challenge on Cody McDonald, inside the centre circle.
With both sides cancelling each other out, Oldham skipper Smith took matters into his own hands on 34 minutes, racing on to a quickly taken throw-on to fire a shot on the turn towards goal, Nelson diving low to his right to push the effort around the post.
Left–back Joseph Mills got forward to support the attack five minutes from the interval, Philliskirk stabbing his cross the wrong side of the near post, and Danny Kedwell headed just off target in time added-on as the teams headed to the dressing rooms all square at the interval.
Two minutes after the restart Nelson was quick off his line to punch a Mills cross off the head of Philliskirk before Leon Legge earned a booking for a tackle on Jordan Clarke-Harris on the right hand edge of the area, fortunately Nelson climbed above the Latics attack to punch Smith’s free-kick away from danger.
On 55 minutes centre-half James Tarkowski won a free-header in the Gills box from a Dayton corner but planted his finish straight down the throat of the Gills custodian but moments later the visitors took the lead.
Nelson did well to save Philliskirk’s initial shot but when the ball was played back into Mike Petrasso there was nothing the keeper could do to keep out his looping header from six yards.
In the 65th minute Peter Taylor made a double substitution, introducing the pace of Craig Fagan and Myles Weston to the attack for Whelpdale and Hollands. Five minutes later the Gills were unlucky not to level the scores as Danny Kedwell nodded Harriman’s deep pass into the path of McDonald, he held off Tarkowski but keeper Mark Oxley turned away his low shot to the far corner.
On 78 minutes Elliott Hewitt was booked for a tug on Sidney Shmelz in front of the dugouts. Then six minutes later Kedwell’s challenge on Kusunga sparked an outbreak of handbags in front of the Medway Stand, the Gills striker was yellow carded but the Latics defender saw red for his reaction to the tackle.
With three minutes remaining Bradley Dack came on for Adam Barrett as the home side sought to press home their man advantage. Mills was unlucky with a well struck free-kick late on before the game moved into seven minutes additional time for stoppages. But despite camping out in the visitors half for much of that time the Gills could not find an equaliser
Gillingham: Stuart Nelson, Joe Martin, Leon Legge, Chris Whelpdale (Craig Fagan 65), Danny Kedwell, Cody McDonald, Danny Hollands (Myles Weston 64), Michael Harriman, Adam Barrett (Bradley Dack 88), Elliott Hewitt, John Mousinho.
Subs not used: Callum Davies, Bayo Akinfenwa, George Howard, Jake Hessenthaler.
Oldham Athletic: Mark Oxley, Jonathan Grounds, James Weslowski, Genseric Kusunga, James Tarkowski, Korey Smith, Jordan Clarke-Harris (Adam Rooney 74), James Dayton, Mike Petrasso (Sidney Schmelz 60), Joseph Mills, Danny Philliskirk (Charlie MacDonald 74)
Subs not used: Carl Winchester, Anton Rodgers, Matteo Lanzoni, Paul Rachubka