Hitchcock hat-trick sinks Gills
Rotherham substitute Tom Hitchcock bagged himself a second half hat-trick as the Millers snatched victory in the dying minutes in a 4-3 victory at MEMS Priestfield Stadium.
The Yorkshire club went in front after just 13 seconds when Kieran Agard converted from close range, only for Gills to come storming back thanks to Bayo Akinfenwa’s equalizer and Myles Weston’s left foot drive.
Hitchcock got his first after taking advantage of a Richard Smallwood pass inside the penalty area, able to beat the oncoming Stuart Nelson who he sent the wrong way.
With the clock ticking down the home faithful thought Bradley Dack had won the game when his delicate chip floated over the head of Collin and in to the net, however drama was to follow in the dying moments.
Hitchcock pounced on a defensive error to make the score 3-3, and in stoppage time sent the visiting fans in to uproar when he beat Nelson for a third time to give Rotherham victory.
Peter Taylor made two changes to the team that beat MK Dons 1-0 last Tuesday with Bradley Dack and Ryan Inniss replacing Amine Linganzi and the injured Leon Legge.
Connor Smith returned to the substitute’s bench with Antonio German and Adam Birchall providing forward options.
Fans had hardly taken their seats when the first goal of the game was scored – Rotherham immediately attacked the right hand side with Nicky Adams delivering a great cross towards the penalty spot, and top scorer Kieran Agard was on hand to tap home with Nelson beaten.
The visitors controlled proceedings in the first 20 minutes with Gills unable to gain a foothold on the game, a Dack corner the biggest threat on Adam Collin’s goal which McDonald was unable to control.
Lee Frecklington ensured Nelson was kept busy when his shot towards the near post was parried away, and James Tavernier then struck a 25-yard effort over the bar when the Gills defence failed to clear a corner.
Gills had their first chance of the game on 20 minutes when some good work by McDonald on the right hand side resulted in a tempting cross for Dack, however at full stretch the best he could do was hit the side netting.
Moments later McDonald was involved again, this time firing a powerful effort straight at Kari Arnason who put his body on the line to prevent his keeper having to make a save.
Dack then tried his luck from 25 yards with an ambitious effort that went wide of Collin’s right hand post.
Gills drew level when Myles Weston was fouled after some great work down the left hand side. From the free kick Dack sent in a brilliant cross to the far post and Akinfenwa headed the ball back across a struggling Collin and into the back of the net.
It took Akinfenwa’s tally to 10 for the season, equalling the total of Danny Kedwell and just four shy of strike partner McDonald.
Minutes after the re-start, defender Ryan Inniss did well to deny Agard the chance to get a shot off inside the Gills box, before Revell struck wide before the half was brought to a close.
The hosts created the first chance of the second half on 52 minutes when Joe Martin floated a cross into Inniss whose goal bound header was easily handled by Collin.
Rotherham then had a couple of chances in quick succession – firstly Agard had a shot which went well wide before Adams fired a volley straight over the bar.
Those would prove costly in the short term as Gills took the lead on 57 minutes, Elliott Hewitt brilliantly picked out Weston with a diagonal ball over the top of the back four, and the winger finished clinically beyond Collin to give Taylor’s men the advantage.
At this stage Gills were on top and playing with a lot of confidence – Weston having another shot which was well saved before Hewitt’s venomous long range effort cleared the bar with Collin unsure as to where the ball was heading.
Rotherham continued to apply pressure and got their reward on 69 minutes when Tom Hitchcock, having come on as sub for Nicky Adams, latched on to a brilliant through pass from Smallwood and slotted it in at the near post with Nelson committing himself the other way.
The match turned in to a game of pin ball with both teams going all out in search of the win, and skipper Adam Barrett nearly regained the lead for the home side when his header from a long throw by Hewitt was only just turned wide by Collin.
Pringle then fired a shot at Nelson’s near post which was well saved, before Gills restored their advantage with six minutes to play.
Dack won the ball on the edge of the box with Arnason having conceded possession, and with Collin coming out of his goal to reduce the angle, the midfielder sent a delightful, perfectly weighted chip over the keeper which seemed to have at least guaranteed the hosts a point.
the striker advanced on goal and calmly beat a helpless Nelson for his second goal of the game. However the drama didn’t stop there, no longer than two minutes later, Rotherham equalised for the second time when Hitchcock broke free after Barrett was unable to stab the ball away for a throw,
minute.ndWith the three points well and truly up for grabs for both sides, it was Hitchcock who proved the difference when he produced a magnificent chip over Nelson in the 92
He took just the one touch to trap the ball at his feet and with a well weighted shot he caught the Gills keeper by surprise to send the visiting fans in to a sense of elation having found themselves behind just a few minutes prior.
The hosts thought they may have had a penalty shout in the last few minutes; the referee waved away the appeals and unfortunately the Gills were unable to force an equalizer as Rotherham saw the game out to maintain their hopes of an automatic promotion position.
: Stuart Nelson, Joe Martin, Ryan Inniss, Adam Barrett(C), Michael Harriman, Myles Weston (Charlie Lee 70) Bradley Dack, Steven Gregory (Antonio German 90), Elliott Hewitt, Cody McDonald, Adebayo Akinfenwa (Amine Linganzi 77).Gills
Unused subs: Sam Baxter, Adam Birchall, Connor Smith, Jake Hessenthaler.
: Adam Collins, James Tavernier, Craig Morgan, Kari Arnason, Joe Skarz, Richard Smallwood (Michael O’Connor 90), Lee Frecklington (Rob Milsom 80), Nicky Adams (Tom Hitchcock 60), Ben Pringle, Kieran Agard, Alex RevellRotherham
Unused subs: Scott Shearer, Claude Davis, Wes Thomas, Haris Vuckic
Referee: MR S Rushton
Attendance: 6,027 (420 Rotherham)
Bookings: Barrett (90)