Gills suffer their first home defeat of 2014 as Conor Coady seals victory for the Blades
Gillingham's excellent home run ended in a frustrating defeat to Sheffield United at MEMS Priestfield Stadium as Conor Coady's first half strike earns the visitors an away win.
Peter Taylor opted to make two changes from the starting XI that triumphed at Carlisle ten days ago, centre-half Ryan Inniss, newly arrived on loan from Crystal Palace, made his debut in place of Leon Legge, while Bayo Akinfenwa replaced Joe Pigott in attack.
The Gills shaded the better of the opening exchanges with Connor Smith drawing the first save of the game, with a low shot to the bottom corner that was well saved by Blades keeper Mark Howard. Three minutes later the home side threatened again with debutant Ryan Inniss firing a low drive from the right hand angle of the box that flashed wide of the keeper’s far post.
Gills continued to control proceedings without fashioning many clear cut chances, while the visitors were content to soak up the early pressure, and had centre-half Harry Maguire booked in the 23rd minute for an overzealous challenge on Bradley Dack.
A 34th minute Dack corner unsettled the United defence as Cody McDonald helped Adam Barrett’s header into the path of Innis, but the ball was scrambled to safety before the Gills defender could make a clear connection.
Two minutes later Bob Harris had the visitors’ first effort on target, striking a low free-kick straight to Stuart Nelson before the Blades took the lead, against the run of play. A Chris Porter shot had cannoned back off the underside of the bar and Conor Coady was on hand to dispatch a low right foot drive into the net from the return ball.
Sadly Ryan Inniss was injured in the build-up to the goal and had to be substituted immediately afterwards, Leon Legge taking his place. The hosts then had Joe Martin booked two minutes from the break for a foul on Billy Paynter.
The Gills made a positive start to the second-half, looking for a quick route back into the match and went close on 49 minutes, Dack delivering an inviting cross from the left but keeper Howard was able to steal the ball off the head of Amine Linganzi.
Three minutes later Linganzi tried his luck with a rising effort from a McDonald lay-off that just cleared the top right corner. While at the other end Maguire had a good chance cleared off the line from a Bob Harris corner.
Peter Taylor changed his personnel to give his team a more attacking shape with wingers Chris Whelpdale and Myles Weston replacing Linganzi and Smith in midfield but the Blades continued to soak up the pressure,
restricting the home side chances to a premium.
On 74 minutes Steven Gregory was booked for a foul on Conor Coady, one of a number of decision that earned referee Malone the wrath of the Priestfield faithful.
Five minutes from time Legge managed to get a head to a long Nelson free-kick into the area but his goalbound effort was a comfortable height for the Sheffield custodian.
Legge went closer still in the 88th minute, slicing a Dack corner into the side-netting as the home side stepped up their search for an equaliser to no avail.
Attendance: 5,766 (351 Sheffield United)
Gillingham: Stuart Nelson, Joe Martin, Adam Barrett, Ryan Inniss (Leon Legge 41), Michael Harriman, Bradley Dack, Amine Linganzi (Myles Weston 73), Steven Gregory, Connor Smith (Chris Whelpdale 64), Bayo Akinfenwa, Cody McDonald.
Subs: Craig Fagan, Jake Hessenthaler, Joe Pigott, Sam Baxter
Sheffield United: Mark Howard, Bob Harris, Harry Maguire, Matt Hill, Ryan Flynn (Ben Davies 73), Michael Doyle, Chris Porter (Jose Baxter 79), Stephen McGinn, Neill Collins, Conor Coady, Billy Paynter (Jamie Murphy 69).
Subs: Shaun Miller, Stefan Scougall, George Long, Terry KennedyMatch Officals:
Official: Carl Brookth 4
Assistants: Neil Hair & Nick Hobbis
Referee: Brendan Malone