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3 January 2015

Cody McDonald's well-taken strike not enough as Port Vale leave it late to beat the Gills

Leading scorer Cody McDonald's third goal in four games wasn't enough for the Gills as they lost 2-1 at Port Vale this afternoon.

McDonald struck on 31 minutes after the hosts went in front early on through Ben Williamson, but substitute Colin Daniel's stoppage time strike gave the Vale all three points.

The new look management team consisting of Darren Hare, Andy Hessenthaler and Steve Lovell made five changes from Sunday's defeat to Bristol City, as Leon Legge, Aaron Morris, Brennan Dickenson, Bradley Dack and Doug Loft all returned to the starting line-up.

This was Loft's first game back at Vale Park since leaving the Valiants in the summer.

Hessenthaler watched the opening 45 from the stands, and would have seen Dickenson have the first chance of the game for the Gills on five minutes. From John Egan's defensive header, McDonald laid off Michael Doughty, who put the striker through on goal, but he could only blaze over under pressure.

Vale striker Ben Williamson missed an ever better chance four minutes later, shooting well wide from 12 yards out having created space for himself.

But he made amends on 11 minutes, cutting in from out wide and calmly firing low past Stuart Nelson to put the hosts in front. Williamson was helped greatly by an injury to Morris, which allowed him space to run with the ball. Gavin Hoyte was introduced as Morris's replacement at right back.

Having gone behind, the Gills looked the better team for the remainder of the half. First, McDonald nearly equalised in the 16th minute. Neatly played through by Dack, the combination of Vale goalkeeper Chris Neal and three defenders meant he couldn't get enough contact on the ball to head into an open goal.

Shortly before the half hour mark, Dack created another chance. He dispossessed Michael Brown, and after McDonald laid off Dickenson, the latter's powerful shot was blocked by defender Frederic Veseli. The former Brighton player then curled an effort wide seconds later.

However, McDonald deservedly levelled the tie on 31 minutes. Vale carelessly gave the ball away to Dack once again in their own half, he played in McDonald and the Gills' leading scorer neatly slotted home from inside the box.

Loft came close to putting the visitors ahead from the edge of the box in the 35th minute, and although Dany N'Guessan put the ball in the back of the net for Vale three minutes before the break, his effort was ruled out for offside.

HT: 1-1

The second half was only 18 seconds old when Vale striker Louis Dodds shot wide from a good position following Williamson's charging run. From the preceding Gills attack, Loft's curling corner almost caught out Neal at the front post.

Doughty fired over after a darting run across the Vale defence on 50 minutes, before the hosts enjoyed their best spell of the game.

Nelson saved brilliantly to deny Mark Marshall, and from the resulting corner held onto N'Guessan's bullet header. The Frenchman then curled an effort into Nelson's hands on the hour, as the home crowd pushed their team on.

Yet for all this pressure, the Gills should have gone ahead in the 61st minute. A Joe Martin free-kick was deflected wide, and after Vale didn't clear the resulting corner, Loft's volley rebounded off the crossbar. McDonald shot low at Neal after latching onto Loft's header with 20 minutes remaining.

Nelson again came to the rescue on 75 minutes, parrying Dodds's deflected goal-bound volley wide. N'Guessan headed straight into the Gills goalkeeper's hands from the resulting corner in a near carbon copy of his earlier chance.

Dack had an ambitious chance pushed wide by Neal four minutes from time, but the best late chance appeared to have fallen to Vale's Carl Dickinson, who inexplicably blazed over with the goal at his mercy in the first minute of stoppage time.

But Vale were not finished there. Booed when he was introduced for Ben Williamson, Daniel kept his nerve to shoot past Nelson and claim the three points in the dying seconds.

FT: 2-1

Gills: Nelson, A Morris (Hoyte 14), Egan, Legge, Martin, Loft, Hessenthaler, Dack, Doughty (Pritchard 86), McDonald, Dickenson (Kedwell 78)
Unused subs: G Morris, Ehmer, McGlashan, Norris.

Port Vale: Neal, Yates, Veseli, O'Connor, Dickinson, Brown (Lines 68), Marshall, Dodds, O'Connor, N'Guessan (Campion 90) , Williamson (Daniel 74).
Unused subs: Johnson, Robertson, Birchall, Lloyd.

Attendance: 4,783 (166 Gillingham)

Referee: Mr F Graham

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