A superb second half strike earns Gills a 1-1 draw with neighbours ChathamA second half stunner from substitute Bradley Stevenson ensured a share of the spoils for Gills in a 1-1 draw against Chatham Town at Maidstone Road on Monday evening.
The visitors fell behind on 35 minutes when Andrew Dalehouse’s header nestled in the corner of the net, with Tom Hadler making two saves to prevent the deficit from being doubled.
After the break Gills improved and equalized through Stevenson who fired home an effort from the edge of the penalty area.
Mark Patterson named a mix of development and youth players in his team with Hadler starting in goal with Callum Davies and Mitchell Dickenson pairing up in the centre of defence.
Greg Cundle started up front with Darren Oldaker lining up in midfield, the 16-year-old featuring for the first team against Dover on Saturday.
Three minutes into the game and Chatham thought they had taken the lead when Corey Holder’s shot from range went inches wide of the far post with Hadler at full stretch.
The crowd began to celebrate but quickly realised the ball hadn’t quite made its way inside the upright.
A few minutes later and Chatham keeper Dean Warford made a brilliant block to deny Cundle – the striker was well played in by Ben Chapman but couldn’t quite guide the ball beyond the advancing keeper.
Joe Bingham dragged a shot wide of Hadler’s right hand post soon after before trialist Laurence Vaughan also sent an effort off target at the other end.
Hadler was again called upon on 14 minutes, a cross from the right was presented towards Andrew Dalehouse at the far post and his header looked to be heading in but the Gills keeper clawed the effort away before Connor Hendricks got back to clear a second effort off the line.
On 23 minutes Bingham produced a spectacular overhead kick inside the penalty area which, with Hadler off his line, went just over the bar before Cundle slotted a delicate right footed effort wide seven minutes later.
With 35 minutes on the clock the hosts took the lead, a cross from the left was flicked on by Liam Hickey and Dalehouse, the final touch debated with Hendricks unable to clear the ball off the line with his body at an awkward angle.
Just before the break Dalehouse was again involved, this time pouncing on a loose ball before advancing through on goal. With just Hadler to beat the Gills keeper made himself big and saved the shot with his left foot.
The hosts again started the second half well with Gills main threat being the counter attack, and on 52 minutes they nearly drew level with Vaughan stinging the palms of Warford from 25 yards with the keeper doing well to get his full body behind the shot.
Nine minutes later and Gillingham did finally draw level, a quickly taken free kick from Vaughan bypassed his initial target but Stevenson, on for Ben Chapman, skipped inside his marker and let fly with a brilliant shot which flew past Warford and into the roof of the net.
Cundle came close to giving the visitors the lead on two separate occasions, the first a curling effort which went past the post before Warford got down quickly to his left hand side to block a passing shot into the corner.
Jack Sellens, within seconds of coming on for Jimmy Muitt, nearly bagged a deserved goal for Gills but his effort was blocked by a recovering defender before a last ditch tackle was made at the other end to deny Chatham what would have been a certain goal.
Hadler made another brilliant save late on to cap an impressive performance and ensure the game ended in a draw.
Chatham (Starting XI): Warford, Sullivan, Loft, Osei, Hickey, Knight, Blackwood, Holder, Dalehouse, Bingham, McCann.
Gillingham: Hadler, Emptage, Vaughan, Davies, M Dickenson, List, Oldaker, Chapman (Stevenson 46), Hendricks (Thompson 46), Cundle, Muitt (Sellens 77).
Unused subs: Newcombe, Adams, Stannard.