SHEFFIELD UTD 0-0 GILLS: MATCH REPORT
Gillingham extended their unbeaten run to six league games after a battling 0-0 draw against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Saturday.
Helped by a strong defensive performance, the Gills could have easily won the game had referee Rob Lewis awarded a penalty when Luke Norris's second-half shot was seemingly cleared off the line by Jay McEvevely's hand.
Manager Justin Edinburgh stuck with the 3-5-2 system but opted for a change in personnel: Jake Hessenthaler replaced Aaron Morris in midfield and Rory Donnelly deputised for the injured Dominic Samuel. There was a place on the bench for the returning trio of Bradley Dack, John Egan and Cody McDonald.
The game began in an explosive manner: with less than a minute on the clock, United striker Che Adams cut inside on the right-hand side of the area and unleashed a that crashed on to Stuart Nelson’s bar.
Two minutes later the Gills were on the attack down the other end. George Long failed to hold on to a Ryan Jackson throw and Rory Donnelly nearly had his name on the scoresheet. The attacker was the first to the bouncing ball but failed to loop his shot over his head and into the goal.
Hessenthaler was next to try his luck against the unconvincing Long. The number eight found space on the edge of the area and curled a shot to the keeper’s left, but this time the Blades goalkeeper made a confidence-boosting save.
Adams looked the main attacking threat for the Blades and tested Nelson once again from close range on 21 minutes. The forward managed to turn and shoot in a crowded box, but the Gills number one was equal to the effort, diving to his right.
It was another solid performance in defence for the back three. At one stage Adam El-Abd had the ball on the edge of his area and was being pressed by Billy Sharp, but the experienced centre-back showed composure and turned the forward with ease and laid the ball back to Nelson, who cleared.
Mid-way through the opening half Blades’ top scorer Sharp latched onto Paul Coutts’ scuffed effort but Nelson stood up strong and managed to claim the ball.
The Gills best attack of the opening half came from a well worked set-piece. Brennan Dickenson whipped in a ball to the back post, where Max Ehmer knocked it back across goal to Deji Oshilaja, but the defender’s header flew just over the bar.
Just before the half-time whistle the home fans thought they should have had a penalty. Ryan Flynn went through on goal, but Nelson did well to halt the midfielder, who the referee adjudged went down too easily.
The second half started much the same as the opening 45; United began on the front foot and Coutts should have put the hosts in front five minutes in.
The midfielder was one on one with Nelson, who made an excellent save once again, sticking out a strong hand to deny him. The ball came back to the Blades man but his rebound was tipped onto the side netting from a spirited Nelson with the help of El-Abd, once again.
It was the Gills fans' turn to claim for a penalty 10 minutes after the restart. Andrew Crofts went down under a challenge from Flynn but the referee gave a free-kick just outside the United area, having seemingly been about to blow for a spot-kick. Dickenson took the resulting set-piece, which was hurriedly cleared off the line by the United back-line.
Cody McDonald came on with an hour played, much to the delight of the magnificent 522 travelling Gills fans.
Coutts should have had the ball in the back of the net for United once again minutes later; Sharp swung in a menacing ball and the midfielder was free at the far-post, but couldn’t hit the target as his effort rocketed over the bar.
The hosts had another good chance with 15 minutes remaining, as this time Coutts turned provider. He whipped the ball across the six-yard line, but the ball was missed by both Sharp and Adams.
Arguably the game's key moment came on 77 minutes. Dickenson’s free-kick caused mayhem inside the united box, Norris got a shot away, but it was blocked on the line by what looked like McEverley’s hand.
Edinburgh introduced Dack into the game on 82 minutes, his first action since picking up an injury since Chesterfield on February 27th.
However, the Blades should have won it with one minute remaining, as the ball was slid through to an unmarked Adams. The forward was denied by an strong tackle from Ehmer, sticking out a toe whilst sliding across the floor.
The Gills return to action on Tuesday, as they face play-off rivals Walsall at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium. Port Vale then head to Kent for next Saturday's 3pm fixture.
Sheffield United: Long, Basham, Flynn, Coutts, Sharp, Done, McEveley, Baptiste, Adams, Edgar, Hammond
Unused Subs: Howard, Woolford, Sammon, Calvert-Lewin, McGahey, Cuvelier, Whiteman
Gills: Nelson, Ehmer, El-Abd, Oshilaja, Jackson, Dickenson, Wright, Crofts, Hessenthaler (Williams 32, Dack 82), Norris, Donnelly (McDonald 62)
Unused Subs: G. Morris, Garmston, Egan, A.Morris
Referee: Rob Lewis
Attendance: 18,152 (522 away)