GILLINGHAM 1-1 SWINDON: MATCH REPORT
Gillingham and Swindon shared the points on Tuesday night in a fiercely competitive League One fixture under the lights at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium.
Michael Doughty put the away team in front from the penalty spot, before Rory Donnelly equalised with a stunning strike to ensure Gillingham gained a point and remain unbeaten in the 2016/17 season.
Justin Edinburgh made one change to the XI that defeated Bury at the weekend, with Max Ehmer recovering from concussion suffered against Southend a week ago to replace Deji Oshilaja and partner Josh Pask at the heart of the Gillingham back-line.
It was a first half of few chances for Gillingham who, despite dominating possession for swathes of the period, failed to possess the cutting edge needed to break Swindon down.
The Gills started well, however, and Cody McDonald nearly opened his league account in spectacular fashion in the second minute. The striker latched on to a Pask knockdown, however his acrobatic effort was saved by Vigoroux in the Swindon goal.
John Goddard had Swindon’s first effort of the half; the midfielder cut in from the right, however he blazed high and wide with ten minutes on the clock. Seconds later McDonald had his second bicycle kick attempt but this time his more powerful shot was blocked behind.
Gillingham were close to opening the scoring with 20 minutes gone as they caught Swindon in possession. A typical barnstorming run from Jay Emmanuel-Thomas put the striker clear at the corner of the six-yard box, but as he took it round the keeper a Swindon defender just managed to get a toe on the ball, to poke behind for a corner.
The Gills seemed to lose a bit of a momentum, as Swindon looked to break the play up. Ehmer was the first player of many in the book, somewhat harshly, after a collision on 25 minutes as Swindon looked to break from deep inside their own half. Five minutes later Rodgers received a yellow card too, cynically bringing down Billy Knott as the Gills midfielder went past him with a great bit of skill.
With four minutes to go, Swindon had a great chance to open the scoring only to be prevented by Ehmer hacking the ball clear off the line. James Brophy played Goddard in behind the Gillingham defence, but Stuart Nelson got a crucial hand on the goal-bound shot, allowing the Gills defence to make the clearance.
Swindon took the lead from the spot early on in the second half, when Paul Konchesky was caught out by a great ball behind the Gillingham back-four. The Gills left-back tripped Darnell Furlong and ex-Gillingham loanee Doughty sent Nelson the wrong way, scoring low down to the right.
Edinburgh responded instantly by bringing on Jamie O’Hara for his Gillingham debut in the place of Knott. Swindon also made their first change of the evening after 59 minutes as Jordan Stewart replaced Goddard.
Swindon, however, nearly doubled their lead with Stewart immediately in the thick of the action. His shot, however, with the goal at his mercy, was blocked behind by Konchesky to keep the Gills in the game.
The game was becoming increasingly stretched, and Ryan Jackson nearly equalised for Gillingham but his shot hit the side netting on 62 minutes after exchanging passes with Byrne at the apex of the penalty area.
Josh Wright was the next player into the book, scything down Stewart who was making a solo counter attack, but Gillingham comfortably defended the free-kick from a dangerous area. With 70 minutes gone, Jackson also entered the book for an off-the-ball incident and Rory Donnelly replaced McDonald.
Gillingham finally equalised after 72 as substitute Donnelly cracked a brilliant first-time effort into the top left hand corner. Byrne freed Jackson down the right and the wing-back’s low cross was superbly converted by the Gillingham forward, bending into the net to the delight of the Rainham End.
The Gills were now laying siege to the Swindon goal, roared on by the home faithful. Konchesky played a neat one-two with Emmanuel-Thomas but agonisingly nobody could quite get the decisive final touch on the cross, and Wright failed to convert from Byrne’s pullback.
Swindon were always a menace on the counter and they nearly nicked another goal as Stewart, again, raced away down the left but his low shot raced wide of the post. The Gills were straight back up the other end, as Donnelly latched onto loose play between the Swindon centre-backs. The ball fell to Emmanuel-Thomas but the striker ended his surging run by blasting just wide.
Swindon replaced Bradley Barry by Ellis Iandolo and Edinburgh brought on Deji Oshilaja for Pask, as the away side continued to pick up bookings for time-wasting as their defending looked increasingly desperate.
On 86 minutes, Gillingham were inches away from taking the lead. A floated in free-kick was helped on by Donnelly bouncing up to Ehmer who controlled the ball and smacked a shot away, however the Gills defender was denied by the woodwork.
Within the seven minutes of added time, Swindon were reduced to ten men; Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill tugged back Emmanuel-Thomas, and the referee deservedly brought out a second yellow for the left-back.
Gillingham continued to pour forward, however they were just unable to get the winning goal and the game finished 1-1, with the home side unfortunate not to take all three.
The Gills travel to Scunthorpe United on Saturday, a side who are also unbeaten in Sky Bet League One to date.
Gillingham: Nelson, Jackson, Pask (Oshilaja 79), Ehmer, Konchesky, Byrne, Wright, Knott (O’Hara 55), Osadebe, McDonald (Donnelly 70), Emmanuel-Thomas
Unused subs: Hadler, Hessenthaler, Oldaker, List
Swindon: Vigouroux, Thompson, Ottewill, Thomas, Rodgers, White, Doughty, Goddard (Stewart 60), Brophy, Furlong, Barry (Iandolo 78)
Unused subs: Henry, Smith, Evans, Hylton, Twine
Referee: Keith Stroud
Attendance: 5,512 (190)