MILLWALL 2-1 GILLINGHAM: MATCH REPORT
Gillingham finished 2016 with a 2-1 defeat away at Sky Bet League One rivals Millwall on a foggy Friday night at The New Den in Justin Edinburgh’s 100th game in charge of the club.
Goals from Lee Gregory and Fred Onyedinma gave Lions a seemingly comfortable lead, especially when Paul Konchesky saw red for two yellow cards on 66 minutes. However, a superb Bradley Dack volley got the visitors back into the game, before the Gills midfielder also saw red in injury time, bringing an end to a typically fierce contest.
Gillingham manager Justin Edinburgh named an unchanged starting XI from the side that earned a draw at Peterborough on Boxing Day. Scott Wagstaff maintained his place in the front three, while Chris Herd returned to the substitute’s bench in place of Billy Knott.
The visitors were immediately on the front foot from kick-off, although Max Ehmer had to be alert to hook the ball away and prevent Gregory running through on goal within the opening five minutes.
Millwall took the lead after 12 minutes. Captain Josh Wright cleared a Shaun Hutchinson effort off the line, but the Lions recycled the ball, and from Shaun Williams's lofted pass and Morison's flick, Gregory slotted past Stuart Nelson from 10 yards.
The Gills’ first attempt of the game came after centre-back Baily Cargill received the ball on the edge of the penalty area after Ryan Jackson’s long throw, but his curling shot was blocked by the head of a Millwall defender.
Soon after, Wagstaff called Jordan Archer into action for the first time, as he got past his man near the byline, but his low, left-footed cross was comfortably gathered by the Millwall keeper.
Gillingham were growing into the game, looking to get the ball out wide as soon as possible, and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Wagstaff were posing the greatest threat. With 36 minutes gone a surging Jackson run brought a foul and from the whipped Dack free-kick, Emmanuel-Thomas headed just wide.
Archer was forced to make two decent saves after 40 minutes. First, Jake Hessenthaler tested the keeper with a shot from just outside the area, before Emmanuel-Thomas beat captain Tony Craig down the right of the box but couldn't beat the Millwall goalkeeper.
The Gills felt they could have had a penalty after 41 minutes, but referee Tim Robinson ruled Dack’s drive was blocked the shoulder of Onyedinma.
The second period started with a flurry of activity, with Emmanuel-Thomas having the first meaningful effort of the half, cutting in from the flank and hitting a fierce shot that whistled into the side-netting after 55 minutes. Wagstaff forced Archer into his next save just after the hour, volleying towards goal after Jackson’s long throw had only been partially cleared to the edge of the box.
However, Onyedinma doubled the Lions’ lead on the counter attacked immediately after on 63 minutes. A ball over the top was chested down by the Millwall winger, and after his surging forward run, he scrambled the ball home from a seated position after Nelson had done brilliantly to block his initial shot.
Matters went from bad to worse for Gillingham three minutes later as Konchesky saw red, bringing down Onyedinma to receive his second yellow card and marching orders from the referee. Robinson looked like letting the left-back off with a final warning, before issuing his cards some time after the foul.
Nonetheless, the visitors were still posing a threat going forward, and Dack pounced on the loose ball after a Millwall defender blocked Emmanuel-Thomas’ shot, but could only volley wide from an acute angle.
And the Gills pulled a goal back on 75 minutes, as Dack hit a screaming first-time effort from 25 yards that gave Archer no chance, after a Jackson throw into the box was only headed into the midfielder's path.
The game had come to life, the Gills fans cranked up the atmosphere, and the players responded by forcing a succession of corners, which the Lions defended manfully as the game entered its final 10 minutes. However, Dack nearly grabbed the equaliser for the Gills, but Archer was alive to beat out his powerful attempt wide after Wagstaff had fed him in down the left of the area.
Yet Millwall remained dangerous and Thompson reminded Gillingham of this, as a seemingly speculative shot from 30 yards whistled just over the top of Nelson’s bar. O’Brien then cut in from the right and shot, but Nelson was equal to his powerful effort and saved at his near post.
Nelson kept Gillingham in it, saving fantastically from Gregory’s point-blank volley in the first of five stoppage time minutes. However, Gillingham’s hopes of an equaliser were dashed shortly after, as Dack followed Konchesky down the tunnel receiving a second yellow for a tackle on Ben Thompson.
The Gills kick off 2017 at MEMS Priestfield on Monday (January 2), hosting Oxford United as they look to avenge their one-goal loss at the Kassam Stadium earlier in the season. Tickets for this match are available by clicking here.
Millwall: Archer; Cummings, Craig, Williams, Hutchinson; Thompson, Webster, Onyedinma (Worrall, 76), O’Brien (Ferguson, 64), Williams; Gregory (Butcher, 90+3), Morison
Unused Subs: King (GK), Romeo, Abdou, Smith
Gillingham: Nelson; Jackson (Donnelly, 89), Ehmer, Cargill, Konchesky; Wright, Hessenthaler (Oshilaja, 69), Dack; Wagstaff, McDonald (Nouble, 69), Emmanuel-Thomas
Unused subs: Hadler (GK), Byrne, Herd, Oldaker
Attendance: 10,821 (1,121)
Referee: Tim Robinson