GILLINGHAM 1-1 CHESTERFIELD: MATCH REPORT
Gillingham suffered heartbreak with the last kick of the game against Chesterfield on Tuesday, as they were harshly denied a Valentine’s Day victory, drawing 1-1 at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium in Sky Bet League One.
Despite dominating large swathes of the game, Gillingham were only able to find a single goal when Max Ehmer looped in a header from a long throw on 67 minutes. The home side were pegged back in the final minute of added time as Tom Anderson fired home a loose ball to deny the Gills all three points.
Gillingham Head Coach Ady Pennock started an extremely attacking XI with Jay Emmanuel-Thomas starting in place of Jake Hessenthaler as the Gills started out with a front three. At the back, Bradley Garmston came into the XI as Chris Herd missed out through injury and Deji Oshilaja moved into the centre of the back four.
The Gills nearly took the lead within five minutes as they carried on from where they left off on Saturday, carrying a threat from corner kicks. First, Emmanuel-Thomas whipped in a ball which was just nodded away from Cody McDonald, who was looking to head into an empty net. From the following corner, Emmanuel-Thomas got up highest, but his header was cleared off the line by the defender on the post.
The home side continue to look dangerous as Emmanuel-Thomas thumped a volley just wide of goal from 25-yards, however Chesterfield went up the other end and Liam Grimshaw shot wide under no pressure from a similar range. The visitors were operating on the break and nearly caught Pennock’s men napping as a corner was recycled, but Anderson headed over the bar on the stretch.
Chesterfield were lucky not to concede following a horrible goalkeeping error on 15 minutes. Under pressure, Lloyd Allinson appeared to carry the ball out of his area under pressure from McDonald who duly turned and slotted home, but the referee blew up for a foul on the defender to the shock of the home management and support.
Gillingham were dominating the game and knocking on the door every time they went forward. A superb diagonal ball from Emmanuel-Thomas midway through the first half found Rory Donnelly in space down the right of the box, whose subtle pull-back found McDonald, however his effort was blocked by a defender taking the sting out of the shot and allowing for an easy save for the keeper.
The Spireites gave Gillingham a timely reminder after 25 minutes that they posed a threat as they broke on the hosts; David Faupala received the ball wide on the edge of the six-yard box and tried to deceive Stuart Nelson with a back-heel but the Gills keeper was alive to the danger and made the save.
Donnelly was inches from giving the Gills the lead within the half hour, smacking the post after a fantastic Gillingham attack. Emmanuel-Thomas and Bradley Dack combined, with the latter seemingly felled in the box, before the ball ricocheted to Donnelly. The striker got the ball out of his feet and whipped a shot across the goal, which beat the keeper, but thumped off the inside of the post and back across goal.
Gillingham continued to press and nearly took a lead just before the break through Ryan Jackson, as the right-back received the ball at the top right corner of the box. Jackson took a touch and instead of crossing, struck to the near post but his powerful effort was narrowly wide.
The Gills continued to press with Donnelly, in particular, looking dangerous whenever he got on the ball, but the Chesterfield defence resisted and the sides entered the break on level terms despite the home side bossing proceedings.
H/T: 0 – 0
The second period started sluggishly with the Gills unable to find the fluency that they had in the first half, and Chesterfield appearing content to get men behind the ball and play on the counter attack.
Nonetheless, Gillingham had the first effort of the half following a driving run from Garmston down the left flank. The wing-back’s low ball in whistled through the box finding McDonald, and the Gills striker hit towards goal but the ‘keeper was alert to make save low down to his left.
The hosts went even closer after the hour with a brilliantly worked short corner routine which went out to Emmanuel-Thomas and Garmston, before the former was slid in down the left of the box. Emmanuel-Thomas whipped the ball powerfully across the face of the goal, eluding Donnelly and McDonald, and Ehmer could only hit the side netting from a tight angle.
Despite Gillingham dominating possession and chances, Chesterfield should have taken the lead a little after the hour. The home defence was caught napping as a through ball allowed substitute Ray Simons to run through on goal, but a combination of Oshilaja and Nelson kept the Gills on level terms.
The save proved critical, as the hosts immediately took the lead through captain Ehmer after 67 minutes. A long-throw from Jackson was met perfectly by the German defender. who looped his header over the keeper and into the corner of the net.
Gillingham had their tails up now, and McDonald found space in the middle of the box on 70 minutes, but his back-heel was just kept out. Ehmer then hit the woodwork again for the Gills as he looped another header over Allinson, but this time as unfortunate to be denied by the crossbar.
After 74 minutes Oshilaja was the next Gills player to go close as Ehmer held the ball up in the box and laid it off to his fellow centre-back, however the keeper just about made the save to keep it at 1-0.
Osman Kakay nearly grabbed an equaliser for the visitors after a one-two with Sylvan Ebanks-Blake in the penalty area opened up space in the box. The Spireite midfielder curled a shot that looked destined for the bottom corner, but Nelson made a fantastic save, before Oshilaja was in the right place to block and deflect the rebound over the bar.
Anderson struck with the last kick of the game to deny Gillingham a deserved victory. After a well worked throw in found its way into the box, Anderson was able to fire home past a helpless Nelson and snatch a point for the visitors.
F/T: 1 – 1
The Gills travel to Coventry City at the weekend, before back-to-back home games the following week with two local games against AFC Wimbledon and Southend.
Gillingham: Nelson; Jackson, Ehmer, Oshilaja, Garmston; Wright, Dack (Martin, 90+2), Wagstaff, Emmanuel-Thomas (Byrne, 89), Donnelly, McDonald (Parker, 84)
Unused subs: Holy (GK), Osadebe, Hessenthaler, List
Chesterfield: Allinson; Gardner (Ebanks-Blake, 72), Evatt, Faupala, Donohue; Mitchell, Nolan (Martinez, 45+4), Dennis (Simons, 64), Anderson; Kakay, Grimshaw
Unused subs: Duke (GK), Hird, Brown, El-Fitouri
Attendance: 4,595 (96)
Referee: Andy Haines