GILLINGHAM 1-1 PORT VALE: MATCH REPORT
Josh Parker’s dramatic late equaliser on his Gillingham debut snatched a point for the Gills at home against Port Vale at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium on Saturday.
Remie Streete had headed the Staffordshire side into the lead just after half time, but Parker got up highest to power Jay Emmanuel-Thomas’ corner into the roof of the net in the final minute of stoppage time and earn the Gills a vital point.
Gillingham head coach Ady Pennock named an unchanged starting line-up to the XI that gained a point away at Bradford last weekend. Lee Martin and Parker both came into the Gills’ squad for the first time after their midweek appearances in the friendly match against Patro Eisden.
The Gills started the game in a confident fashion, but Stuart Nelson was the first goalkeeper called into action, making a routine save from Callum Guy after eight minutes.
Port Vale should have been ahead two minutes later when the Gillingham ‘keeper came to claim a cross and looked to have been fouled as he caught the ball, however the referee waved play on and Nelson was forced to make an instinctive save. Moments later, JJ Hooper side-footed wide from five yards, missing a great opportunity to open the scoring for the visitors.
The Gills’ first chance arrived after eighteen minutes through a piece of Bradley Dack wizardry. The midfielder, sporting a severe new haircut, skinned two Vale defenders on the by-line but his low cross was gathered by Leonardo Fasan, with Cody McDonald looking to pounce.
Gillingham’s lone striker was the next to create an opening for the home side, getting in behind the visitors’ defence and pulling the ball back. The pass eluded Dack but found Rory Donnelly, whose shot was narrowly wide of the goal and the outstretched McDonald at the far post.
Despite Gillingham having the majority of the ball and play, Vale were dangerous on the counter-attack and were only denied by a last-ditch Jake Hessenthaler block on 30 minutes. Streete went close with a header from a dangerous corner just one minute later.
The home side had a great outlet in Deji Oshilaja, who was getting down the left flank with great success on a number of occasions, in pursuit of his third goal in a row. After 28 minutes he drove down the wing and into the penalty area, but his curled shot was deflected behind by a Vale defender.
Hooper had the last effort of the half, curling harmlessly into the Brian Moore Stand after quiet period in which the Gills struggled to break down a stubborn Vale defence.
H/T: 0 – 0
Gillingham didn’t take long to improve on their first half performance, nearly taking the lead within a minute of the restart. Ryan Jackson’s long throw was headed clear, but Dack recycled the ball and played the right-back into the box with a cute chip. Jackson collected the ball, beating his man in the process, but his low shot was just saved by Fasan, although Oshilaja’s attempted flick-on was flagged offside anyway.
Port Vale opened the scoring after 49 minutes as Streete headed home from a corner, past a despairing Scott Wagstaff on the line, to give the visitors the advantage.
The home side looked slightly stunned as they looked to respond, and Pennock brought on Lee Martin to make his debut for the Gills following a long spell on the sidelines after picking up an injury at Leyton Orient in July.
Sam Foley went close for Port Vale but his header went narrowly wide of Nelson’s left –hand post and bounced into a relieved Rainham End. Gillingham then brought on Parker for his debut, replacing Hessenthaler, as Pennock moved to a more orthodox 4-4-2 system.
Martin had provided a spark for the Gills attack and his cut back evaded Donnelly and Parker but found substitute Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, deep on the right corner of the box, however his effort cutting onto his left foot was blocked.
Emmanuel-Thomas was enjoying a free role behind the front two and he drew a foul from Streete but the dangerous free-kick was defended well. Anton Forrester then went close for Vale, getting across Oshilaja and driving a fierce effort just wide of the post.
The game entered five additional minutes and Gillingham were throwing the kitchen sink at the Vale defence with Emmanuel-Thomas blasted an effort just wide from 30-yards.
Gillingham grabbed a deserved equaliser in the very last minute of the game with Parker getting the goal in the fifth minute of added time. Emmanuel-Thomas whipped in a great corner and Parker powered a thumping header into the top corner of the net.
Not satisfied with a point, the Gills continued to press but did not have enough time to force a winner and both sides left with a point.
F/T: 1 – 1
The Gills host Chesterfield on Valentine’s Day before travelling to the Ricoh to take on Coventry City next weekend.
Gillingham: Nelson; Jackson, Ehmer, Herd, Oshilaja; Wright, Hessenthaler (Parker, 61); Wagstaff (Emmanuel-Thomas, 75), Dack, Donnelly; McDonald (Martin, 58)
Unused subs: Holy (GK), Garmston, Byrne, List
Port Vale: Fasan; Purkiss, Street, Smith, Knopps; de Freitas, Guy, Pugh, Foley; Hooper (Eagles, 90), Walker (Forrester, 78)
Unused subs: Boot (GK), Tanser, Kelly, Shodipo, Prohouly
Attendance: 4,942 (129 away)
Referee: Nicholas Kinseley