Gillingham were held to a draw by Shrewsbury Town in Ady Pennock’s first game in charge at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium on Saturday, despite dominating the first half and hitting the post in the second.
Deji Oshilaja gave the Gills a half-time lead following a smart turn and finish from a long Stuart Nelson clearance, however Alex Rodman levelled for the Shrews from close range in the second half.
Head coach Pennock made one change from the 2-2 draw against league leaders Sheffield United at Bramall Lane last Saturday, with the injured Chris Herd replaced by Paul Konchesky, while Oshilaja partnered Max Ehmer at centre-back. Goalkeeper Tomas Holy made his first appearance in the Gillingham squad but Nelson kept hold of the number one jersey.
The Gills nearly took the lead after seven minutes from a Bradley Dack free-kick right of the penalty area. Scott Wagstaff drew the foul and Dack just missed the top corner as he whipped the ball across goal and narrowly wide with Jayson Leutwiler at full stretch.
Pennock's side saw more of the possession in the early stages, and Town left-back Junior Brown received a yellow card when he cynically brought down Cody McDonald steaming towards goal. Dack’s ball from the resulting free-kick was dangerous and Shrewsbury had to be at their best to clear the cross.
Freddie Ladapo nearly fired Shrewsbury into the lead after 19 minutes after the referee missed a foul on Dack in the middle of the park. Breaking down the right, a stood up ball evaded Oshilaja but the big Shrews striker could only prod straight at Nelson from the top of the six-yard box.
McDonald had a golden opportunity to put the Gills ahead when Dack played a lovely, delicate through ball to put the Gills striker in on goal. However, if anything, McDonald had too much time and Leutwiler made a good save from the striker’s placed shot, low down to his right.
The Gills were looking by far the more dangerous with Dack constantly finding space in the hole behind McDonald. He had the next effort for Gillingham, turning on the edge of the box but skewing his effort wide of goal.
Winger Elliott List was also providing plenty of pace and penetration down the right; after 31 minutes he skinned the yellow-carded Brown, getting to the by-line before pulling the ball back across goal. Josh Wright, fresh from his brace against Sheffield United, ran onto the ball but could only direct his strike straight at the goalkeeper.
Nelson was called into action for just the second time in the half after 38 minutes, when he had to push a fiercely struck Joe Riley free-kick around the post for a corner which the home defence dealt with comfortably.
Gillingham did take the lead after 44 minutes through the unlikely source of Oshilaja, with an assist for Nelson. A long punt forward from the Gills keeper bounced awkwardly for Aristote Nsiala and the centre-back took advantage to collect the ball and slide past Leutwiler.
McDonald almost gave the Gills the dream start to the second half getting in behind the Shrews defence before firing low at goal, but the visiting goalkeeper made the block with his legs and the loose ball was scrambled clear.
Nelson made a good save to deny Abu Ogogo soon after, palming clear his shot from the edge of the area to keep Gillingham ahead. A minute later the visitors went even closer as Ladapo found space in the box to shoot towards goal. Nelson saved and Ryan Jackson had to be alert to block the rebound, before Wright made another last-ditch block to deny Gary Deegan at the top of the penalty area.
Shrewsbury somehow failed to equalise after 50 minutes as Rodman hit the post from inches out. Ladapo and Oshilaja tangled, and the Gills defender looked to have been impeded, before the ball was squared to the Shrews winger contrived to miss when it looked easier to score.
After a hectic start to the second period in which the Shrews consistently threatened the home defence, Gillingham finally started to settle into the game again.
However, no sooner had the Gills established themselves, Shrewsbury did equalise just after the hour through Rodman. A cross from the right wing was deflected into the path of Tyler Roberts who prodded towards goal; Nelson made an instinctive save but the ball dropped to Rodman who this time couldn’t miss.
The Gills looked to get back on the front foot immediately and Dack was inches away from a second Gillingham goal, but his 25-yard free-kick glanced off the bar with Leutwiler beaten.
After 75 minutes, the Gills went extremely close to retaking the lead. Substitute Bradley Garmston beat his man down the left and his deep cross was diverted goal-wards by Wright at the back post before it was scrambled clear.
A minute later and Gillingham were denied again, this time by the post as the ball was recycled and first Leutwiler saved from McDonald, before Ehmer got to the loose ball but couldn’t squeeze the ball home from a tight angle and the post denied him. Wright then tried the spectacular from a corner but his bicycle kick effort drifted just wide.
Going into the last 10 minutes, both sides were looking to clinch a vital three points, leading to an end-to-end encounter. Louis Dodds, on as a substitute, nearly snatched the win for Shrewsbury but he blazed wide from 10-yards after the ball fell free to him following a dangerous cross and Gillingham survived.
In the end, neither side was able to find a winning goal and both had to satisfy for a point each.
Gillingham: Nelson; Jackson, Ehmer, Oshilaja, Konchesky; Wright, Hessenthaler; Dack (Emmanuel-Thomas, 90), Wagstaff, List (Garmston, 72); McDonald (Donnelly, 90)
Unused subs: Holy (GK), Knott, Osadebe, Byrne
Shrewsbury Town: Leutwiler; Riley, Sadler, Nsiala, Brown; Rodman, Ogogo (Morris, 87), Deegan, Whalley; Ladapo (Humphrys, 71), Roberts (Dodds, 79)
Unused subs: Halstead (GK), El-Abd, McGivern, Smith
Attendance: 5,316 (223)
Referee: Trevor Kettle