Gills extend their unbeaten run to four after 1-1 draw with Bury.
Gillingham were forced to settle for a point in a combative encounter at MEMS Priestfield on Saturday. A tale of two halves, the Gills’ excellent second half performance was not quite enough to secure all three points but they still rise one place to 21st in Sky Bet League One.
The Shakers were the better team in the first half and led deservedly though Neil Danns’ low strike in the first half. However, the Gills fought back valiantly in the second period and dominated the game; Josh Parker headed home from a corner in the final ten minutes but despite throwing the kitchen sink at Bury, Gillingham were unable to find the winning goal.
Caretaker Manager Steve Lovell made just one side to the team that edged past Leyton Orient in the FA Cup the previous week. Luke O’Neill came into the side at left-back with Connor Ogilvie replacing Gaby Zakuani at centre-back, who is away on international duty in the World Cup Qualifiers.
Before the game, in partnership with the Royal Engineers, Gillingham commemorated Armistice Day with an impeccably observed minute silence and recital of the Last Post.
The hosts burst out of the traps and could have been in-front within a minute. Sean Clare won possession in the midfield with a great slide tackle before driving forward and drilling his shot inches wide of the post.
Max Ehmer soon entered the referee’s book when he brought down Nicky Ajose near the half-way line as the Bury forward looked to break, but the Gills threatened again through Elliott List he beat two defenders with his pace down the right however nobody could keep up with him and divert his cross into the net.
It took until the 12th minute for the hosts to carve out another opportunity as Parker was played in down the left with a pinpoint lofted ball. His deep cross found Tom Eaves at the back stick but the striker seemed caught in two minds between nodding back to List or going for goal, and the resulting header was easy for the keeper to gather.
The Shakers were by no means over-run in the early stages and often looked dangerous when counter- attacking down the flanks, but failed to create any opportunities in the first 20 minutes.
List’s pace continued to cause the visitors problems with Ince going into the book for a cynical tug on halfway as List looked to break clear.
On the half-hour Ajose had a golden chance to give bury the led as Leigh and Ince played a neat one-two setting the former away but Ajose couldn’t get enough on Leigh’s cross to find the net.
Soon after, the Shakers had a second opportunity when a mix up in the Gillingham midfield allowed Jay O’Shea to blast towards goal from inside the penalty area, but Ajose got in the way of his shot to let Gills off the hook.
The pressure from Bury finally paid off when Danns had time and space in the penalty area and drilled a low effort past Tomas Holy and into the corner of the net after 39 minutes.
The Gills continued to be pressed back by The Shakers, and a deep cross was just dealt with by Holy with Ehmer scrambling the loose ball away before Lee Martin had a curling effort saved by the keeper after great work from Clare.
Bury were so close to doubling their lead in first half injury time as they broke following a Gills error. Smith got on the end of O’Shea’s cross but put his effort wide from five yards out.
As such, the home team went into the break a goal down but still very much in the game.
H/T: 0 – 1
Lovell introduced Conor Wilkinson at half-time, replacing List as the Gills looked for an equaliser, and started the second period brightly with Martin immediately almost putting Wilkinson in on goal.
The Gills were much improved and Eaves nearly created the equaliser as he held the ball up before laying it off to Martin at the top of the box, he fed Mark Byrne but his shot from inside the area was superbly blocked.
Despite the strong start, Bury still looked dangerous as Danns reminded the hosts – he looked to blast home from the edge of the area but blazed way over.
Ten minutes into the half and Parker had another chance for Gillingham as he pounced on a loose ball in the box after a corner but, aiming for the top corner, he curled his shot over the bar.
Gillingham were bossing possession but The Shakers nearly caught them on the counter yet, fortunately for the Gills, Ajose’s shot from just outside the box ballooned over the bar.
As the game ticked over the hour, the Gills were visibly frustrated as they attempted to break down a stubborn Bury defence. A deep cross from O’Neill found Parker but his header back into the area was hacked clear.
Parker’s presence in the box was a threat and a good cross Clare found the Gills player but his header into the ground was straight at the keeper. Another delivery from O’Neill then found Eaves at the back post who was being manhandled by the defender yet he still managed to get a header off towards goal with Wilkinson just unable to get their ahead of the keeper.
The Gills were all over the visitors now with Wilkinson and Eaves causing chaos up top; Byrne nearly capitalised on this arriving late into the box but dragging his effort just wide of the net. Bury, in a rare foray forward, found Ajose but his powerful effort from a tight angle whistled into the Town End.
From the goal-kick, Holy’s clearance was flicked on by Eaves and Wilkinson, from a similar angle as Ajose, blasted his shot wide of the post.
The game was end-to-end as the Gills desperately looked to get back in the game, but left themselves vulnerable. Tutte capitalised on this extra time and space to find a pocket on the edge of the box and curled an effort past Holy but onto the post.
Gillingham continued to pour forward; Clare stung the palms of the keeper with a rasping drive from 25 yards before Martin got onto the rebound but curled his effort over the top of the goal.
With the game entering the final 10 minutes, Ajose had a great chance to seal the victory for The Shakers but Holy did excellently to parry his powerful effort over the bar with his fingertips.
The value of the save was highlighted within the minute, as the Gills got back on level terms immediately; Martin delivered a great corner from the left and JOSH PARKER rose highest to nod in the equaliser.
The home side were buoyed and pushed forward for a late winner. Hessenthaler won the ball in midfield superbly before feeding Wilkinson but his shot was always rising off-target.
Four minutes of added time were indicated by the fourth official as a dangerous Gills corner was just dealt with by Bury however the hosts were unable to find another path through the Shakers’ defence as they threw men forward and were forced to settle for a draw.
F/T: 1 – 1
Next weekend, the Gills travel to the Bescot Stadium to take on Walsall as they look to secure a third successive away win in the League.
Gillingham: Holy; Clare, O’Neill, Ehmer, Ogilvie; Byrne, Hessenthaler, List (Wilkinson, 46), Martin, Parker; Eaves
Unused subs: Nelson (GK), Simpson, Oldaker, Chapman, Wagstaff, Cundle
Bury: Fasan; Leigh, O’Connell, Aldred, Edwards; O’Shea (Reilly, 88), Ince, Williams, Danns (Tutte, 68); Ajose, Smith
Unused subs: Moloney, Whitmore, Maguire, Humphrey, Sang
Referee: Mr Charles Breakspear
Attendance: 4,364 (141)