Gills leave Priestfield empty-handed as Rotherham clinch 1-0 victory.
Gillingham slipped to a frustra 1-0 defeat against promotion-chasing Rotherham United on Tuesday night in Sky Bet League One.
Despite a promising start, the Gills went into the break a goal behind with Will Vaulks smashing home a first-time shot from the edge of the area to give the Millers the lead and all three point. The hosts best chance of the half came through a Connor Ogilvie header which went just the wrong side of the post after a deep corner.
In a second-half full of huff and puff, Gillingham’s best chance came in stoppage time but Jake Hessenthaler’s volleyed effort was saved by Rodak. The Millers had the better chances throughout the period with Williams and Smith both missing gilt-edged chances to put the game to bed.
Gillingham Manager Steve Lovell made two changes from the side that drew at Oldham with Luke O’Neill coming in at right back and Ogilvie coming in at left-back as Lovell switched up the formation to a traditional 4-4-2.
The Gills nearly got off to a flying start with Mark Byrne unleashing a powerful shot from outside the box less than ten seconds into play, however it was straight at Rodak.
It was a lively start to the game but indecision from Tomas Holy nearly let the Millers in as he came for a long ball but Williams just beat him to the ball inside the area. Holy did well not to bring the Rotherham striker down and from a tight angle his finish was deflected into the side netting.
The hosts however did not let up forcing a series of free-kicks and corners to pressurise the Millers, but the closes they came to finishing one of the set pieces was a Gabriel Zakuani header at the far post which a visiting defender did well to force behind.
Just before ten minutes, Gillingham went even closer as Scott Wagstaff did well to win a free-kick down the right which was delivered by Callum Reilly towards the back post reaching Ogilvie but his header hit the side netting.
The closest Rotherham could go in reply was a shot from the lively Williams cutting in from the left, but he blazed his effort well wide of the goal. Up the other end, a long-throw from Byrne was met by Conor Wilkinson at the near post but flicked off a defender and fortunately safely into the hands of Rodak.
With quarter of an hour on the clock, the Gills thought they should have had a penalty with Reilly going down under pressure near the apex of the box, but the referee waved away the appeals to the disgruntlement of the home fans.
The visitors were ahead after 19 minutes as Emmanuel got the better of Reilly on the right hand side before squeezing in a cross that Smith held up before laying off to Vaulks who smashed home a snapshot from the edge of the box.
Gillingham were nearly level immediately as a diagonal ball found Wilkinson from the restart but Josh Parker could not convert after the number 10 headed the ball into his path.
Parker did have the ball in the net on 24 minutes as a great cross from Byrne, after smart hold-up play from Wilkinson, found the striker who headed past Rodak only to see his celebrations cut short by the linesman’s flag.
The goal had changed the complexion of the game with the visitors now happier to sit a bit deeper and invite the Gills onto them with the home side struggling to exert any pressure or get in behind the defence.
However, they were posing the greater threat especially getting crosses in from down the right with one cleared only as far as Towell but Holy was equal to his low shot. Another cross found Smith just on the 45 minute mark but he scuffed his shot giving the Gills stopper a simple save.
H/T: 0 – 1
The second half started sluggishly with the ball spending more time in the air than on the ground and it didn’t take Lovell long to respond in bringing on the Gills’ top scorer, Tom Eaves, after just five minutes.
The substitution didn’t bring an immediate impact with Wood driving forward from the centre-back position before unleashing a low drive from 25 yards which Holy got down well to tip past the post.
The Gills were slowly beginning to get a firm grasp on the game with a neat pass from Jake Hessenthaler finding Reilly on the corner of the box but his lofted cross was just too long for Eaves and Wilkinson waiting to pounce.
After 66 minutes, the Millers had a golden chance for a second goal to put the game out of sight as a diagonal ball found Williams in the area. He took the time to compose himself but dragged a left-footed shot wide of the post.
Soon after another cross from Taylor on the right wing found Williams unmarked in the box but his connection was poor and drifted wide of the target.
With fifteen minutes to go, the Rainham End were up in arms as Eaves appeared to be manhandled to the ground in the area but again the referee waved away appeals. The Millers immediately counter-attacked and yet another brilliant cross from Taylor gave Smith a gilt-edged chance but he side-footed wide from jut ten yards out.
As the game drifted towards a conclusion the Gills were chucking everything at Rotherham but the defence were dealing well with the long balls until Wilkinson did well to earn a free-kick 25 yards from goal. O’Neill stepped and curled it towards the far post but it was comfortably wide of Rodak’s goal.
In the first minute of added time, Gillingham had their best chance of the game as they looked to snatch a point with O’Neill doing superbly to beat his man and get to the goal-line and his cross was only cleared as far as Hessenthaler but Rodak did well to block his shot and gather the loose ball.
F/T: 0 – 1
The Gills are back at Priestfield on Saturday afternoon to take on Blackpool in a crucial game as they hope to secure their League One status for next season.
Gillingham: Holy; O’Neill, Ehmer, Zakuani (Nugent, 23), Ogilvie (Eaves, 51); Reilly, Byrne, Hessenthaler, Wagstaff; Wilkinson, Parker
Unused subs: Hadler (GK), List, Stevenson, Nasseri, Nash
Rotherham: Rodak; Emmanuel, Wood, Ihiekwe, Purrington; Towell (Ajayi 64), Vaulks, Palmer, Taylor (Forde, 76); Smith (Lavery, 79), Williams
Unused subs: Price (GK), Ball, Newell, Cummings
Referee: Mr Dean Whitestone
Attendance: 4,029 (162)