Late drama as Margate score twice in closing stages in 3-3 draw.
Margate scored twice in the final four minutes to earn a share of the spoils at Hartsdown Park on Saturday in a 3-3 draw.
Liam Nash scored a goal either side of half-time, with Conor Wilkinson also on target to give Gillingham a deserved 3-1 lead, but Margate refused to give up and Joe Taylor pounced in the dying moments to achieve a draw.
The management elected to split the squad in two as half of the roster went to Tonbridge with the remaining squad players heading to Margate.
Barry Fuller, Dean Parrett, Josh Rees and Nash all started at Hartsdown with a number of second year pros and youth players available from the bench.
In goal for Margate was a familiar name in Henry Newcombe who came through the academy ranks at Priestfield. Defender Tom Wynter was also included in the starting XI.
57 seconds were on the clock when Gills had their first chance; a corner for Margate was cleared by Parrett and via a pass in midfield it put Nash through on goal. Newcombe came out to narrow the gap and as the striker looked set to score the keeper managed to claw his right hand around the ball and prevent an almost certain goal.
On ten minutes Wilkinson nearly produced a piece of individual brilliance to open the scoring; a cross from the right from Parrett, who had combined well with Fuller, came to the feet of the striker who managed to beat three defenders before seeing an initial shot blocked by Newcombe and a second deflected for a corner which the hosts were able to clear.
Margate had few opportunities in the first-half, and even when they did manage to create an opening they were thwarted by Hadler and, on one occasion, a goal saving sliding tackle by the impressive O’Mara.
On 35 minutes however the crowd were finally treated to a goal, and one which Gillingham’s dominance deserved. Rees had the ball outside the area and, on the turn, produced a beautifully weighted ball into the path of Nash who finished with confidence into the top corner as Newcombe came out to block.
The hosts got a late corner and nearly turned in an equaliser as a shot struck into the ground went narrowly wide of Hadler’s right post. That missed chance would prove costly as at the other end Wilkinson produced a sensational strike to put Gills 2-0 up at the interval.
Outside the box he worked the ball to his left side, spotted Newcombe narrowly off his line and found the top corner with a sensational effort. This proved to be the last kick of the half.
Wilkinson had the first chance of the second half when his free-kick was gathered by Newcombe at the second attempt before a set piece at the other end was headed well over.
Nash was on the scoresheet for a second time on 56 minutes when his effort inside the box had way too much power for Newcombe who could do nothing to prevent it going in.
The hosts did finally pull a goal back on 61 minutes from the penalty spot when Huckle conceded a foul inside the area and the spot kick was well taken by Taylor with the forward waiting for Catherall, on for Hadler, to move before sending the effort the other side.
The keeper had to be alert moments later, making two saves in the space of a few seconds to prevent a second goal for Margate.
However, they finally did get a second goal with a few minutes left to play from close range. A scramble inside the box fell to Kofi Boateng and Catherall couldn’t get enough behind the effort to stop it going in.
And the crucial equaliser soon followed; a pass through the middle split the Gills defence and although Catherall narrowed the gap and got the lightest of touches, Taylor made enough contract to get the ball over the line with the full-time whistle sounding not long after.
Margate: Newcombe, Boulding, Mills, Wynter, Friend, Swift, Barnard, Rogers, Taylor, Collin, Brown.
Subs: Paxman, Nicholls, Fitchett, Yousuf, Prescott, Boateng, Wratten, Warden.
Gills: Hadler (Catherall 61), Fuller (Chapman 61), O’Mara (Huckle 61) Zakuani (Bramble 61), Garmston (Morrell 61), Byrne (Trialist 61), Parrett (Stevenson 61), Rees (Noyelle 61), List (Arthurs 61), Nash (Campbell 61), Wilkinson (Hlabi (61)