Gills put in top performance at Priestfield but fall to defeat against clinical Posh side.
Gillingham slipped to a 4-2 defeat against top of the league Peterborough United in a pulsating and often bad-tempered clash at the Medway Priestfield Stadium.
The Posh were ahead at the break after Jamie Walker slotted home a cross from the right and Aaron Chapman pulled off a remarkable triple save to deny the Gills an equaliser.
The second half saw four goals fly in during a manic twenty-minute period with Callum Reily and Mark Byrne both scoring with fantastic strikes from long range to give the Gills the lead before 55 minutes were on the clock. The first was a crisp volley from the edge of the area and the latter a low drive from 30 yards out.
However, the visitors fought back with Siriki Dembele equalising almost immediately and Toney scoring a superb curling effort from the apex of the box to put Posh back in front. And the game was finished just before added time with Cooke scoring from close range to secure all three points for Peterborough.
Gillingham Manager Steve Lovell made several changes following the heavy defeat last weekend. Gaby Zakuani returned from injury to skipper the side and Connor Ogilvie came in for his League start since re-joining the Gills on loan.
Regan Charles-Cook also made the XI after recovering from a hamstring injury picked up against Coventry while Brandon Hanlan started up front alongside Josh Parker.
The Gills started brightly as they looked to make the most of their pace up front and Charles-Cook delivered a dangerous cross right across goal which nobody could get on the end of within the first five minutes.
The first chance for Posh to test the Gillingham defence came in the seventh minute when they won a free-kick 25 yards from the goal on the left, but Maddison over-hit his cross allowing Tomas Holy to let it drift behind.
Posh had a golden chance to take the lead as Matt Godden was played clean through on goal following a lightning quick counter attack. Fortunately for the Gills, Holy got enough to allow Ogilvie to recover and hack the ball off the line.
The visitors were now in the ascendancy and Holy had to be at his best to deny Maddison as he cut in from the right flank and unleashed a powerful drive that the Czech goalie tipped behind acrobatically.
From the corner, Peterborough won the first header and it seemed for all the world that the finishing touch would be applied but Holy spread himself again denied the Posh from a yard out.
It was then Gillingham’s turn to counter attack as Charles-Cook turned his man on half way and charged forward, but a slight mis-control from Reilly allowed the Posh defence to get back and make a block from Dean Parrett’s drive on the top of the box.
Somehow the Gills failed to take the lead after 16 minutes as a fantastic team move down the right saw Hanlan engineer some space in the box but Chapman saved his deflected shot with his legs. The rebound looked to be going in but the keeper recovered to punch clear off Charles-Cook’s head before getting back to his feet and making a super save to deny Reilly from the rebound.
The next chance fell to Peterborough as the game continued to entertain with Walker picking up a pocket of space 25 yards but Holy got down well to make a regulation save.
The deadlock was broken after 23 minutes with Godden winning the ball on the right flank and Naismith delivered a low cross into the box which Toney couldn’t get on the end of but Walker arrived late to slot past Holy and give Posh the lead.
The lead was nearly doubled soon after with Ogilvie conceding a foul right on the right flank of the box. Maddison delivered a vicious cross which Holy got across well to beat away.
After a long delay following a clash of heads between the two Peterborough centre halves, Gillingham looked to get at their opponents with Parrett embarking on a driving run before shooting wide from 25 yards.
Toney then had a golden chance to score as a corner found him unmarked at the near post but his header flew over. The referee then waved away claims for a Peterborough penalty as Dembele went down under pressure in the box so the Gills went into the break a goal down.
H/T: 0 – 1
It was a lively start to the second period for the hosts with Ogilvie doing well to win a corner, but Charles-Cook was forced off and replaced by Tom Eaves.
The corner was delivered and Max Ehmer headed the ball into the path of CALLUM REILLY who volleyed home on his right foot from the edge of the area to equalise for the Gills.
Just two minutes later and the Gills were in front as Parrett did superbly well to flick a ball on to MARK BYRNE who ignored Barry Fuller rushing down the right flank and instead spanked a shot into the bottom corner of the net from 30 yards.
The hosts were now firmly in the ascendancy with Parrett influential. He went close to the lead as he skipped away from a challenge and shot from 25 yards but Chapman pushed his effort away.
Both sides were at full throttle with Gills going close as Hanlan broke down the right, despite being fouled, and fed Byrne whose cross was just plucked out of the air by Chapman with Eaves waiting to apply the final touch. Posh then went up the other end and Dembele shot wide from 30 yards.
Peterborough were level just before the hour as a ball in from Maddison evaded the Gills defence and found Dembele who span and tucked home past Holy.
And five minutes later Posh took the lead as another counter attack resulted in Toney being slipped in on the left corner of the box by Dembele and he hit an unstoppable shot first time into the corner of the net.
The Gills looked slightly shell shocked after that goal and Peterborough attempted to try and quieten the frantic atmosphere and pace of the game.
A neat pass from Ehmer did get Parrett in on the left hand side of the penalty area but his attempted cross couldn’t beat Chapman.
Despite being behind the Gills were still playing some nice football with Josh Rees miscuing at the top of the area, before a shot from Parrett was blocked and Parker sliced the rebound far over the bar.
The victory was secured on 87 minutes as a quick counter from a Gillingham free-kick ended with Cooke slotting past Holy after checking back on to his left foot and deceiving Zakuani.
The home side desperately tried to get back into the game and Rees headed just wide after Fuller floated a good ball in from the right but there was to be no magical comeback as the Gills were left empty-handed.
F/T: 2 – 4
Gillingham are on their travels next week as they take on Shrewsbury Town at New Meadow.
Gillingham: Holy; Fuller, Ehmer, Zakuani, Ogilvie; Parrett, Reilly (Rees, 65), Byrne, Charles-Cook (Eaves, 49); Hanlan (Wilkinson, 82), Parker
Unused subs: Hadler (GK), Garmston, O’Neill, Lacey
Peterborough: Chapman; Daniel, Tafazolli (Yorwerth, 46), Bennett, Naismith; Dembele Walker (O’Hara, 72), Woodyard, Maddison; Toney, Godden (Cooke, 82)
Unused subs: Tyler (GK), Ward, Reed, Cummings
Referee: Mr Lee Swabey
Attendance: 4407 (478 Peterborough)