Good Gills performance goes without reward at MEMS Priestfield Stadium.
Gillingham left MEMS Priestfield Stadium empty handed on Saturday afternoon despite a much improved performance against Fleetwood Town.
Joey Barton’s men ran away 2-0 winners in Kent having been under pressure for much of the game, with Gills, who were reduced to ten men late on, having struck the woodwork twice and Dominic Samuel forcing an excellent save from Jayson Leutwiler.
Steve Evans made four changes to the side that lost against Portsmouth during the week, with Declan Drysdale, Jacob Mellis, Vadaine Oliver and Christian Maghoma all missing out.
Zech Medley came into the XI, slotting in at left-back with Connor Ogilvie moving to the centre to partner Jack Tucker. Scott Robertson returned to the midfield, alongside Josh Eccles and Tommy O’Connor.
Kyle Dempsey didn’t make the squad due to injury. John Akinde played in attack with Graham and Samuel for company.
The opening quarter of an hour saw Gills enjoy more of the ball, but chances were few and far between at MEMS Priestfield Stadium. Zech Medley put in an excellent block to deny an almost certain goal on 20 minutes, and this seemed to inject a spark into the tie.
Following the introduction of Alex MacDonald, due to an injury to Tom O’Connor, Gills had two good chances within the space of 90 seconds. First, a defensive flick played in Dominic Samuel who, from a difficult angle, shot across goalkeeper Jayson Leutwiler and the stopper got down quickly to divert the effort wide for a corner.
Shortly after, Akinde beat the offside trap and was played through. With just the keeper to beat he set himself, took his time, and although his shot beat the keeper, it didn’t beat the woodwork with the ball striking the post and then getting cleared.
Steve Evans’ men were very much in the ascendency and were dominating possession. Another opportunity came and went five minutes prior to the interval; Graham’s cross was an excellent one towards the penalty spot and Samuel guided his header over the bar from ten yards.
Gills started the second half on top and struck the bar on 53 minutes. Graham, who had been lively all afternoon, beat keeper Leutwiler to a loose ball when the keeper had come out to clear, kept his composure and rounded the goalie before pulling the ball back to MacDonald. He struck the underside of the bar before Fleetwood cleared.
The hosts had been the more dangerous in terms of creating chances, but with the woodwork having stopped Gills for a second time, Fleetwood sensed the opportunity to get themselves in front, and did exactly that just after the hour.
A cross from Thomas Edwards was flicked on by Callum Camps; his header appeared to dip at the last moment and struck the bar before falling into the path of Paddy Madden who had the simple task of converting from close range. This was harsh on the Gills who’d had the better opportunities up until this moment, but now found themselves chasing the game with less than half an hour to play.
As the hosts threw more men forward they had to backtrack quickly when Fleetwood countered, and it was one of these occasions where Gills found themselves down to ten men. Ogilvie, who had been booked in the first half, was judged to have fouled Jay Matete, and the referee didn’t hesitate to award a second yellow.
Akinde beat keeper Leutwiler in an aerial battle towards the end of the game, but no Gills player was on hand to divert the ball goalwards. Fleetwood secured the points in stoppage time when Ched Evans, on as a sub, found the bottom left corner with a precise drive from inside the penalty area.
Gills: Bonham, Jackson, Ogilvie, Tucker, Medley, O’Connor (MacDonald 24), Robertson (Willock 75), Eccles, Graham, Samuel (Coyle 85), Akinde.
Unused subs: Walsh, Maghoma, McKenzie, Woods.
Fleetwood: Leutwiler, Edwards, Mulgrew, Connolly, Andrew, Matete, Whelan, Finley (Duffy 67), Camps (Coutts 87), Madden, Saunders (Evans 54).
Unused subs: Cairns, Burns, Holgate, McKay.
Referee: Mr J Busby