Gillingham 1 Crawley Town 1
A fourth goal in five games from Gwion Edwards earned Reds a deserved point in an entertaining 1-1 draw at the MEMS Priestfield.
Edwards put Reds ahead on 29 minutes but Leon Legge levelled from a corner just before the break for Gillingham.
Gillingham pressed in the second half when Lanre Oyebanjo produced two brilliant pieces of defending to keep the hosts at bay, although Jimmy Smith nearly got a late winner when his goalbound shot took a deflection inches wide of the upright.
There had been three changes to the side that beat Walsall 1-0 on Tuesday. Izale McLeod and Jimmy Smith dropped to the bench while a minor groin injury ruled out Marvin Elliott. In came Conor Henderson, Matt Harrold and Keith Keane, who was available after serving a one-match ban. The hosts included one-time Crawley loanee Michael Doughty who had joined them on loan from QPR on Friday.
Reds began brightly, passing the ball confidently in midfield as they probed for an opening. It was the home side who had the first chance, however, when defender John Egan met Jake Hessenthaler’s corner with a header that Jamie Ashdown got behind.
Brennan Dickenson then saw a shot blocked by Oyebanjo before he side-footed over from a decent position.
That was midway through the half but Reds then began to impose themselves. Stuart Nelson in the home goal did well to change his position and keep out Edwards’ shot after it had taken a deflection and Crawley were enjoying some good possession at this stage which they made it count in the 29th minute.
Josh Simpson slid a lovely pass into the path of EDWARDS and although Nelson got his hand on the shot from 15 yards the ball had enough power to go into the bottom left-hand corner.
On the balance of play it was just about deserved and as they grew in confidence Crawley nearly doubled their lead in the 32nd minute. Edwards’ pass found Harrold ten yards out and his well-struck volley on the turn with his left foot hit the post with Nelson beaten.
Nelson came to Gillingham’s rescue five minutes later with an instinctive save to keep out Joe Walsh’s header after Henderson had found him at a corner.
But it was a corner at the other end which led to the next goal and a Gillingham leveller on 44 minutes. Hessenthaler’s flag kick picked out defender Leon LEGGE who powered his header from 12 yards past a helpless Ashdown into the top corner.
And the hosts nearly scored again just before the break when it look an excellent block by Dean Leacock to deny Doughty when he let fly from just inside the box.
Gillingham’s equaliser had certainly lifted home spirits and Legge was close to a second two minutes after the break but this time his header from another Hessenthaler corner went wide.
The hosts had introduced Bradley Dack at the break and he began to dictate things in midfield, ending one strong run with a shot on the rise from 25 yards which skimmed the top of the crossbar.
John Gregory brought on first Bobson Bawling and then Smith to stiffen up midfield and Bawling nearly made an immediate impression when Edwards’ pass found him after good approach work but his shot was blocked.
Oyebanjo then produced a fantastic block to dispossess Legge a yard from Reds’ goal after the defender looked certain to pounce after Dack had won the ball off Mat Sadler to set him up for what looked like a certain goal until Oyebanjo intervened.
Walsh then blocked a shot from Dickenson but Reds had a great chance of their own to win the game in the closing stages when Edwards found Smith whose side-footer took a deflection off Izale McLeod, who has just come on for Harrold, which took his shot a yard wide with Nelson stranded.
But Gillingham almost snatched it in injury time. Ashdown made a smart save to deny Luke Prichard before Oyebanjo produced another outstanding block when Luke Norris fired in a shot from close range.
In the end it finished all square, a result both managers felt was fair.