Sunday, 17 April 2016

Gillingham 0 Port Vale 2

Match 89/15/1294 - Saturday, 16th April 2016 - League One

Gillingham (0) 0
Port Vale (2) 2 Leitch-Smith 19, Dickinson 21
Attendance: 5,887

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 58/6,347

Match Report

Are Gillingham in the process of bottling it? Over the period of the season, manager Justin Edinburgh has made, in fact laboured, the point about the youthfulness of his squad. So, at this time of the season when the pressure is ratcheted up, perhaps it is understandable that in the last two home games, Gillingham have turned in nervous, far from convincing performances. The loss of senior players, despite the return of John Egan, Adam El Abd has been a significant absentee along with club captain, Doug Loft is unlikely to have been coincidental with the poor performances. Upfront, the loss to injury of Dominic Samuel has been noticeable, if only from the lack of a cutting edge with Luke Norris or Rory Donnelly partnering the returning, but not match sharp Cody McDonald. The lack of match fitness also has to be attributed to Bradley Dack, great to have him back but I guess we are not going to see him back to his form of three months ago before the close of the season.

Two goals in three minutes of a similar nature were ultimately Gillingham's undoing in a game that proved that teams that have nothing to play for can be very dangerous opponents. Gillingham started well enough, a couple of corners in the first two minutes led to Egan bringing a comfortable save out of Jak Alnwick and Deji Oshilaja heading over.

Following Port Vale's first opportunity after 18 minutes, a Louis Dodds header from close range that should have been converted, the Staffordshire side took the lead a minute later. A 30 yard diagonal pass from left to right from Ben Purkiss found AJ Leitch-Smith in acres of space, who cut inside and curled a shot past Stuart Nelson into the far corner.

Two minutes later and a goal of mirror image left Gillingham with an uphill task. This time the diagonal ball was sent from right to left by Purkiss, it cleared the head of Josh Wright to the Vale full-back Carl Dickinson who shot across the face of Nelson into the bottom right hand corner.

Oshilaja took a blow to the face after half-an-hour that required his substitution by Brennan Dickenson. As an aside, it appears to me that if you feature on the front page of the matchday programme, then something significant, good or bad, always seems to happen.

Gillingham responded to their manager's half-time team talk and took the game to their visitors. McDonald had an early opportunity but shot over, but it at least had the effect for raising the home supporter's voices.

On the hour, they produced their best chance when Dickenson set up Dack for a shot from the edge of the penalty area, to which Alnwick did just enough to take the pace off the shot allowing Richard Duffy to complete the clearance from in front of the line.

Chances came and went in the last 20 minutes, but Gillingham had no cutting edge to find even a consolation goal.

It is now going to be nip and tuck with Barnsley for the final play-off place. I have a scenario! On Tuesday, Gillingham will pinch a point a Rochdale, whilst Barnsley will beat Peterborough leaving the two clubs level on points but Gillingham in front on goal difference. Next Saturday, Gillingham must beat Shrewsbury, whilst Barnsley have a difficult derby match at Sheffield United to which they take a point. Gillingham two points in front. When Gillingham go in search of something at a faltering Burton Albion, let's say they take a point, Barnsley will surely take all three at home to Colchester. Leaving it all square on points going into a last day shoot-out with Gillingham at home to Millwall and the Tykes at probably already promoted Wigan Athletic. I will let you write your own concluding paragraph!

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