Fleetwood Town condemned Gillingham to a third defeat in a row on Saturday as they defeated their hosts 1-0 in EFL League One.
Paddy Madden’s second-half goal was the difference between the two teams on a windy afternoon in Medway, and Gillingham will be left ruing missed first-half chances to put themselves ahead early on.
Story of the match
Gillingham started well, with Jordan Graham trying to utilise his strikers’ physical presences early on with a few crosses into the Fleetwood box. The heavy wind was clearly having an impact on the match as both sides tested opposition defences with long balls and set-pieces, but the first 15 minutes passed with no clear-cut chances.
Harvey Saunders had the first shot of the game on 20 minutes, seeing an effort deflected over Jack Bonham’s crossbar after neat linkup play with Paddy Madden. Charlie Mulgrew headed the resulting corner over.
Gillingham were forced into an early change as Tom O’Connor hit the deck, Alex MacDonald replacing him, and Jack Tucker soon had to head a clever Fleetwood cross over his own bar. Bonham got nowhere near the resulting corner, but luckily for Steve Evans’ side the ball fell to a Gillingham defender, and the home side cleared their lines.
Dominic Samuel had perhaps the best chance of the game just after half-an-hour when he chased a John Akinde flick-on into space on the right. He aimed for the bottom left corner of the goal, and his shot was on target, but Jayson Leutwiler got down to save excellently and tip the ball around the post.
Just a minute later Akinde found himself one-on-one with Leutwiler. The forward took his time before shooting, and struck the post – somehow, after two golden opportunities for the home side, the score remained level.
Managers Steve Evans and Joey Barton exchanged words as the intensity of the game began to pick up, and Scott Robertson fired down the throat of Leutwiler from a well-worked corner. Samuel then headed over from another Graham cross as the Gills began to take control.
Zech Medley had an effort blocked just before the break, Akinde then forced Leutwiler into a save, and somehow the teams went in level after a 15-or-so-minute period of dominance from Gillingham at the end of the half.
Gillingham had an early second-half penalty appeal turned down as Dominic Samuel went down in the area, and Alex MacDonald had his head in his hands a few minutes later. Leutwiler found himself in no man’s land after attempting and failing to claim a cross, and Graham pulled a ball back to MacDonald. The midfielder, however, saw his shot cannon off the crossbar, bounce on the line, and stay out of the net.
Paddy Madden then had a shot blocked by Medley as the game began to open up – the second-half proving to be much more even than the first.
Fleetwood began to get a bit of a foothold on the ball as the half progressed and their efforts paid off on 66 minutes when Paddy Madden put them ahead. A smart cross from Thomas Edwards was met by the head of Callum Camps, and his header rebounded off the crossbar. Madden reacted quickest, however, and slotted home to give his side the lead.
GOOOAAALLL! pic.twitter.com/SzK2v66JWv— Fleetwood Town FC (@ftfc) October 24, 2020
Connor Ogilvie was sent off late on in the game as he received a second yellow card for a foul on Jay Matete, and things slowly began to unravel for Gillingham. Ched Evans added a second for Fleetwood in added time despite home appeals, and Fleetwood won the game 2-0 to condemn Gillingham to their third-straight league defeat.
Takeaways from the match
Evans searches for a defensive solution
After swapping both his centre-backs on Tuesday night for the visit of Portsmouth, Evans swapped the pairing again, this time Connor Ogilvie partnering Jack Tucker in the middle of the Gillingham defence.
Ogilvie joined the Gills as a centre-back but has developed into one of the best left-backs in the division. Gillingham have, however, struggled defensively this season whatever partnership they have put out, so Evans tucked Ogilvie in again with Zech Medley, normally a central defender, moving out wide.
The move seemed to be working, but Fleetwood scored halfway through the second-half to cost the Gills their clean sheet, and Ogilivie was sent off late on before Ched Evans added a second late on. Time will tell, however, if the move is one Evans wants to stick with when Ogilvie returns from suspension.
Gills struggle in front of goal
Gillingham have now drawn blanks in front of goal in their last three games, and manager Steve Evans will be fuming with his side’s missed chances today.
Samuel probably should have scored from a tough angle on the half-hour mark, and there is no doubting John Akinde should have found the net when one-on-one with Leutwiler just a minute later.
The positive for the home side is that they created chances here, but Evans will hope the drought is stopped soon.
Graham has been Gillingham’s key man this season, and he put in another excellent performance at Priestfield on Saturday afternoon.
The Gills utilised his skills frequently in the first-half, often setting him one-on-one with Fleetwood left-back Danny Andrew. Graham often had the beating of his man, and put some good balls into Fleetwood’s box, but his efforts were in vain as Gillingham failed to score again.
Evans was only introduced on 54 minutes, but he made a big difference to Fleetwood’s attacking play after the Cods’ struggles in the first period.
His partnership with Paddy Madden is noticeable, and his quality is clear to see both on and off the ball. He took his goal well, and deserved to do so. Some smart play from Joey Barton.
Gillingham: Bonham, Jackson, Tucker, Medley, Ogilvie, Eccles, O’Connor (MacDonald 24), Robertson Willock (75), Samuel (Coyle 86), Akinde, Graham.
Subs not used: Walsh, McKenzie, Maghoma, Woods.
Fleetwood: Leutwiler, Edwards, Andrew, Connolly, Whelan, Camps (Coutts 87), Mulgrew, Madden, Saunders (Evans 54), Finley (Duffy 66), Matete.
Subs not used: Carins, Burns, McKay, Holgate.