Ryan Broom equalised late on for Burton Albion in a typical end-of-season game that lacked goalmouth action.
In a game of few clear cut opportunities, it was a moment of great attacking awareness and a lack of communication at the back from Burton that allowed Jordan Graham to grab the game's first goal.
It seemed as though Steve Evans' side would see the game out in the second half, but some inspired changes from Jimmy Floyd Hasselbank wrestled back a point for the Brewers.
Story of the game
After scoring a quickfire double off the bench in the 5-2 thrashing of Fleetwood Town, Burton top scorer Kane Hemmings was injected back into the starting line-up to a slot in alongside Lucas Akins.
Top provider Graham returned to the starting line-up for Gillingham as Steve Evans reverted to a 4-4-2 shape after opting for no out-and-out wingers in the 2-2 draw with Northampton Town.
With The Gills’ play-off chances all but over, the only thing to play for was bragging rights as the Brewers looked to secure a league double over their opponents.
The away side started the game quickly, with full-back Connor Ogilvie forcing a great save off Kieran O’Hara as he ran free at the near post from a corner and flicked a header goalwards.
Aside from that early chance for Gillingham, the first 20 minutes of the game were surprisingly cagey for an end-of-season fixture between two mid-table teams.
Burton’s first real opening came from lacklustre defending from the visitors at a set piece. The Gillingham defenders were caught ball watching as John Brayford headed the ball into the path of Hayden Carter, who could not quite get a proper connection from close range.
It was an uneventful first half an hour; however, a lapse in concentration at the back for Burton allowed Graham to slip in behind from the right, round O’Hara in goal, and slot the ball home to repay his manager for bringing him back into the starting line-up.
The hosts had enough of the ball in the right areas in the first half to create chances but could not supply their two frontmen, with Albion’s best chances come from dead-ball situations.
The second half started similarly to the first, with clear-cut opportunities for either side, few and far between. Burton’s forwards did almost link up for an equaliser, however, as Akins flashed a cross into Hemmings, who was unable to get a clean connection with his head to direct the ball goalwards.
The war of words between the two benches provided the best entertainment in the first 20 minutes of the second period, with Burton coach Dino Maamria receiving a booking for his involvement in a vocal altercation with Evans and Paul Raynor of Gillingham.
Back to the game itself, Burton continued to toil for an equaliser, with substitute Mike Fondop forcing a rare save from Jack Bonham, curling a first-time effort on target, but the Gills ‘keeper was in the right position to pluck the ball out the air.
The introductions of Fondop and Danny Rowe seemed to ignite the home side, who started to find some joy down the right-hand side – the latter found Sean Clare on the edge of the area who volleyed the ball just over the bar.
Burton were by far the better side in the second half and got a deserved equaliser thanks to substitute Ryan Broom, who fired the ball home at the second time of asking from just outside the 18-yard box.
Burton much improved in the second half
The midweek display against Fleetwood would have buoyed Hasselbank's side, but they failed to hit the same heights to start, particularly when it came to chance creation.
Hemmings and Akins up top were starved of opportunities of any kind, particularly in the first period, where Burton seemed to be coasting.
The substitutes made the difference for the hosts in the second period, particularly Rowe, who caused all sorts of problems down the right.
Inconsistencies continue for Gillingham
It was another indifferent performance for Evans' men, who looked comfortable in the first half but offered too much possession to Burton in the closing stages to let them back into the game.
It's been a season of peaks and troughs for the Gills, but the way they've ended the campaign means they probably deserve to finish outside the play-off spots.
Stand out player
It was a professional performance in the middle of the park for the Gillingham captain, who had a pass success rate of 91% for the game. (via WhoScored)
The visitors had to do a lot of ball chasing in the second half, and the 25-year-old marshalled his midfield well throughout the game despite his side letting their slender lead slip late on.