Gillingham struggled to break down a stubborn Coventry defence but were well worth a point in this fiercely contested Sky Bet League One clash at MEMS Priestfield Stadium. The Gills couldn’t find that final ball to create a goal-scoring opportunity and Coventry were denied by the bar and the line in the final minute.
The result means that Gillingham stay in fourth position, but move to within two points of third placed Walsall.
Justin Edinburgh stuck with the same attacking 3-5-2 formation and starting XI that defeated Bury on Easter Monday. There was a place on the bench however for John Egan, who hasn’t featured since the victory over Barnsley in February while Bradley Dack was warming up prior to the game to the delight of the home fans.
The Gills first attacking threat came on 15 minutes. Brennan Dickenson found space on the left and swung in an inch-perfect ball to Luke Norris, who laid it back to Andrew Crofts. The midfielder, looking for a goal on his return to Priestfield, rifled a shot that looked to be going into the top corner, but was blocked by City’s Aaron Martin.
There was an early worry for Edinburgh when Dominic Samuel limped off to be replaced by Rory Donnelly. It looked as though the former slipped and landed awkwardly as a ball bounced his way in the box.
Coventry looked to hit winger Jodi Jones whenever they got the ball in the middle of the park, but more often than not the winger was greeted with the linesman putting his flag up for offside, or was out-muscled by Dickenson.
Gills looked in danger on 27th minutes when Jones’ cross looked destined to meet the head of Marcus Tudgay, but Adam El-Abd put in a last ditch header to clear any danger.
Ryan Jackson was continually looking to exploit space down the right wing and proved effective. His deliveries were impressive and he was looking to beat his man every time, even producing a Messi-esque nutmeg on the edge of the Coventry box at one point.
Max Ehmer, being deployed as part of a back three, was donning a fashionable face mask after suffering a broken nose on Monday. Alongside Adam El-Abd and Deji Oshilaja the three impressed and hardly put a foot wrong.
The manager showed his attacking intent at the restart, bringing on George Williams in place of Aaron Morris. The attacker has been on international duty with Wales and has impressed when he’s played for the Gills, although he hasn’t played in League One since coming on as a late substitute against Southend.
Williams had an immediate impact and was linking up well with Donnelly, Luke Norris and Crofts as the Gills looked to take advantage of a good spell of pressure.
Once again both Crofts and Josh Wright came up with the goods in the engine room. The pair understand each other and will play a key role in the race for promotion in the remaining matches.
Coventry’s first real effort came with just 20 minutes remaining. Dickenson’s headed clearance lacked power and Jacob Murphy had acres of space down the right-wing. The midfielder cut the ball back to Gael Bigirimana, whose curling effort looked to have beaten Stuart Nelson, but it cleared the bar.
Minutes later the pair reversed roles. Bigirimana back-heeled the ball to Murphy, whose shot crashed against the bar after a fingertip save from Nelson.
The game was beginning to liven up with both dugouts and both sets of fans cancelling each other out, as the volume of the 7,200 fans ratcheted up.
The late pressure was coming from the home side, but Coventry looked dangerous on the counter-attack, especially with substitute Adam Armstrong now on the field and hugging the touchline.
In the last minute of normal time the away side should have won it. El-Abd slipped as the ball was played across with the ball falling to Marcus Tudgay. However the Coventry number 20 saw his shot tipped onto the crossbar, down onto the line and away to safety.
Despite both sides winning set pieces in extra time, neither team could get the winner and both walked away with a point.
Gillingham: Nelson, Jackson (Garmston, 71), Ehmer, El-Abd, Samuel (Donnelly, 13), Morris (Williams, 46), Crofts, Norris, Dickenson, Wright, Oshilaja
Unused Subs: Morris, Egan, McDonald, Hessenthaler,
Coventry City: Charles-Cook, Ricketts, Martin, Stephens, Phillips, Bigirimana, Fleck, Vincelot, Jones (Armstrong, 61), Murphy, Tudgay.
Unused Subs: Addai, Hunt, Lorentzson, Cole, Lameiras, Fortune
Attendance: 7,200 (678 away)
Referee: Christopher Sargison