Gillingham came from 2-0 down at half-time to stun Shrewsbury at Greenhous Meadow on Saturday, as Max Ehmer’s stoppage time goal helped them to a historic 3-2 victory.
Louis Dodds scored twice for the hosts before the break, but two goals from Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Ehmer’s last-gasp winner completed an unbelievable comeback for the Gills, who had never previously won at Town’s new stadium.
Manager Justin Edinburgh named Goalkeeper Jonathan Bond over Stuart Nelson in goal, following his loan move from Reading on Friday. Nelson had to settle for a place on the bench and Tom Hadler was not included in the match day squad.
The Gills had two half-chances in the opening three minutes, with Emmanuel-Thomas involved in both. The former Arsenal man played in Cody McDonald with just one minute played, but the Gills’ number 10 chose to cut inside the defender instead of shooting, and Shrewsbury managed to clear.
Emmanuel-Thomas’s run created the second chance. The striker picked up the ball on the left of the area and unleashed a shot that was deflected and rippled the net for the first corner of the game.
The big man looked in fine form and in the mood to add to his three goals he had scored for the Gills against Southend in the opening week of the season.
Although the quick-fire start the game started to settle, the partnership of Billy Knott and Paul Konchesky down the left nearly produced the opening goal of the game on 13 minutes. The latter played the former through, however Knott couldn’t provide the touch that would have beat the goalkeeper from an acute angle.
Salop took the lead against the run of play on 17 minutes. Dodds picked up the ball in the centre of the park and drove forward before shooting from 25-yards into the top right-hand corner. Bond, despite his best efforts, could do little to prevent the opener.
Dodds scored another to make it 2-0 with half-an-hour played, after another period of dominating possession from the away side. Junior Brown set up the goal scorer at the back-post and, although his first effort was blocked by Josh Pask, he made no mistake with the second, smashing the ball home.
There was an injury worry for Justin Edinburgh with 33 minutes played, after Pask clashed heads with Ian Black inside his own half. The 18-year-old left the field of play to be treated, however managed to come back on.
On 37 minutes, new signing Bond made his first save of the match, denying Ivan Toney. The striker’s header looked destined for the top corner, however the Reading loanee saved well, pushing the ball around the post for a corner.
Tuesday’s match winner against Watford, Bradley Dack, came off the bench to replace Pask on 39 minutes, with the defender sustaining a back injury shortly after his clash of heads.
Dodds should have had a hat-trick going into half-time, but Bond made another great save to deny the scorer. Toney set up Dodds with a cute cutback, who, from inside the six-yard box, should have scored, but Bond stood strong and smothered the ball to prevent any further danger.
The most promising attacking play from the Gills came with the half-time whistle imminent. Billy Knott danced inside the Shrews box and cut the ball back to Josh Wright, whose effort flew high into the stand under pressure from Town defenders.
The Gills began the second half as they had played through most of the match – on the front foot. Two goals up, Salop let Edinburgh’s team have the ball and sat back, looking to break on the counter with Toney holding the ball up in attack and looking for runners off him.
Emmanuel Osadebe, playing as a right-sided wing-back, impressed throughout and at times looked like he wanted to take on the whole team as his side tried to get back in the game.
The Gills pulled a goal back with 59 minutes played through Emmanuel-Thomas. Unmarked, the striker glanced home at the back-post after an inch-perfect cross from Dack and immediately grabbed the ball and ran back to the half-way line to ensure the visitors could maintain the period of pressure.
And Gillingham drew level on 73 minutes with a goal of the season contender from Emmanuel-Thomas. The 25-year-old unleashed a shot from 30-yards that sailed through the air and into the top corner, to the delight of the travelling Gills fans who were sat behind Leutwiler’s goal.
After impressing in midweek against Watford, Darren Oldaker came on to replace Billy Knott with 12 minutes left, on the right side of the midfield diamond.
The Gills weren’t looking to settle for a point after coming from 2-0 down, and both teams were throwing everything to try and score a winner that would surely take all three points.
With one minute of normal time left the Gills felt they should have had a penalty. Man of the moment Emmanuel-Thomas knocked down a free-kick to Deji Oshilaja, who won the ball and was clattered by Leutwiler, but referee Darren Deadman waved play on.
Bond came to the Gills’ rescue once with two minutes into stoppage time. Leitch-Smith was one-on-one with the keeper following a brilliant chipped cross from Alex Riley but the goalkeeper got down low and made himself big to deny Salop from taking all three points at the death.
However, there was more drama to come. In the third minute of injury time Dack’s corner was met Emmanuel-Thomas, whose header fell to Max Ehmer. The defender’s shot bounced into the net via a deflection to earn the Gills a brilliant victory, and move them back up to sixth in Sky Bet League One.
The 10 outfield players ran to celebrate with Ehmer, in front of the travelling fans in the away end. There were boos all around the stadium coming from the home supporters, who knew the game was all but over; many headed for the exits.
The Gills return to action at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium on Tuesday to face Luton Town in the Checkatrade Trophy. Tickets are just £5 for adults and concessions, and £1 for under-16s when booked in advance, as part of our Floodlight Football for the Family offer. Click here for more information.
Shrewsbury Town: Leutwiler, Riley, McGivern, Black (Sarcevic, 78), Ogogo, Toney, Dodds, Brown, Deegan, Mangan (Leitch-Smith, 69), El-Abd
Unused subs: Halstead, Lancashire, Choulay, Waring, Jones
Gillingham: Bond, Ehmer, Oshilaja, McDonald (Donnelly, 72), Knott (Oldaker, 78), Konchesky, Osadebe, Pask (Dack, 39), Byrne, Wright, Emmanuel-Thomas
Unused subs: Nelson, Hessenthaler, List, Dickenson
Referee: Darren Deadman
Attendance: 4,611 (221 away)