Gillingham shared the spoils with Bradford City on Saturday afternoon at MEMS Priestfield in a competitive game of few clear-cut chances.
Cody McDonald put the Gills in front with a superbly taken right-footed shot that rifled into the top corner, before Jordy Hiwula equalised for Bradford, glancing home a corner. Ryan Jackson was sent off for Gillingham deep into second half stoppage time, as he received his second yellow card of the game, but the Gills managed to see out the final few minutes to claim a draw.
Justin Edinburgh made two changes in personnel and tweaked the system ahead of the visit of the Bantams. Emmanuel Osadebe and Rory Donnelly replaced Billy Knott and Bradley Dack, while Scott Wagstaff took his place on the bench for the first time in a competitive match for the Gills. The manager lined his team up up with a front-three seeking to squeeze the visitors with a high-energy pressing game.
Bradford had the first effort of the game, after a bright start from Gillingham. The away side broke quickly and Mark Marshall found himself with space on the right hand corner of the Gills box, where the wide man cut in before curling a left-footed, vicious shot wide of Jonathan Bond’s post with seven minutes gone.
Gillingham, however, took the lead after 11 minutes with a fantastic team goal. Donnelly held the ball up well down the right hand side before feeding Osadebe, who in turn played the ball into the box. McDonald bamboozled two Bradford defenders before rifling into the top right corner of the goal to give Gillingham the lead.
The Gills were next to threaten, from an unlikely source off a Jackson throw. His delivery found Mark Byrne in the box, however the midfielder was unable to find the target from his downward header.
City responded soon after with a concerted spell of pressure which the Gills, and Emmanuel Osadebe in particular, defended brilliantly by getting their body in the way of the ball and chasing the away side hard. Billy Clarke dragged a shot from just outside of the box wide on 24 minutes but Bond remained untroubled in the Gills goal.
Both teams were surging forward at every opportunity and Bradford levelled the game after 28 minutes. After Max Ehmer did well to block behind a Marshall cross for a corner, the resulting set piece was headed home by Hiwula. The game continued to ebb and flow with Josh Cullen seeing a low shot well saved by Bond.
Bradford nearly took the lead as the half drew to a close, as James Meredith got forward down the flank and drilled in a low cross, but neither Bond nor the onrushing forward were able to get anything on the ball and the Gills survived the scare in the 41st minute.
The visitors then wasted a dangerous free-kick following a foul from Deji Oshilaja, which saw him follow Jackson into the referee’s notepad. Twenty-five yards from goal, a rehearsed set piece saw Marshall break away from the ball, but he blazed over when the ball was fed to him.
H/T: 1 – 1
Gillingham started the second-half in a lively fashion, with Konchesky and Jackson seeing plenty of the ball down the flanks. However, Bradford had the first shot of the half, but Timothee Dieng blazed high and wide into the Town End with 51 minutes on the clock. Cullen soon after went close for the visitors, however his drive fizzed past Bond’s post with the keeper beaten.
Wagstaff came on for his Gillingham debut after 56 minutes to a rapturous reception, replacing Donnelly. Bradford immediately counter-attacked however, as Marshall ran into the area before wriggling enough room for a shot, but Bond was equal to his low attempt.
Gillingham came back at Bradford, as the introduction of summer signing Wagstaff seemed to lift the team. After 65 minutes, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas stung the palms of Stephen Darby with a fierce low shot from 25-yards as the Gills began to see more of the ball in midfield, before Byrne latched onto a knock-down but drove his low shot just wide.
Ehmer was so close to giving the Gills the lead after 70 minutes as a long throw into the box fell to the defender. However, a Bradford defender just managed to make a vital intervention, deflecting the shot over the bar as the goal beckoned.
A string of Bradford subs disrupted the momentum of the game, as both sides appeared reluctant to go all-out in search of a winner. Nonetheless, a series of corners and throw-ins to Gillingham deep in the Bradford half brought the Rainham End to life but the ball just refused to fall to an attacker in blue.
After 83 minutes Bradford nearly took the lead as substitute Mar McNulty got the better of Oshilaja, but Ehmer did superbly well to throw his body in the way of James Hanson’s powerful shot after the pull back.
The away side took this chance to gain the impetus and began to dominate possession as the game rushed towards a climax.
Deep into added time, Jackson saw red for pulling back McNulty; Graham Scott adjudged the right back had committed a foul and duly awarded him his second yellow card of the game. The resulting free-kick from 25 yards was blazed over by Nicky Law and Gillingham survived.
That was to be the final meaningful action of the game as both sides claimed a point in their respective League One campaigns.
F/T: 1 – 1
The Gills travel to Staffordshire next weekend, as they return to Sky Bet League One action against Port Vale at Vale Park.
Gillingham: Bond; Jackson, Ehmer, Oshilaja, Konchesky; Wright, Osadebe, Byrne; Emmanuel-Thomas (List, 86), McDonald (Pask, 94), Donnelly (Wagstaff, 57)
Unused subs: Nelson (GK), Oldaker, Hessenthaler, Knott
Bradford City: Doyle; Darby, Vincelot, Knight-Percival, Meredith; Cullen, Dieng, Law, Marshall (Morais, 75); Clarke (Hanson, 76), Hiwula (McNulty, 72)
Unused Subs: Sattelmaier (GK), Kilgallon, Vuckic, Devine
Attendance: 5,079 (377)
Referee: Graham Scott