Martin Wild reports from Greenhous Meadow
A 70th minute equaliser from top scorer James Collins earned Town a point in a 2-2 draw against Gillingham this afternoon. An own-goal had put Salop in front just past the half-hour but Cody McDonald equalised shortly after. Defender Ryan Jackson lashed Gills in front after the break but Collins pounced to convert a brilliant pass from Scott Vernon to register a seventh goal of the season.
Town were forced into a change to the side that won handsomely at Bramall Lane in midweek. Zak Whitbread’s place was taken by Nat Knight-Percival with Whitbread absent, having picked up a hamstring injury against the Blades.
It was a bitterly cold wind blowing across Greenhous Meadow as Shrews kicked off attacking the North Stand end of the stadium.
It was the 12th minute before the first real chance of the match and it came from a set piece. Jermaine Grandison did well down the right to earn a corner and when Ian Black picked out the run of NKP from it, the defender should have done a lot better with what was a free header. Knight-Percival – with three goals to his name already this season – headed well wide when the least he should have done was work Gills keeper Stuart Nelson.
Vernon was next to get a header in - from a Black free-kick this time – but with 20 minutes on the watch there had been precious little to keep the goalies warm on an icy cold day.
Jayson Leutwiler did well to push a speculative effort from Doug Loft around his right hand post but the corner came to nothing in what was a disappointing first half hour in terms of entertainment value. The rains were now sweeping in from left to right to put an extra zip on top of the pristine surface.
A freakish own-goal broke the deadlock just past the half hour when Black’s free-kick was headed into his own net via the upright from Oshilaja. The on-loan Cardiff defender appeared to have lost his bearings somewhat and gave his goalkeeper absolutely no chance with what was a quality finish – at least from a Town point of view!
But the goal seemed to rejuvenate the visitors who finally equalised after an intense and sustained spell of pressure. Leutwiler saved superbly from Dominic Samuel’s cute flick at the near post before denying Bradley Dack and Samuel again, twice in the space of a few seconds. The home crowd could sense their team was on the ropes and the pressure finally told when McDonald converted just moments after a low Jake Hessenthaler shot had been kept out again by Town’s number one. McDonald blasted the ball past the right hand of Leutwiler who was beaten at his near post to level for the Kent side.
There was just six minutes between both goals, but this time it was the hosts who responded well. With the game at last coming to life, Grandison’s long punt forward was headed on by Vernon with Nelson needing to be fully alert to turn the ball over the top.
A Dack cross-cum-shot flew across the face of goal in first-half stoppage time but it was all square at the break.
Half-Time: Town 1 Gillingham 1
As the players emerged from the tunnel, it was clear that the weather had deteriorated considerably. The temperature had dropped markedly and the winds and rains had also intensified. Gills chief, Justin Edinburgh, stood in his technical area braving the elements, persisting with the by now soaked right through navy suit, whilst the rest of us looked on shivering half to death. Brave fella.
Samuel worked Leutwiler for the third time in the match but this time the save was relatively comfortable for the Swiss stopper.
Just before the hour, Gillingham went in front. With the wind right behind him, Jackson chanced his arm from 25 yards out and the ball ripped into the top corner of the net to give the defender a goal out of nothing. The conditions had certainly played their part in the goal, but that’s to take nothing away from Jackson – namesake of a former Gills player who will never be remembered with any fondness in SY2.
With 20 minutes to go Town levelled – and it was from one of very few soirees into the opposition half. Grandison’s long run was integral to the outcome after his pass into Vernon was superbly threaded through to strike partner Collins, who had timed his run to perfection to nudge the ball underneath the on-rushing figure of Nelson. It was a goal against the run of play in what had been a difficult 25 minutes for Shrews. The players had been playing into a strong headwind and the incessant rains had driven into their faces since the restart. Far better to be playing with the winds at your backs on wintry days such as these.
Ten minutes from time McDonald clattered the outside of the post as the away side sought a third goal, but this came after arguably Town’s best ten minutes of the afternoon.
Anthony Gerrard picked up a needless booking after throwing the ball away and when Town won a corner after 83 minutes, most of the 5,000 crowd raised their voices. But it didn’t lead to anything and we were still waiting to see if there was to be a winner from somewhere.
At least the rain had stopped and the winds weren’t quite so strong as both had been such a huge factor in the match – particularly second half.
Jackson might have won it in stoppage time for Edinburgh’s side but Leutwiler was able to somehow spoon the ball away. It ended two apiece in the first drawn game at the Greenhous Meadow this season.
Full-Time: Town 2 Gillingham 2
Town: Jayson Leutwiler, Anthony Gerrard, Nat Knight-Percival, Jermaine Grandison, Ian Black, Larnell Cole, Abu Ogogo, James Collins (c), Scott Vernon, Junior Brown, Sullay Kaikai
Subs: Calum Burton (GK), Liam McAlinden, Shaun Whalley, Dom Smith, Liam Lawrence, Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, Tyrone Barnett
Gillingham: Stuart Nelson, Ryan Jackson, Bradley Garmston, John Eagan, Doug Loft (c), Jake Hessenthaler, Cody McDonald, Dominic Samuel, Aaron Morris, Bradley Dack, Adedeji Oshilaja
Subs: Glenn Morris (GK), Max Ehmer, Jordan Houghton, Jermaine McGlashan, Emmanuel Osadebe, Brennan Dickenson, Josh Wright
Referee: Kevin Wright
Assistants: Matthew Bristow & Anthony Moore
Fourth Official: Andrew Hendley
Attendance: 4,959 (256 from Gillingham)