Town 2 Gillingham 3It was an agonizing game of two halves at the New Meadow for Shrewsbury Town as they threw away a two goal lead against promotion chasing Gillingham in a five goal thriller.
Town’s second half collapse meant they lost their unbeaten run against Gillingham, which dates back to 2010, in a Bradley Dack inspired 3-2 defeat. The final goal coming with seconds left to play.
It was the away side who settled better in Shropshire and were showing why they defeated Watford in the English League Cup on Tuesday.
There was an early chance for Gillingham to take the lead after three minutes as mid-week cup hero Mark Byrne’s corner was whipped in, it evaded everyone in the box including Jayson Leutwiler before sailing just wide of the top corner.
Shrewsbury took a while to get into their rhythm as a host of misplaced passes drew frustrated groans from the crowd.
The away side had another half chance after 10 minutes when Paul Konchesky’s cross found Billy Knott just outside the six yard box but he couldn’t get enough contact to direct the ball goal bound.
But it was the home side who took the lead against the run of play courtesy of Louis Dodds finessed finish into the top corner on 17 minutes.
Ivan Toney chested the ball down into the midfielder 25-yards-out and he had enough time to take a touch before lofting the ball well out of reach of a diving Jonathon Bond in goal.
Gary Deegan picked up an early yellow card six minutes later when he lunged in to make an overzealous tackle on Byrne.
Shrewsbury Town doubled their lead in the 28th minute as Dodd’s picked up a brace.
Junior Brown did well at the back post to set up Dodds. The 29-year-olds first shot in the box was blocked by Josh Pask but the ball fell kindly back to his feet and he made no mistake with his second effort, drilling it into the far corner.
It was nearly game over 9 minutes before half time. The ball was curled in to Toney in the box and he jumped well before directing his header towards the top corner but Bond did well to claw it away to safety.
Pask had to be substituted after a nasty clash and Gillingham’s 2015/16’s best player and best young player Bradley Dack replaced him looking to change the game.
Dodds was so close to completing a first half hat-trick on 43 mins. Toney did well to bring the ball down before bursting into the box and playing a slide rule pass into the path of Dodds six yards out but he could only put his driven shot into an onrushing Bond.
The Gills did well in additional time out wide when Knott dummied and tricked his defender before cutting into the box and teeing up Josh Wright but he could only blaze his shot over under pressure.
It took 11 second half minutes for a chance to be mustered and it was Andy Mangan who attempted to curl one into the near post from the corner of the box but Bond was on hand to smother the attempt.
Gillingham got a goal back just before the hour mark and it was their prized asset Dack who delivered a delicious cross which made it easy for Emmaneul-Thomas to head home.
The 22-year-old dinked the ball from inside the box into the path of Emmanuel-Thomas who was completely unmarked inside the six yard box and he placed his header past an exposed Leutwiler.
Dodds nearly completed his hattrick in style minutes later when he plucked the ball out of the air on the edge of the box, took one touch to beat his marker and smashed his shot but it was blocked out for a corner.
Gillingham got the equalizer on the 72nd minute through Emmanuel-Thomas with a fantastic strike from 35 yards which was in danger of tearing the net off.
There was little the home defence could do when the former Arsenal academy player picked up the ball and instead of searching for a pass decided to swing a powerful left foot which sent the ball arrowing into the top corner.
Shrewsbury went looking for the win in the final five minutes and kept up the pressure with a succession of dangerous free kick’s. Antoni Sarcevic played in a deceptive free-kick along the floor towards the front post but Max Ehmer managed to clear for a corner.
It was end to end and with two minutes to go the Gills were wild with protestations after a seamlessly un-harmful free kick from deep wasn’t dealt with by the defence and fell to the feet of Deji Oshilaja. Leutwiler dived for the ball and made contact with the man who went crashing down but the ref, perhaps somewhat leniently, waved away the protestations.
Shrewsbury were denied the winner in additional time when Brown played through AJ Leitch-Smith with a perfect lofted through ball which found the striker clean through but Bond made a fantastic save.
Gillingham snatched the victory in the dying embers of the game as Ehmer got on the end of a corner. Dack again was provider and his corner was headed down by Emmanuel-Thomas before Ehmer barged in and put his volley past everyone and into the net.
Town: Leutwiler, Riley, El-Abd, McGivern, Brown, Deegan, Black (Sarcevicat 78), Ogogo, Dodds, Toney, Mangan (Leitch-Smithat 69)
Subs: Lancashire, Halstead, Choulay, Waring, Jones
Gillingham: Bond, Ehmer, Oshilaja, Konchesky, Wright, Pask (Dack 39), Knott (Oldakerat 78), Osadebe, Byrne, McDonald (Donnelly at 72), Emmanuel-Thomas
Subs: Nelson, Hessenthaler, List, Dickenson
Referee: Darren Deadman
Assistants: David Benton and Joe Clark
Fourth Official: Phillip Dermott