Swindon Town were left frustrated in Kent as Gillingham held firm to earn a share of the spoils despite being reduced to ten men after just ten minutes with the tie ending goalless.
Just the one change to the starting eleven was made by Town’s First-Team Head Coach, Scott Lindsey, from their last league encounter away at Stockport, as deadline day capture Marcel Lavinier was handed his debut in place of Ronan Darcy.
An energetic start to the game from both sides brought two chances within the first couple of minutes straight from the referees whistle.
First, Gills midfielder Ben Reeves tried his luck after collecting the ball on the edge area, but his tame effort was easily gathered by Sol Brynn.
Then, just moment later, a probing run from Saidou Khan created space for Ben Gladwin, who skipped past his marker and shot narrowly wide of the right hand post.
Just before the ten minute mark, Angus MacDonald was forced into a last ditch tackle inside the box as he prevented striker Mikael Mandron from striking at goal after pressure from the home side on the Town backline paid dividends.
However, the hosts chances of building on their two early chances were dealt a huge blow as debutant Haji Mnoga was shown two yellow cards in the space of five minutes and sent off.
With space opening up across the pitch with Neil Harris’ side reduced to ten, Town midfielder Saidou Khan looked to take charge, driving towards goal powerfully, but he could only drag his right-footed shot wide of the left post.
In their bid to make the most of their one man advantage, Town took control of the game for the next twenty or so minutes, moving the ball well and looking good in possession, but The Gills stood strong and limited Scott Lindsey’s side to any clear openings.
Chances continued to be at a premium as we approached the interval, until the game burst into the life with just five minutes remaining to the break.
Jonny Williams had Town’s best chance of the first period, as he controlled a Marcel Lavinier cross from the right to set himself free in the box, but fired powerfully over the bar.
Then at the other end, Scott Kashket stole the ball in a dangerous area, turned inside and drove low past Sol Brynn, only to see it rebound off the post.
Then, in stoppage time, Frazer Blake-Tracy came close to scoring in successive league games, as he met Ben Gladwin’s delicious cross from the right side, but he could only head straight at Glenn Morris in the Gills goal.
Referee Martin Woods brought proceedings to a close, with Town unable to build on a dominant first half display with nothing to show for their efforts.
Town started the second half as they ended the last, probing forward, racking up the passes and looking for a way through.
Five minute in, Saidou Khan shot over from close range as Tyrese Shade nodded a deep cross back into the area, with the midfielder no doubt wishing he’d done better from a good position.
Scott Lindsey made the first move with regards to rejigging his side, as he introduced deadline day signing Luke Jephcott for his debut in place of Jacob Wakeling, with Ronan Darcy entering the action a few minutes later.
The pace of the game went up a notch after the hour mark, with both sides looking to counter attack, but still clear chances were at a premium.
As we reached the 70-minute mark, Marcel Lavinier tried his luck on the edge of the area but could only fire wide, and then Luke Jephcott was presented with an opportunity to score moments after coming on, as Frazer Blake-Tracy rose well to connect with a Louis Reed corner to head towards goal, only for the Welsh forward to shoot over from close range.
Gillingham made several changes to firm things up at the back and keep Town’s attackers at bay, but still Town pushed forward.
Next to try their luck was Tyrese Shade, who cut in nicely from the left and shot powerfully at goal, forcing Gills stopper Glenn Morris to dive to his right and parry it to safety.
On 85-minutes, good running from Blake-Tracy on the left saw him burst into the box and cross high from the byline for the onrushing, unmarked Marcel Lavinier, but the new man could only fire over with a volley.
As the clock ticked down, Tyrese Shade looked to take the bull by the horns as he created two quickfire chances for himself, only to be denied by Glenn Morris on both occasions.
Those proved the last opportunities of the game as Gillingham held firm to earn a point and deny Town all three.
1. Glenn Morris (GK) – 5. Max Ehmer, 23. Elkan Baggott, 17. Ryan Law, 12. Haji Mnoga, 21. Hakeeb Adelakun (3. David Tutonda 90mins), 24. Scott Kashket (4. Will Wright 79mins), 11. Ben Reeves (7. Alexander MacDonald 72mins), 8. Stuart O’Keefe ©, 6. Shaun Williams, 9. Mikael Mandron (19. Lewis Walker 72mins).
Subs not used: 25. Jake Turner (GK) – 22. Jordan Green.
Yellow Cards: 12. Mnoga 6mins
Red Cards: 12. Mnoga 10mins
Swindon Town Line-up:
1. Sol Brynn (GK) – 20. Frazer Blake-Tracy, 4. Tom Clayton, 21. Angus MacDonald ©, 22. Marcel Lavinier, 7. Ben Gladwin, 23. Saidou Khan (10. Ronan Darcy 62mins), 5. Louis Reed, 8. Jonathan Williams, 24. Jacob Wakeling (15. Luke Jephcott 54mins), 28. Tyrese Shade.
Subs not used: 25. Conor Brann (GK) – 2. Remeao Hutton, 6. Mathieu Baudry, 34. Ciaran Brennan, 17. Ricky Aguiar.
Scorers : None
Yellow Cards : 8. Williams 55mins
Red Cards : None
Referee : Martin Woods
Assistant Referee : Joseph Stokes & Kevin Howick
Fourth Official: Daniel Bonneywell
Attendance: 4,927 (671 away fans)