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Gillingham 0-2 Mansfield Town
Gillingham 0-2 Mansfield Town

On the day Kent’s footballing family formerly paid their respects to Queen Elizabeth II, Priestfield’s long suffering fans endured another desperately disappointing afternoon as much fancied Mansfield Town dominated throughout and returned home with all three points.

Gillingham had gone into the game with a certain amount of renewed hope after a good away point in midweek, but after Priestfield magnificently respected the late much-loved monarch and saluted the King with a hearty rendition of “God Save the King”, their on-field heroes struggled against efficient and hard-working visitors even if they did have the help of yet another inconsistent officiating display.

First half strikes from Lucas Akin and the very lucky George Lapslie proved more than enough for Nigel Clough’s side – ironically the first time that Stags keeper Christy Pym was forced to drop to his knees was to deny Robbie McKenzie which brought the whole stadium to their feet in applause – possibly though it was because the shot came in the 70th minute when Priestfield again paid Tribute to the Queen!

The game had been even without either side really threatening before Mansfield took the lead as Akin – who was involved in an intriguing battle with Max Ehmer and Elkan Baggott all afternoon – ghosted into the Gills box to cleverly divert a header wide of an exposed Glenn Morris and into the bottom corner.

Lapslie’s “lucky” afternoon began not long afterwards as the forward dived in ridiculously late as Ehmer cleared the ball forward, but because the ball dropped to Mika Mandron, referee Reeves waved play on, but didn’t go back and caution the striker for his reckless lunge.

Shortly afterwards, with the ball bouncing towards Morris and in pursuit of Haji Mnoga, Lapslie again got lucky with a high challenge that left the young Portsmouth loanee writhing on the floor with an injury that forced him off at the break. Despite that, referee Reeves deemed that Morris and Mnoga had “sandwiched” the striker and Lapslie was probably the most surprised man inside Priestfield as the referee pointed to the spot.

Justice though was done as Morris pulled off a sensational save to keep out Akin’s spot kick to the keeper’s left.

Lapslie then did double the lead, but again, massive question marks over the officiating. As he raced clear on a through ball, he was clearly beyond the Gills back line as he went round Morris and guided the ball into the net.

To celebrate he then slid in front of the home fans with a finger to his mouth prompting a furious response from the Gills faithful – an act that surely should have seen a yellow card, but when you don’t get booked for a knee-high jump after the ball has been cleared…

The Gills were in disarray and Steven McLaughlin’s low drive across the face of goal missed the far post by inches as the dominance of the visitors was complete.

The home side’s afternoon was complete just five minutes into the second period when Elliott Hewitt clearly handled the ball in an “unnatural position” but again referee Reeves wasn’t interested in the protests!

All that said, the Gills failed to produce the performance that the day deserved and would have been beaten by more as during the second half if Akin and Oli Hawkins both put free unmarked headers into the empty seats of the Brian Moore Stand.

The look of Neil Harris standing on the pitch after the final whistle and the unusual abuse and comments directed at those in blue from the Rainham End summed up a desperate afternoon… an interesting week ahead with another long trip to second from bottom Hartlepool United looming next week!

The defeat sees The Gills go into next week sitting 22nd in League One with just six points from nine games.

With relegation into non league looking ever more likely every week, something needs to change at Priestfield and quick or Gillingham will be playing some local derbies within twelve months.

Gillingham: Morris, Mnoga (Law H/T), Ehmer, Baggott, McKenzie, O’Keefe, Williams, Adelakun (Green 61), Reeves (MacDonald 72), Walker (Gbode 61), Mandron.

Subs not used: Turner, Alexander, Wright.

Booked: Gbode (78).

Mansfield Town: Pym, Hewitt, Hawkins, Harbottle (Perch 73), Gordon (Bowery 80), Clarke, Hartigan, Lapslie, McLaughlin, Maris, Akins.

Subs not used: Flinders, Quinn, Wallace, Gale, O’Toole.

Goals: Akins (17), Lapslie (33).

Booked: Harbottle (66).

Referee: Tom Reeves

Attendance: 4195 (404 Mansfield).

Picture supplied by Gillingham Football Club.