Gillingham 2-2 Northampton Town
Gillingham 2-2 Northampton Town

Gillingham’s Play Off dreams are over for another season!

Whilst it’s still mathematically possible for Steve Evans’ side to make the prized top six, two Northampton Town goals in the last eleven minutes of Priestfield’s penultimate game of the strangest season denied The Gills the points they needed to stay in contention.

For the third weekend running, Evans has watched his charges fail to take the points that they possibly deserved as they dropped two against Shrewsbury Town, lost all three against Oxford United as they lost a two goal lead before history repeated itself – this time at Priestfield – as the relegation haunted Cobblers well and truly put the boot into The Gills’ Play Off dreams and as the game ended level both sides were left frustrated as both needed the three points for very different reasons!

Gills began with two changes from the side that one at Peterborough in midweek with Dominic Samuel and Vadaine Oliver both staring in place of the unwell pair of Jordan Graham and John Akinde, and it was all going so well for The Gills as former Northampton man Oliver rammed home his nineteenth goal of the season to put the home side in front after just eleven minutes – the big striker on hand to hammer home Robbie Cundy’s flick from Olly Lee’s corner. 

In truth the home side could have been out of sight and would have been but for Northampton keeper Jonathan Mitchell who was in outstanding form to deny Samuel his first goal of 2021, skipper Kyle Dempsey’s 25 yarder and Oliver on two other occasions.

Eventually though Lee doubled the advantage midway through the second half after a terrific turn from Ryan Jackson’s through ball gave the on-loan Hearts man to hammer a nail into Northampton’s survival hopes on the day that Bristol Rovers and Swindon Town were sent tumbling through the relegation door to League Two.

With the visitors needing the points to stay a League One club, Jack Bonham was kept on his toes saving well from Mickel Miller’s shot and Ryan Edmondson’s header, and just as it looked like The Gills had kept up their faint Play Off hopes, they were hit with a sucker punch for the second weekend running as the visitors decided that they weren’t going to go quietly after all and instead all but ended The Gills’ Play Off hopes with two goals in four minutes inside the last eleven minutes.

Substitute Edmondson bundled one back on seventy-nine minutes, and when Fraser Horsfall headed home from former Gills winger Mark Marshall’s corner the scores were level as Evans saw his side yet again concede late heart-breaking goals.

Alex MacDonald almost restored the home side’s lead almost immediately but was denied by another fabulous save from keeper Mitchell, and then with just four minutes left on the clock, The Gills went even closer.

Samuel saw his shot beat Mitchell but come back off the inside of the left post and rebound to safety – such small margins decide seasons and sadly for the absent Gills faithful – they weren’t on hand to “suck the ball” over the line and as a result, and the points were shared which really doesn’t help either side.

For Gillingham, the Play Off dreams are 99.9 per cent over whilst for Northampton, an early return to League Two will be confirmed if they fail to beat Blackpool in seven days time. 

So, with just games against Burton Albion and Plymouth Argyle to end League One’s strangest ever season, Steve Evans must surely now be praying that when the faithful are hopefully readmitted to Priestfield in August, many (if not all) of his current squad, who have achieved so very much against the odds this season, will still be in Gillingham blue rather than the six who reported for pre-season training last summer.

And for those who need to convince the manager they deserve to stay, they’re at the doors of the last chance saloon…

GILLINGHAM – Bonham, Jackson (McKenzie 90), Tucker, Cundy, Ogilvie, O’Keefe, Dempsey, MacDonald, Lee (Graham 88), Oliver, Samuel (Sithole 88).

Subs not used – Bastien, Johnson, Woods, O’Connor.

Goals: Oliver (11), Lee (68).

Booked: O’Keefe (32), Cundy (42), Samuel (71).

NORTHAMPTON TOWN – Mitchell, Kioso, Jones, Horsfall, Mills, Morris, McWilliams (Edmondson 57), Watson (Chukwuemeka 75), Hoskins, Jones (Rose 45), Miller (Marshall 57).

Subs not used – Woods, Harriman, Bolger.

Goals: Edmondson (79), Horsfall (83).

Booked: Watson (14), Mills (40), Morris (55).

REFEREE – Mr Carl Brook

Picture supplied by Gillingham Football Club.