|Gillingham 2 v 2 Rochdale|
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 23rd January 2021 Kick-off 15:00
Match Report: Gillingham 2-2 Rochdale
Saturday, 23rd Jan 2021 18:06 by atthepeake
A last-gasp strike from John Akinde stole a point for Gillingham after Jimmy Keohane's brace had put Dale 1-2 ahead at Priestfield.
A switch in schedules sees me taking over from Chaff on match report duties this week but with the watch-along occurring I had no time to make notes throughout the game, meaning this is likely to be more of an inane, stream of consciousness ramble than a traditional match report.
Not that different from Chaff's then, some might say.
The news from Kent before kick-off was that Stephen Humphrys, despite travelling with the squad, was set to miss out with a hamstring injury, whilst the injury suffered by Jake Beesley at Doncaster saw him only fit enough for a place on the bench, whilst Jay Lynch was forced to self-isolate and thus missed out on the trip. Safe to say, this news dampened any hopes of a positive result before kick-off even came along.
Pessimism before the game even kicked off? Are we sure Chaff isn't writing this?
Bazunu started in goal, with McLaughlin and Keohane taking the full-back births and Gabriel Osho making his debut alongside Haydon Roberts in the centre of defence. Aaron Morley, Ollie Rathbone, Stephen Dooley and Matt Lund made up the midfield, with the latter two pushing forward more often. Kwadwo Baah started wide on the right, with Alex Newby playing as a central striker.
Dale started quite brightly, keeping hold of the ball well whilst keeping Vadaine Oliver and company contained at the back. They had two decent attempts in the first 10 minutes, both from Rathbone and both from long range, the second in particular was a lethal dipping strike, but the Gills keeper Jack Bonham managed to push it onto the bar and over.
The home side tried to break from the resulting corner and were stopped in their track by Matt Lund, who was booked for his troubles. Although the number of goals have increased for Lund this season, so have the bookings and he had to walk something of a tightrope for the rest of the game and perhaps could've picked up a second yellow on another day.
Gills weren't really threatening at all and the next big chance again fell to Dale and that man Lund. A Morley free-kick found Dale's top scorer unmarked in the box, but he misjudged the header and in trying to keep it low, headed it into the ground as it bounced up and over the crossbar. He really should've scored.
A poorly executed low free-kick from Jordan Graham and a little goalmouth scramble in which Bazunu eventually cleared the danger were the only real chances that Gills had fashioned for themselves by this stage.
Kwadwo Baah, forever looking to outdo our own expectations of him, produced an incredible piece of skill with a drag back, Cruyff turn and nutmeg all in two touches of the ball but he maybe got a little giddy as a result and fired his shot out of the ground and into the River Medway. Unbaahleivable Tekkers though.
Then, almost inevitably, Gills took the lead on the stroke of half-time. A well-worked short corner routine saw the ball come back to Callum Slattery, who lifted the ball into the box for the inexplicably unmarked Oliver in the box. The striker's first attempt was saved by Bazunu, but it fell right back to his feet to fire in the opener.
In all honestly, Gills had really started to come into the game in the minute before that and Dale were forced into seeing the game out to half-time as they went in search of a second, Oliver stinging Bazunu's palms with a well-struck shot.
Dale didn't deserve to be behind but they had to weather a few more minutes of pressure from the home side after the break, with Bazunu again making a fine save to prevent Connor Ogilvie from adding a second.
Then, suddenly, Dale burst into life. Baah cut in from the right to fire a left-footed shot goal-wards only to see Bonham equal to it, but it wouldn't be too long until Dale would draw level and it was wonderfully worked goal too.
Having had the ball played to him by Baah, Lund clipped a fine ball over the defence for the onrushing Jimmy Keohane to control, before firing into the far corner with his left foot. A fine goal and all of a sudden we had the ascendancy.
And then just moments later... BANG. He's done it again!
Showing why he used to be an attacking midfielder, Keohane again marauded into the opposition half to latch onto another pass from Baah, shifting the ball into his right foot to lash home a clinical strike from just outside of the box, beyond the sprawling dive of Bonham and into the bottom corner.
Where did that come from?!
It would be hard to argue for Gillingham fans that Dale didn't deserve this, even if we hadn't created too much. We had won the midfield battle in the second half in particular, Rathbone's energy complimenting some excellent defensive work from Morley and even some fine, surging runs from Dooley had made us look the more dangerous in the second half. But unsurprisingly, the hosts were looking to change things up and introduced John Akinde, who scored twice against Dale in the reverse fixture last month.
Baah was substituted off and yellow carded in the process. Having been told to go off at the nearest point, the winger decided not to bother and then wasted even more time by pretending to clap an imaginary crowd as the yellow card was brandished. There is a word that we all know, that I can't type here, that perfectly describes this behaviour and this was an elite level of said word. You love to see it.
However, Dale were not going to be able to hold onto the lead and with very nearly the final kick of the game, Gills found an equaliser. Having put pressure on in injury time with some dangerous set pieces, a delivery back into the box after Osho's clearance found it's way to Akinde who took advantage of Roberts and McLaughlin playing him onside to turn and smash home a gut-wrenching equaliser. ARGGHHHH.
Again, Dale have had to work hard to sculpt two well-worked goals in a hard-working and productive showing. Again, however, they've conceded two scruffy goals and shot themselves in the foot. A point would've been taken by most fans once the team was announced but to drop two in these circumstances was devastating.
Gavin Bazunu - 6 (Unlucky that his save fell back to Oliver for the first goal. Good save from Ogilvie header)
Ryan McLaughlin - 6 (Some good challenges but didn't get forward as much as normal and should've got out quicker for the equaliser)
Jimmy Keohane - 8 (Hard to argue with two goals from full-back. Both brilliantly taken too! Maybe could've done better for Gills' first)
Haydon Roberts - 5 (Left behind the line for the equaliser. Not looking as solid defensively as we originally thought)
Gabriel Osho - 7 (A very assured debut. Looked like the presence we have missed in the heart of defence in the last few games)
Aaron Morley - 7 (Some very clever defending from Morley throughout the game, seemed to read them well and get to the ball ahead of their midfield very often)
Kwadwo Baah - 7 (It could've been a 5 on another day to be honest, but his unpredictability makes him a constant threat and he had an involvement in both goals)
STEPHEN DOOLEY - 8 (One of his better performances in a Dale shirt, was far more positive with the ball and got stuck in a bit more than normal too. PLEASE do this more often)
Ollie Rathbone - 7 (Another full-throttle performance from Ollie and did slightly better on the ball for the most part too).
Matt Lund - 5 (Gave away a lot of niggly fouls and definitely should've scored from the header in the first-half)
Alex Newby - 6 (Fed off scraps for the majority of the game but made it too easy for the Gills defenders in the first half. Got better as the game went on)
Harrison Hopper - Was only on for 5 or 6 minutes.
Photo: Action Images
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