George Jones reports from the MEMS Priestfield Stadium
Nicky Ajose’s 90th-minute penalty earned Charlton a late draw against Gillingham at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The spot-kick came at the conclusion of an action-packed second half, in which the Addicks had already missed a penalty and been denied by a couple of great save from home stopper Stuart Nelson.
Gillingham had led through Bradley Dack’s first-half opener but Ajose’s leveller, his third goal of the season, ensured that Charlton left with a point in the bag.
In terms of team news, Russell Slade made two changes to the XI that started at Port Vale on Tuesday night.
Jason Pearce, fit again after a groin problem, came into the side to partner Ezri Konsa, who was also drafted into the team.
They replaced Harry Lennon, who took his place on the bench, and Patrick Bauer – one of many members of the Charlton squad to have been struggling with a virus over the last few days.
The central defensive switch did not alter the Addicks’ set-up, however, meaning that they again lined up in the 4-3-3 formation that, on the whole, worked so well at Vale Park in midweek.
The opening chance of the game fell the way of the Gills. Following a foul by Pearce on the edge of the box, Emmanuel-Thomas lined up a strike at goal, but Johnnie Jackson stood firm in the Charlton wall to block it.
Chris Herd dragged a strike well wide on 17 minutes and, at the other end, some good determination from Ricky Holmes almost saw him charge down a clearance from home stopper Jonathan Bond.
In terms of chances, it had been a tepid start to the match but that changed on 26 minutes when Declan Rudd was forced into action. A jinking run from Emmanuel-Thomas saw him wriggle away from Ademola Lookman and Morgan Fox before he slipped in Dack, who forced the stopper into a great save from inside the penalty area.
The Gills were forced into change on the half-hour mark when stopper Bond had to make way with a muscular injury and his replacement, Nelson, got his first involvement a couple of minutes later.
Lookman floated in a free-kick from the right and Josh Magennis did well to get in a volley at goal that the replacement stopper made a comfortable stop from.
Dack blasted over the bar on 38 minutes and the former Addicks trainee would get another chance before the half was out. This time he took it. Paul Konchesky sent in a cross from the left and he met it with a looping header that flew over Rudd and nestled in the far corner.
The Addicks looked for a quick response and had a decent opportunity when Lookman sliced wide at the far post, following a long throw from Magennis.
The Gills held a one-goal led at the break and, prior to play restarting, the Addicks would make a change with Ajose coming on to replace Johnnie Jackson.
The substitution also saw a change in system as we switched to a 4-4-2 shape.
The home side had the first chance of the second period when Billy Knott blazed over the bar from inside the box and the same man then sliced wide from range on 51 minutes.
Rudd made a decent save from Emmanuel-Thomas’ curling drive soon afterwards as the Gills continued on the front foot.
That seemed to spark Charlton into life and they then carved out a chance of the their own. Lookman dug out a cross from the left at Magennis met it with a well-directed header that Nelson did excellently to tip over the crossbar.
From the corner that followed, the visitors won themselves a penalty.
Ulvestad was shoved to the ground by Ryan Jackson as Lookman’s delivery flew into the box, giving referee Mark Haywood no choice other than to point to the spot.
Holmes picked up the ball and fired the spot-kick to Nelson’s right but the experienced goalkeeper chose to dive the correct way and made a fantastic save.
Despite missing the penalty, the Addicks now had their tails up somewhat and they came close again on 69 minutes. Pearce headed a Lookman corner back into the danger area, it fell to Konsa and his volley forced the stopper into a reflex save.
At the other end, Dack zipped wide with a left-footed shot after getting onto Nouble’s low cross and the latter then curled well wide of the target from the corner of the box.
The Addicks introduced Lee Novak 12 minutes from time and he carved out a decent chance for himself shortly after his introduction. A neat touch saw him side-step his man and he then poked goalwards, but Nelson was again there to make a smart stop with his legs.
The game looked to be getting away from the visitors but they would get one more chance, and again it would come form the penalty spot.
This time it was Chris Herd that was penalised, for a handball, and this time it was Ajose that stepped up. He made no mistake.
He stroked the ball to Nelson’s left – with the stopper going the opposite way – to draw his team level.
Five minutes of stoppage time were then indicated but neither side were able to grab a winner as the local-ish derby finished level.
Gillingham: Bond (Nelson 31), Jackson (Osadebe 84), Herd, Ehmer, Hessenthaler, McDonald, Knott, Konchesky, (c), Dack, Nouble, Emmanuel-Thomas.
Subs (not used): Donnelly, Pask, Oldaker, List, Byrne.
Goal: Dack 41
Booked: Jackson 58 (foul on Ulvestad), Dack 66 (foul on Ulvestad), Nouble 88 (dissent), Nelson 90 (dissent)
Charlton: Rudd, Solly, Konsa, Pearce, Fox, Crofts, Ulvestad, Jackson (Ajose 46), Holmes, Lookman, Magennis (Novak 78).
Subs (not used): Phillips, Foley, Lennon, Teixeira, Hanlan.
Goal: Ajose (pen) 90
Booked: Magennis 16 (persistent fouling), Konsa 90 (shirt pull on McDonald) Solly 90+5 (foul on Konchesky)
Attendance: 8,670 (2,360 from Charlton).
Referee: M Haywood.