By Luke Cawdell
Gillingham drifted further away from the League 2 automatic promotion places with defeat at play-off rivals Shrewsbury on Saturday.
A goal in each half condemned the Gills to defeat at Shrewsbury as the home side completed the double over Andy Hessenthaler’s men.
They had won the reverse encounter at Priestfield 1-0 but the hosts got their revenge as Shane Cansdell-Sherriff scored Shrewsbury’s opener with half an hour gone and Mark Wright doubled the lead late on.
The Gills, without either of the new signings in the starting eleven, created nothing to trouble home keeper Chris Neal in the opening 45 minutes despite a promising start as Jack Payne’s deflected shot looped narrowly wide.
The majority of the chances in the first half fell to the home side, with left-winger Mark Wright causing problems for the Gills defence.
On two occasions the Gills almost put the ball into their own net. Firstly Andy Frampton did well to clear James Collins’ dangerous cross wide and Garry Richards, who had put a header wide at the other end, deflected Wright’s cross wide.
But from the resulting corner Shrewsbury took the lead. Gillingham were unable to clear the danger and Cansdell-Sherriff was on hand to turn the ball into the net.
Jon Taylor smashed a low shot narrowly wide just before the break as Shrewsbury all-too-easily found a way through the Gills defence.
Hessenthaler decided against making any changes at the break despite having attacking options, including new signing Gavin Tomlin, although fellow newcomer Jo Kuffour was not in the squad.
An early second half free-kick was comfortably dealt with by Ross Flitney in the Gills goal but at the other end the 247 travelling fans had to wait until almost the hour mark for a second attempt at goal, when Charlie Lee sent one flying wide.
Shrewsbury kept the pressure on and nearly added a second through Joe Jacobson but Flitney turned the effort against the post and claimed the rebound.
With the introduction of Luke Rooney and Tomlin, Gills looked to attack Shrewsbury with pace in the latter stages. It was Rooney who finally tested Neal, with 69 minutes gone, but the Shrews keeper got his body behind the shot and deflected it wide for a corner. Gills kept up the pressure and Lee hooked an effort just over the bar.
The home side, with tricky forward Marvin Morgan, were always a threat and did not give the Gills defence a rest all afternoon.
With three minutes left, the hosts sealed a deserved win when Wright converted Jermaine Grandison’s cross. Matt Richards should have added a third in stoppage time but curled a good chance wide, while Flitney had to race off his line to save from Jon Taylor, as Shrewsbury finished with a flourish.
Gillingham: Flitney, Lee, Lawrence, Richards, Frampton, J Payne, Jackman, Montrose (Tomlin 64mins), Weston, Whelpdale (Rooney 65mins), Oli (S Payne 73mins). Subs not used: Fish, Gazzaniga.
Shrewsbury: Neal, Grandison, Jacobson, Sharps, Cansdell-Sherriff, Wright, Collins (Gornell 85mins), Morgan, Richards, D McAllister, Taylor. Subs not used: Smith, S McAllister, Ainsworth, Wildig.
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