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Gillingham 2 Barnet 4

Andy Barcham on the ball for Gillingham
Andy Barcham on the ball for Gillingham

by Luke Cawdell

Gillingham's automatic promotion hopes were derailed in spectacular fashion at Priestfield as Barnet ran riot on Saturday.

Visiting striker Izale McLeod hit three and missed a second half penalty as the Gills' 16-game unbeaten run came to a crashing end on home soil.

Andy Barcham, pictured, scored twice for Gillingham but there was little to celebrate by the final whistle.

Defeat leaves Gillingham sitting eighth in League 2, a place outside of the play-offs and automatic promotion hopes all-but mathematically extinguished.

Barnet's opening goal came from Mark Byrne, who struck low after an initial shot had been blocked.

The goal rocked the Gills but they gradually began to impose themselves, helped by the impact of the lively Luke Rooney. Rooney sent a shot narrowly over from the edge of the box but Barnet were always a threat at the other. McLeod came just as close from 20 yards.

Gillingham levelled the match with 29 minutes gone. Adebayo Akinfenwa laid the ball off into the path of Cody McDonald and when his shot was saved by keeper Sam Walker, Barcham was on hand to prod the ball home to mark his 100th start for the club with a goal.

Rooney, who replaced the injured Curtis Weston in the team, was denied by the foot of the post from a vicious free-kick but the Gills were being frustrated by a Barnet team in no rush to let the game flow.

It was Barnet who ended the half strongest, with a header from Jack Midson and a shot from Mark Marshall both being well saved by keeper Alan Julian.

He was beaten for the second time with a minute of first half stoppage time played, after Midson's flick on was headed home by McLeod. It was the first time since the Crewe game in the middle of November that the Gills had conceded twice in the opening half.

A third Barnet goal came with just seven second half minutes gone as McLeod, unmarked, turned home a cross from the right with his chest.

The Gills, unbeaten in their previous 16, were on the ropes and McLeod smashed a shot narrowly over after more uncertainty in the area. McLeod completed his hat-trick with 70 minutes gone after Matt Lawrence conceded a second penalty in successive weeks. The Gills defender fouled Byrne and McLeod stepped up to convert.

Five minutes later the Gills conceded another penalty, this time as Gowling hauled Midson down but McLeod was too cocky for his own good and missed - chipping the ball over the bar. Gowling was substituted moments later.

Barcham's second of the match gave a glimmer of hope but Barnet were too far in the clear for a fightback.

Gills: Julian, Fuller, Nutter, Lawrence, Gowling (Sinclair 77mins), J Payne, Spiller (Bentley 63mins), Rooney, Barcham, Akinfenwa (White 77mins), McDonald. Subs: Richards, Maher, Jackman, Cronin.

Barnet: Walker, Devera, Parkes, Leach, Stirling (Kamdjo 68mins), Hughes (Fraser 86mins), Marshall, Byrne, Midson, Deering, McLeod (Taylor 82mins). Subs: O'Brien, Southam, Holmes, Jarvis.

Picture: Barry Goodwin

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