Published: 21:33, 04 February 2014
A red card for Elliott Hewitt led to Gillingham’s downfall at Stevenage on Tuesday night.
Peter Taylor’s men endured a torrid first 45 minutes. A penalty from Francois Zoko – after Hewitt had seen red for handling on the line – and a Darius Charles strike left the Gills in trouble.
Cody McDonald’s 12th of the season gave the Gills a sniff but Charles’ second goal moments later put Stevenage back in charge.
Taylor made three changes in the Gills starting XI as youngsters Connor Smith, Callum Davies and Jake Hessenthaler all got the nod.
Among those dropping out was Adam Barrett, with keeper Stuart Nelson replacing him as captain.
There was no Amine Linganzi in the squad and another surprise was to see Michael Harriman on the bench.
A win for the Gills would have seen them go 10th in League 1 but bottom side Stevenage had their own ideas.
Gillingham were under pressure early on and it was former player Luke Freeman who was causing the problems, although Nelson remained untroubled.
Things went wrong for the Gills midway through the half when Callum Davies lost out to Darius Charles with a ball over the top.
Charles pulled the ball back for Francois Zoko and the shot was blocked on the line by Elliott Hewitt with his hand.
The on-loan Gills player was sent-off and Zoko stuck the penalty away.
Despite the setback, Gills surged back down the other end and should have been level when Adebayo Akinfenwa put Cody McDonald in on goal. The Gills striker beat the keeper but smashed a great chance over.
Connor Smith had dropped to right back, in Hewitt’s absence, and Stevenage targeted their balls to that side, with Freeman and Zoko teasing the on-loan Watford man.
A second goal arrived on 30 minutes. Smith was beaten on the flank by Freeman and Charles stuck the chance away.
Gills halved the deficit as a positive start to the second half was rewarded with a goal. Dack’s throughball split the defence and McDonald chased onto the pass before stabbing the ball past the keeper with 56 minutes gone.
Just as hope had returned, it quickly vanished, as three minutes later Charles scored his second when converting a cross from Freeman.
McDonald had another good chance for Gills, picked out once more for Dack, but this time the home keeper saved.
At the other end, Nelson stretched out an arm to deny the ever-dangerous Freeman.
Gills almost fell further behind, when Lucas Akins put an effort against the bar for Stevanage before McDonald stabbed the ball against the post immediately after at the other end.
Gillingham: Nelson, Martin, Hewitt, Davies, Legge, Hessenthaler (Fagan 72mins), Gregory, Dack, Smith, Akinfenwa (Harriman 46mins), McDonald. Subs not used: Baxter, Weston, Lee, Barrett, Pigott.
Stevenage: Day, Jones, Mousinho (Deacon 74mins), Charles, Akins, Zoko (Andrade 63mins), Parrett (Doughty 63min), Heslop, Freeman, Smith, Hartley. Subs not used: Smith, Wedgbury, Burrow, N’Guessan.