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Gillingham 1 Stevenage 1: Danny Rose opener cancelled out by Elkan Baggott as manager Steve Evans returns to Priestfield for the first time

Gillingham claimed a deserved point at Priestfield against the League 2 table-toppers.

Stevenage took the lead through Danny Rose moments after Scott Kashket had missed an open goal for the Gills but Elkan Baggott levelled the scores. Jordan Roberts shot wide for the visitors late on with only the keeper to beat.

Much was made of Steve Evans’ return to Priestfield on Saturday, the former manager back with his current club Stevenage, a side starting the day top of the league. The Gills more than matched the leaders.

Baggott came into the Gills line-up to beef up the defence against a physical opposition.

The odds were stacked against the Gills, facing a side with 10 wins from 13, but form of late had improved for Neil Harris’ men.

The confidence showed as Gillingham enjoyed an excellent opening half and were level at the break.

Baggott was picked firstly for his defending but also showed he was to be a handful inside the Stevenage box early on, nodding down a cross that Mika Mandron drilled wide.

Gillingham should have taken a 22nd minute lead after Hakeeb Adelakun’s fine run and cross put it on a plate for Kashket, with a simple finish into an empty net from a yard out. He somehow put the ball over the bar. Ninety-nine times out of 100 that would have been 1-0 to the Gills.

The home side had been their own worst enemies when it came to going forward, getting into some good positions from open play and dead-ball situations, but had been unable to deliver with quality. That would change but not before going behind.

Cheye Alexander on the ball for Gillingham against Stevenage Picture: KPI (60013551)
Cheye Alexander on the ball for Gillingham against Stevenage Picture: KPI (60013551)

Just six minutes after Kashket’s miss, the Gills found themselves a goal down. A cross from the right missed its target but Saxon Earley was lurking unmarked on the opposite flank and when he whipped the ball back in, Rose was there to guide a header in past Glenn Morris.

For a few moments the goal looked to have sorted Stevenage out, having struggled to dominate against their lower-league hosts.

The Gills got back on level terms, however, with 39 minutes gone. Wright’s superbly taken free-kick was attacked by Baggott, powering in a header past Taye Ashby-Hammond, his first goal in the Football League.

Stevenage dominated with the ball at the start of the second half, without testing Morris, while the Gills went close from another corner that Baggott came close to converting.

Mandron came close to putting a defensive header into his own net and Max Ehmer had to head another cross wide as the visitors threatened.

Will Wright stretches to meet the ball ahead of Jamie Reid Picture: KPI (60013554)
Will Wright stretches to meet the ball ahead of Jamie Reid Picture: KPI (60013554)

Evans had his hands on his head when referee Ross Joyce turned down their penalty appeals after Gilbey went down under pressure from Cheye Alexander.

Michael Bostwick’s powerful effort wasn’t far away for Stevenage and Rose couldn’t keep a header down for the visitors.

Roberts should have put Stevenage ahead with 15 minutes left, Rose getting inbetween two Gills defenders to get on the end of a ball forward. The knock-on fell kindly to the visiting striker but with just Morris to beat, he fired wide.

Gillingham made a flurry of late changes and reverted to a three-man defence in a bid to ensure they took something from the match.

Evans was booked after the full-time whistle as he had words with the officials, following a heated debate with Gills' no.2 David Livermore.

Gillingham: Morris, Wright, Alexander (Mnoga 84mins), Ehmer, Baggott, McKenzie, Williams, MacDonald (Law 84mins), Adelakun (Jefferies 74mins), Mandron (Walker 69mins), Kashket (Green 84mins). Subs: Turner, Chambers.

Stevenage: Ashby-Hammond, Wildan, Earley, Vancooten, Piergianni (Bostwick 46mins), Sweeney, Reeves (Taylor 56mins), Gilbey, Reid (Norris 56mins), Roberts, Rose. Subs: Chapman, Clarke, Read, Amoo.

Referee: Ross Joyce

Attendance: 5,031 (401 away)

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