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Sutton United 2 Gillingham 1: Elkan Baggott scored an own goal in the League 2 match at Gander Green Lane; Robbie McKenzie levelled but Craig Eastmond wins it

Robbie McKenzie ended the long wait for a Gillingham league goal but Sutton beat them with a stoppage-time winner.

Elkan Baggott scored past his own keeper to put Sutton infront but a deserved equaliser came 12 minutes from time as the Gills ended a seven-game run in the league without a goal. McKenzie’s strike was the team’s first in 724 minutes of football but a 92nd minute goal from Craig Eastmond won it for the home side.

Robbie McKenzie scored Gillingham's equaliser at Sutton
Robbie McKenzie scored Gillingham's equaliser at Sutton

Gills manager Neil Harris made four changes to his team following their disappointing Boxing Day defeat to Colchester United. They created chances, scored a goal, but still lost. They ended 2022 with just seven league wins.

A reshuffle in attack saw Alex MacDonald, recent signing Callum Harriott and Scott Kashket brought in to try and change their luck infront of the goal. Mikael Mandron was dropped to the bench as Kashket was the man chosen to spearhead the attack against a big Sutton defensive unit.

Another blank infront of goal against Colchester made it a club record seven league games without scoring on Boxing Day but there were signs of that changing against Sutton.

The biggest chance of the first half fell to Jefferies, with a free header from Alex MacDonald’s cross which he nodded wide of the mark. Jefferies had been the centre of attention early on when his high challenge on Louis John resulted in a yellow card - there were many who felt the challenge deserved a red.

Robbie McKenzie also headed the wrong side of the post and Harriott’s powerful effort from distance was beaten away by the home keeper. At least the Gills were creating some chances early on, but it didn’t last.

The latter part of the first half was stop-start, a first pause in play coming after referee Thomas Parsons spoke to the female home physio and various members of the officiating team. She had been treating one of the players infront of the away end. An announcement reminded fans that “discriminatory language will not be tolerated…and must stop.”

Elkan Baggott scored in his own net to put Sutton United infront
Elkan Baggott scored in his own net to put Sutton United infront

There was a longer stoppage soon after when two Sutton players clashed heads while dealing with a Gills ball forward. Sam Hart came off worse and although he got to his feet he was replaced.

Baggott also went down with a knock that needed treatment just as Kashket ran onto a forward ball and went down in the box under pressure from Ben Goodliffe. The referee said no penalty.

It was Baggott who gave Sutton the lead in the 43rd minute. Craig Eastmond’s deep cross was met at the far post by Omar Bugiel, who had got away from Will Wright, and his header back across was turned in by the Gills defender.

The breaks in play led to 12 minutes of added-on time but the Gills were unable to create much more in attack to worry the hosts. Harris made a change at the break with own-goal man Baggott replaced by striker Mandron.

Hakeeb Adelakun was also introduced off the bench later in the half and he fired just wide for the visitors with his first contribution, slipping as he took the shot. Craig Eastmond put a couple of efforts over for Sutton.

Gills were getting plenty of the ball around the hour mark and there were big appeals from Harris for a penalty when Max Ehmer went down in the box, looking to get onto Will Wight’s free-kick. The referee played on.

Mandron had a great chance to level, meeting Jefferies’ low cross at the near post but he shot wide.

A goal was coming and the long wait was over when McKenzie shifted the ball from right to left and picked his spot with a low finish past keeper Jack Rose.

There were fears Sutton would be awarded a penalty when goalkeeper Turner took out John when going for the ball. Again the referee didn’t point to the spot.

Gillingham thought they had claimed a point but Eastmond's late strike crept in to give the home side maximum points.

Gillingham: Turner, Wright, Tutonda, Ehmer, Baggott (Mandron 46mins), Williams, McKenzie, MacDonald (O’Keefe 85mins), Harriott (Adelakun 63mins), Jefferies, Kashket (Lee 90mins). Subs not used: Holtam, Alexander, Green

Sutton United: Rose, Kizzi, John, Goodliffe (Fadahunsi 73mins), Hart (Beautyman 36mins), Boldewijn, Eastmond, Smith, Randall (Pierre 73mins), Neufville, Bugiel. Subs not used: Dundas, Gambin, Kouassi.

Referee: Thomas Parsons

Attendance: 3,316 (774 away)

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