Gillingham 0 Shrewsbury Town 0 - Report

Shrewsbury Town earned a creditable point at play-off chasing Gillingham in a competitive contest where the visitors impressed with their industry in going toe-to-toe on an entertaining, yet goalless afternoon.

Salop gave as good as they got and, at times, much more as they looked every bit as adventurous and dangerous as their promotion-pushing hosts on the afternoon they reached 50 points with eight games to spare.

The visitors, without boss Steve Cotterill and with Aaron Wilbraham again on the touchline, enjoyed the better opportunities in an impressive first half.

And Shrewsbury dug in superbly for a second consecutive clean sheet after their break as the hosts upped the ante on what was a critical afternoon in the Gills promotion hopes.

Gillingham had the better chance late on through in-form Vadaine Oliver, but Shrewsbury remained a threat throughout and went close themselves on a number of occasions.

There were some fine performances throughout in away white, including from midfield powerhouse Josh Vela, while Daniel Udoh led the line excellently, and the defensive trio of Ethan Ebanks-Landell, Ro-Shaun Williams and Matthew Pennington were solid throughout.

Two of Salop’s best chances fell to right wing-back Donald Love, who is without a goal in more than 50 goals, and was unable to profit, as Shrews turn their attention to Tuesday’s trip to Oxford, who hammered Crewe 6-0 on the road today.

The point does little for Gills’ promotion push, the hosts are now four points adrift of sixth having played more games than their rivals.

Unsurprisingly, absent boss Cotterill elected to name the same XI that started the fine 3-0 win at Easter Monday, which was Town’s biggest league win in three-and-a-half years.

Aaron Pierre, who was due to start against Plymouth on Monday before his 11th hour withdrawal for Williams, was not fit enough to make the Shrews squad in Kent. The defender is struggling with another calf problem.

It was the first time Shrewsbury had named an unchanged side since late February, with Cotterill recently opting for a rotation policy.

Brad Walker, on his way back from a groin problem, travelled to Kent but did not make the squad. Josh Daniels (calf) is still absent from the matchday squad, which travelled on Friday for an overnight stay in the south east.

The visitors recalled centre-half Robbie Cundy, on loan to Bristol City, to their backline following the heavy 4-1 defeat at Blackpool on Monday, which was a real setback in Steve Evans’ side’s bid for a late play-off push.

Cundy’s addition allowed natural left-back Connor Ogilvie to return to full-back.

Evans had admitted that the visit of Shrewsbury was win or bust for his side’s play-off aspirations.

Gillingham’s form before the defeat had been impressive and that was marked by Evans and on-fire frontman Oliver being awarded the League One manager and player of the month awards for March.

Town, though, trailed ninth-placed Gills by just nine points ahead of kick-off, having played three games fewer.

Despite a thoroughly forgettable defeat to Priestfield in January 2020, Salop’s record in Kent is not to be sniffed at. That was a first reverse in seven, a run that included four wins.

Both teams observed a two minute silence to mark Friday’s passing of the Duke of Edinburgh, aged 99.

Evans’ side signalled their intentions inside 30 seconds as a long ball was knocked up to powerful unit Oliver, who was joined in the frontline by the similarly muscular John Akinde.

The home side quickly settled and immediately began troubling Town down the right flank through the very lively former Wolves winger Jordan Graham - who notched a last-gasp equaliser when the clubs met at the Meadow in early October.

One early low delivery was badly missed on the swing by Ebanks-Landell and, rather surprisingly, striker Oliver hashed his effort at the back post, allowing the Town defender out of jail.

But the threat continued down that flank, as Wilbraham, Dave Longwell and co barked at Nathanael Ogbeta to stop Graham deliver his testing crosses.

Ogbeta looked nervy and the conceding of a needless corner almost handed the hosts a lead.

Right-back Ryan Jackson sent in a decent cross, from which opposite full-back Ogilvie climbed and sent a header goalwards, which Matija Sarkic was able to claim on the stretch.

After skipper Ollie Norburn had seemingly had a dislocated shoulder popped back in by physio Jordan Beech, the visitors found their feet.

A neat move presented Sean Goss, in the attacking midfield role, the chance of a couple of well-struck strikes from distance, both of which were well blocked by defenders.

Shrews, through relentless Vela energy, kept the chance going and Ogbeta - from a central position - jinked on to his dangerous left foot and smashed a fierce drive over Jack Bonham’s crossbar, via a slight deflection.

The Town coaching staff were the happier on half hour. After a lively opening 10 minutes from the hosts, Salop had reacted superbly. A couple of examples of excellently-worked moves, consisting of 20 or 30-pass attacks, highlighted their confidence.

Shrewsbury were comfortably the better side and began creating the openings their dominance merited.

Whalley turned sharply in the final third and fed Ogbeta, whose cross was well held up by Udoh with his back to goal and fed to the smart run of Love, deep in the box towards the far post.

The wing-back, who hasn’t scored in more than 50 games for Town, side-footed his strike wide across goal. It looked like a bad miss but the officials gave a corner, after a likely decisive deflection.

Salop kept up the pressure, led by the lively Udoh at the tip of their attack. Udoh was playing with his tail up, and spun away from his markers into the box before testing Bonham with a fierce low left-footed drive.

Salop continued threatening, as Vela tested Bonham with a curling strike from the edge of the box after a move down the right.

The home side did end the first period well and should have opened the scoring in the second minute of two added.

A cross from the right was not dealt with, as Matthew Pennington’s clearance dropped to Ogilvie, but the full-back could somehow only strike against the right post from barely three yards out. The rebound somehow didn’t cannon off a huddle of bodies and drop over the line.

Falling behind on the stroke of half-time would have been cruel on the visitors. Evans and his staff left the field remonstrating with referee Trevor Kettle.

Evans was so unimpressed with his side’s first-half display he made a double change at the break, introducing striker Dominic Samuel and midfielder Rob McKenzie for Akinde and Stuart O’Keefe.

The Gills boss shouted for his side to be more “front foot” as the second period started, but it was Shrews’ Goss with the effort of the half, high and wide with his weaker right foot.

Salop continued to look sharp in their competing across the field. Vela in particular was broke, while Whalley and Udoh combined excellently.

That combination, before a clever overlapped pass from Love, led to a decent chance for Vela, whose fierce low drive from a right angle inside the box drew a strong left-handed save from Bonham.

Town gave up a soft rare opening just before the hour as busy left-back Ogilvie met a long throw from Jackson and headed on to the roof of the net, but Sarkic was comfortable.

Oliver then provided Sarkic with catching practice with a difficult header from almost on the right byline before some casual Salop defending handed the hosts another opening.

Ebanks-Landell attempted to take an extra touch and was robbed by Samuel, whose pass to Oliver was delayed, before the latter eventually struck his effort well off target. It was a chance.

Gillingham were the livelier of the sides in the second half, but clear openings were few and far between as Salop defended excellently and worked hard as a unit.

On one of several opportunities to break, Udoh made the wrong decision to find Whalley when Shrews were four on two, instead of picking out Goss or Ogbeta.

Cotterill, via the telephone, refused the temptation of a substitution as the even and extremely competitive contest ticked into its final 15 minutes.

The visitors found a second wind heading into the final 10 minutes and worked a decent chance as Whalley and Ogbeta combined down the left for the latter to cross deep to Love, whose first-time volley flew over to the frustration of all in Shrewsbury white.

Salop were confident and that was embodied by Ogbeta, who charged down the left and almost powered in a wonderstrike into the opposite top corner, but the strike arrowed wide.

Gillingham passed up their gilt-edged chance at a priceless winner in an edgy finale with five minutes to play, as a bouncing ball dropped to Oliver on the edge of the box but his strike flashed wide of the left post with Sarkic motionless.

True to form, Salop continued to push as sub Curtis Main helped a fine Goss cross off target before fellow substitute Harry Chapman low strike from 25 yards deflected inches and agonizingly wide.

The very watchable contest finished goalless in front of the empty stands at Priestfield on an afternoon that will not jump out of the record books, but provided further evidence of Salop’s progress as they reached the coveted landmark of 50 points.


Gillingham (4-4-2):

Bonham; Jackson, Cundy, Tucker, Ogilvie; Graham, O’Keefe (McKenzie, 45), Dempsey ©, MacDonald (Lee, 79); Akinde (Samuel, 45), Oliver.

Subs not used: Bastien, Willock, Johnson, O’Connor.

Shrewsbury Town (3-5-2):

Sarkic; Pennington, Ebanks-Landell, Williams; Love, Norburn ©, Vela, Goss (Edwards, 88), Ogbeta; Whalley (Chapman, 86), Udoh (Main, 86).

Subs not used: Burgoyne, Pyke, Sears, Davis.

Referee: Trevor Kettle

Attendance: Zero

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