Unbelievable second half sparks late win
Fleetwood Town produced a stunning comeback victory to beat Gillingham 3-2 on Saturday afternoon.
Goals from Ash Hunter - his first since January - David Ball and a Kyle Dempsey strike in injury time sealed all three points against the relegation threatened Gills.
Town trailed twice – an Alex Cairns own goal and a Rory Donnelley free-kick looked to have denied Uwe Rosler’s side the victory but three goals in the second half was more than enough.
Rosler made two changes to the side that beat Millwall on Easter Monday, as Dempsey and Hunter replaced Wes Burns and Cameron Brannagan.
There was steady start for both sides, but it was Town who had the first effort as Ben Davies flicked a header wide from George Glendon’s free kick.
The hosts opening effort could have put them ahead. Deji Oshilaja connected to Max Ehmer’s flick, but sent his header just inches over the bar.
With the game having huge consequences at both ends of the Sky Bet League One table, it was a cagey affair, with both sides battling hard in midfield.
The best play of the first half came as tenacious play from Hunter down the left won a corner for Town. Quickly taken by Glendon, it was played short to Amari’i Bell whose first time effort tested the palms of Tomas Holy in the home net.
A nervous moment from the home defence could have gifted Fleetwood a lead, as an innocuous header by Zesh Rehman back to his goalkeeper almost evaded the waiting Holy.
Hugely against the run of play, it was Gillingham who took the lead in fortunate circumstances. A corner found the head of Rehman who rattled the post, before rebounding into the net off the back of a helpless Cairns.
This galvanized the home side who could see League One safety with a victory, and they could have doubled their lead when Rory Donnelly’s bullet header tested Cairns.
A big second half effort was needed, and it was Town who started the second period the brighter. Substitute Bolger, who returned from injury, fired a header towards goal after good work from Glendon. Hunter then tried his luck from distance, but fired well over.
Hunter scored a screamer in the corresponding fixture at Highbury in October, and he was to make a key impact as he latched on to David Ball’s pass, before driving into the bottom corner to level the scores.
It was the striker’s first goal since January and sent the hardy travelling Cod Army wild. It was the first sign we were in for a treat in the second half.
Town continued to pressure the Gills defence, forcing errors as they battled for a second goal. Bobby Grant was next to pepper the home goal.
A counter attack then gave Town another opportunity to take the lead, as the ball fell to Grant again, but his effort then shook the post.
The post was to play a key factor just moments later, this time in the hosts favour. A free kick from Donnelly took a deflection, before striking the post and rebounding past Cairns to regain Gillingham’s one-goal advantage.
Incredibly, the home side struck the post again as they broke away after winning possession at kick off – Jake Hessenthaler this time.
Rosler introduced attackers Burns and Cole to the action in hope of reducing the arrears, and Burns almost had an immediate impact as he forced an error between the home keeper and his defenders, but Hunter couldn’t find the empty net under pressure.
The breathless game continued as Town began to throw everything at their opponents.
The pressure would soon pay and Town found themselves level again, as Ball reacted quickest to Bolger’s flick and volleyed in from six yards out with just ten minutes of the contest remaining.
Goalscorer Ball would then try his luck from 25 yards out, but his curling effort failed to test the goalkeeper.
As the game drew towards the final minutes, the end-to-end contest definitely wasn’t over. Town counter attacked, and as Hunter broke into the box, he played a low ball towards Kyle Dempsey who struck first time to complete the ultimate comeback.
Town head into the final game at home to Port Vale next Sunday sitting third in Sky Bet League One.
Gillingham: Holy (GK), Jackson, Ehmer ©, Oshilaja, Hessenthaler, Donnelly, McDonald, Martin, Parker, Rehman, Wright.
Subs: Nelson (GK), Herd, Osadebe, List, Cundle, Cornick, Mbo.
Fleetwood: Cairns (GK), McLaughlin, Bell, Eastham (Cole), Pond © (Bolger), Ball, Grant, Glendon (Burns), Hunter, Dempsey, Davies.
Subs: Urwin (GK), Brannagan, Nirrenold, Schwabl.
Referee: Mr C Sarginson
Attendance: 8760 (172 away)