A stoppage time penalty from Tom Eaves meant Fleetwood returned to Lancashire pointless, after a 2-1 defeat to Gillingham at Priestfield on Saturday.
Eaves coolly slotted home his second of the match for the hosts, completing the turnaround for the Gills after Paddy Madden’s first half opener. Eaves had equalised shortly after half time with a flick from a corner.
Town defended well – especially in the second half – but the pressure from the hosts paid off with a late goal, after Wes Burns fouled Callum Reilly in the area.
Uwe Rosler made four changes from last Saturday’s match against Blackburn Rovers, with Kevin O’Connor being handed his Fleetwood Town debut. Ashley Hunter, Conor McAleny and George Glendon all returned to the starting line up, replacing Gethin Jones, Wes Burns, Markus Schwabl and Devante Cole.
Town started brightly at Priestfield and played some nice football early on in the contest. The deadly trio of Hunter, McAleny and Madden up front showed early signs of causing issue to the Gills backline, as McAleny almost allowed Hunter through to round Tomas Holy in the hosts’ goal.
Fleetwood were rewarded for their early dominance as they took the lead 12 minutes in. A corner whipped in by Hunter and rebounded to Glendon, whose goal-bound shot was deflected. The ball was then saved miraculously by Holy from Madden’s shot, before McAleny fired across goal into the path of the Irishman to score his second goal in a red shirt.
Gills grew into the game, but didn’t test Chris Neal until Lee Martin fired straight at him when the better option would have been to square it.
Eaves then flicked on a header from Luke O’Neill, but again this was easy for Neal. Mark Byrne then sent an effort well wide of the mark.
Neal was then forced to get down low to palm away Reilly’s piledriver.
The windswept countryside was making play difficult for both sides, and there was a lull in the game as it headed towards half time.
There was still time for Hunter to whip a free kick into the Gills box for a plethora od diving heads, but it went all the way into the hands of Holy. Hunter himself then had the chance to double the lead as he intercepted a loose back pass from O’Neill, but the awkward angle didn’t allow him to get the shot away.
Gillingham came out fighting in the second half and were quick to get going as Reilly whipped a cross in for O’Neill to head.
They grabbed an equaliser soon after that as Tom Eaves flicked on a corner from O’Neill to level things up.
By this point the Gills were well on top and threatening to take the lead, as they piled the pressure on Rosler’s Reds.
Town survived a spell of penalty area pinball and a stroke of luck allowed Madden to make a barnstorming run down the right, before he teed up McAleny, who could only fire wide of Holy’s goal.
The hosts then had another chance as Josh Parker flicked a corner over the bar.
Neal was then forced into action once again to deny Eaves after a blistering counter attack left three attackers on two Town defenders. Seconds later he then made amends for his own spill by punching Eaves second effort to safety.
In a period of extended pressure, Lewie Coyle was called into action to head a goal bound cross away from the line. With Gillingham’s tails well up, Fleetwood had to dig their heels in to keep the scores level.
Fleetwood survived again and the introduction of Wes Burns and Jordy Hiwula saw Town look rejuvenated heading into the final ten minutes of the match.
But still, Gills came at Town, as Parker’s effort was deflected wide.
As the clock ticked towards 90, Madden flicked a ball over the Gills defence, allowing Burns to get a forehead to it, but Holy was made to back track and tip the goal bound effort over for a corner.
Things were about to turn sour for Town, as referee Brett Huxtable awarded the home side a penalty in the 90th minute. Eaves duly stepped up to slot past Neal and win the match for the hosts.
Straight from kick off though, Town broke and could have grabbed a very last gasp equaliser, but Hiwula’s ball into the six yard box was cleared at the last moment. That was Fleetwood’s final chance, as the ref called time on a feisty contest.
Gillingham: Holy (GK), O’Neill, Garmston (Lacey), Ehmer, Zakuani (Ogilvie), Hessenthaler, Eaves, Martin ©, Parker (List), Reilly, Byrne.
Subs not used: Nelson (GK), Wilkinson, Nash, Moussa.
Fleetwood: Neal (GK), Coyle, O’Connor, Eastham, Dempsey, McAleny (Hiwula), Bolger, Diagouraga, Madden, Glendon (Grant), Hunter (Burns).
Subs not used: Cairns (GK), Rodgers, Jones, Schwabl.
Ref: Mr B Huxatable