Cheltenham Town video: Sparkling Robins hold runaway leaders to draw
Gillingham 0 Cheltenham Town 0
CHELTENHAM Town proved they can live with the best League Two has to offer holding early leaders Gillingham to a goalless draw at Priestfield this evening.
On an emotionally charged night, the Robins did their manager Mark Yates proud in his 150th match in charge.
They controlled long periods of the opening period and defending stoically after the break to shut out former boss Martin Allen’s previously rampant Gills.
Allen admitted in the matchday programme that he made ‘mistakes’ during his ill-fated spell at Whaddon Road in 2008-09, but it was not enough to appease the travelling fans who made their feelings clear throughout.
As expected Yates recalled his big guns, with Steve Elliott back from illness and Darren Carter fit again after a hamstring problem.
Marlon Pack, Jermaine McGlashan and Chris Zebroski were all reinstated in Yates’ favoured 4-2-3-1 formation.
Gillingham had scored four goals in each of their previous three home matches, but it was Cheltenham who made the brighter start, making the early League Two pacesetters look very ordinary.
Stroud-born goalkeeper Ryan Nelson made a full stretch dive to catch Russ Penn’s header in the 12th minute after Chris Zebroski had nodded on a Billy Jones free-kick from near the halfway line.
A corner whipped in by Jones three minutes later fell to Elliott and the big defender’s deft touch gave him room for a shot, but it was charged down.
Cheltenham continued to apply pressure and Pack and Elliott both saw efforts blocked before the ball fell nicely for Kaid Mohamed, but his shot was well saved by Nelson, diving low to his right.
Nelson was the busier of the two goalkeepers, but Chris Whelpdale had his first sight of goal in the 26th minute after Cheltenham failed to cut out a low cross, but he blazed high and wide of the near post.
Central defender and Gills skipper Adam Barrett directed a powerful header wide after a long throw from Whelpdale, but Cheltenham were always a threat on the break.
Mohamed made one trademark charge through the middle, but he elected to go it alone rather than find a team mate and he was eventually dispossessed.
Gillingham attacked again immediately and Scott Brown had to touch a cross from full-back Matt Fish over the bar.
Jermaine McGlashan’s fine cross in the 40th minute was headed over from a good position by Russ Penn, but Gillingham’s leading scorer Danny Kedwell had the best chance of the first half a minute later.
Jack Payne’s shot was parried by Brown straight to the burly front man and he seemed certain to score with the goal gaping, but his effort crashed back off the bar.
Cheltenham had been the better side overall, but it remained goalless at the break.
Deon Burton went on for Gillingham eight minutes into the second half and Myles Weston shot wide on the volley after Alan Bennett’s headed clearance and Brown reacted superbly to block a shot from Barrett in the 58th minute.
Cheltenham were pinned back for the first time and only some sterling defensive work kept free-scoring Gillingham at bay.
Bennett made a perfectly-timed excellent challenge on Whelpdale, who had skipped past several challenges.
McGlashan temporarily relieved the pressure with a lightning run down the right and a cross which was fumbled by Nelson, but Carter could not capitalise and the ball was scrambled to safety.
Burton sent a diving header wide at the other end as the entertaining fare continued, but neither side could break through and Cheltenham were left to reflect on an excellent night’s work and a valuable away point.
GILLINGHAM: S Nelson; M Fish, C Davies, A Barrett, A Frampton; R Vincelot, L Montrose, J Payne (D Burton 53), C Whelpdale; M Weston (D Jackman 74), D Kedwell (A Birchall 87). Subs not used: T Flanagan, B Strevens, T Forecast, J Hare.
CHELTENHAM TOWN: S Brown; S Jombati, A Bennett, S Elliott, B Jones; J McGlashan, M Pack, R Penn (S Deering 87), D Carter, K Mohamed (J Goulding 81); C Zebroski. Subs not used: K Lowe, D Duffy, C Roberts, S Harrad, D Andrew.
REFEREE: F Graham.
ATTENDANCE: 6,096 (109 away).
STAR MAN: Sido Jombati.
To relive the action as it unfolded, click below: