Fleetwood Town 1 Gillingham 1: Joey Barton’s players drop two points after Paddy Madden’s second-half opener

Saturday, 14th December 2019, 5:30 pm
Fleetwood Town's Harry Souttar and Gillingham's Mikael Mandron
Fleetwood Town's Harry Souttar and Gillingham's Mikael Mandron

In a game badly affected by the blustery conditions, the home side probably enjoyed the better of an unspectacular Sky Bet League One clash but saw two points slip by when Gills’ sub Alex Jakubiak levelled brilliantly.

He controlled the ball well before curling an excellent strike beyond keeper Billy Crellin with just eight minutes left.

Town boss Joey Barton had opted to make a couple of changes after defeat at Blackpool seven days earlier.

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There was a change of captaincy, rather surprisingly, with the recalled Ched Evans being handed the armband and Paul Coutts dropped to the bench.

Evans was back in to partner top scorer Madden up front with the other change coming at the back.

Ashley Eastham was dropped with veteran Peter Clarke coming back into the side to partner Harry Souttar at the heart of the hosts’ defence.

With a gusty, biting wind swirling in all directions once the action got underway, the conditions were certainly not helping either team.

Any pass of distance drifted away from its intended target and the players, evidently, weren’t impressed.

The first chance for either side didn’t come until the 17th minute.

It was the Gills who fluffed it, Barry Fuller sidefooting wastefully over the top from 15 yards following a purposeful surge forward from Stuart O’Keefe.

The Cod Army’s maiden half-chance came in the 28th minute.

It was far from a clear-cut effort with Wes Burns darting down the right flank before sending in a cross-shot which went beyond the far post.

Two minutes later and the same player attempted an almost identical effort which again flew past Jack Bonham’s goal.

It was Burns who almost broke the deadlock on 34 minutes.

Madden’s cross from the right curled in perfectly for the wide man but he planted a firm header just wide.

At the other end, the Gills almost struck two minutes before the break as O’Keefe found space inside the area before seeing a well-struck shot blocked by Clarke.

Barton’s players were swiftly out of the blocks at the start of the second half.

Only a couple of minutes had gone when Kyle Dempsey teed up Danny Andrew down the left, where he smashed an angled strike inches over the top.

The breakthrough finally came from the hosts in the 56th minute.

Josh Morris crossed in low from the left and Madden was perfectly placed to comfortably slot home from eight yards.

The relief around the stadium could be sensed and the home team seemed to have extra confidence on the ball.

Morris tried a cheeky backheel finish, while Burns forced Bonham into an excellent fingertip save in the 80th minute.

After Jakubiak’s superb leveller, Morris came closest to a winner on another frustrating day for Fleetwood.

Fleetwood Town: Crellin, Coyle, Clarke, Souttar, Andrew, Burns, Dempsey, Sowerby, Morris, Evans (Saunders 89), Madden. Subs not used: Cairns, Eastham, McAleny, Coutts, Biggins, Garner.

Gillingham: Bonham, Fuller (Marshall 69), Ehmer, Tuck, Ogilvie, Jones, O’Keefe (Jakubiak 69), O’Connor (Pringle 83), Lee, Mandron, Hanlan. Subs not used: Hodson, Ndjoli, Charles-Cook, Walsh.

Referee: Graham Salisbury.

Attendance: 2,468.