Football: Gillingham 2 - 2 Rochdale

Date published: 24 January 2021

Gillingham substitute John Akinde netted a 93rd minute equaliser to deny Rochdale a first win in six they were held to a 2-2 draw away at Gillingham. Brian Barry-Murphy’s side were seconds away from victory until Akinde rifled in from close range after Dale had only partially cleared a corner. The visitors had earlier come from a goal down to lead thanks to a brace from fullback Jimmy Keohane after Vadaine Oliver put the hosts into the lead just before the break.

Rochdale’s injury list got longer before the long trip to Kent as strikers Stephen Humphrys and Jake Beesley joined the queue for the physio’s room although Beesley was still on the bench at Gills. With defenders Eoghan O’Connell, Paul McShane and Jim McNulty all missing through injury and suspension, the Dale manager brought in Gabriel Osho on loan from Luton Town with the 22-year-old going straight into the starting line-up alongside fellow loanee Hayden Roberts.

Having been beaten by Gillingham (1-4) at the Crown Oil Arena back in December, Dale wanted to gain revenge on Steve Evans' side and almost took the lead early on through skipper Ollie Rathbone. The former Manchester United player saw two efforts go close; a deflected shot narrowly missed the target whilst a dipping shot on ten minutes had goalkeeper Jack Bonham back peddling with his fingertip save pushing the ball onto the crossbar and behind for a corner.

Rochdale’s leading scorer this season Matty Lund squandered a glorious chance to open the scoring when he was left unmarked six yards out but his downwards header from Aaron Morley’s free kick wide on the right bounced over the bar.

Gillingham started to grow into the game as half-time drew closer; Oliver Lee’s shot from an acute angle was turned behind for a corner from which the hosts would take the lead going into the break.

Another short corner routine saw Callum Slattery whip in a cross that found Vadaine Oliver with the striker's initial shot being kept out by Gavin Bazunu but the stopper couldn’t do anything to stop the follow up when the ball fell back at the feet of Oliver.

Gillingham started the second half on the front foot and almost doubled their lead eight minutes after the re-start but for a superb save from Bazunu. Jordan Graham’s centre ball was met by Connor Ogilvie seven yards out but somehow the Dale keeper kept out his bullet header.

Thomas O’Connor should have done better just three minutes later. The fullback picked the pocket of Kwadwo Baah on the half-way line and ran towards goal, his shot flashing across the face of goal when a pass to a team-mate in a more central position looked the better option.

Those misses looked to be vital for Gillingham as Dale turned the game around with two goals in six minutes from Keohane. A neat move down the left from Rathbone and Baah then saw the defender latch onto a first-time ball clipped over the defence from Lund, taking a touch to steady himself, before drilling a shot across goal that nestled inside the far post.

Brian Barry-Murphy's side then took the lead shortly after, again through Keohane. Stephen Dooley set Dale away on a counterattack down the left before passing to Kwadwo Baah. The 17-year-old, who was a thorn in the Gillingham side throughout, unselfishly picked out Keohane’s run with the defender drilling a shot that flew in the bottom left-hand corner for his fifth of the campaign.

With stoppage time almost up there was heartbreak for Rochdale when Akinde scored his 3rd goal against Dale this season. Another long throw from O’Connor wasn’t dealt with, a clearing header only made it as far as Dempsey with the former Fleetwood midfielder picking out the substitute who turned and fired into the net.

The point means Dale stay out of the bottom four although a maximum haul from this game would have been a real tonic going into a home game with Oxford on Tuesday.


Rochdale: Bazunu, McLaughlin, Osho, Roberts, Keohane, Dooley, Lund, Rathbone ©, Morley Baah (Hopper 85), Newby
Substitutes: (not used) Beesley, Brierley, Done, Tavares Bradley

Gillingham: Bonham, Jackson, Tucker, O’Connor, Ogilvie, Slattery (Willock 89), Dempsey ©, McDonald (Johnson 75), Graham, Oliver (Akinde 75), Lee
Substitutes: (not used) Walsh, Lintott, McKenzie, O’Keefe

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