Late goal denies York victory
Sat 26th Jan 3pm
York City were only denied victory by a late equaliser from title-chasing Gillingham's returning substitute Cody McDonald in a 1-1 draw at the Priestfield Stadium.
The Minstermen had earlier taken a shock lead when Patrick McLaughlin's 17th minute corner was helped into his own net by Charlie Lee. And they could have even added to it as skipper Chris Smith headed a McLaughlin free-kick against an upright, while Matty Blair had late penalty claims denied.
Manager Gary Mills handed an immediate debut to latest on loan signing Jack O'Connell, with Daniel Parslow moving across to left-back to replace ankle-injury victim Jamal Fyfield. Lanre Oyebanjo and Alex Rodman were both recalled in place of the unavailable David McGurk and Jamie Reed.
Having recently lost the leadership of the table, Gillingham were looking to recover from successive home defeats and Charlie Allen headed behind early on before leading scorer Danny Kedwell dragged wide.
York's first threat arrived just past the quarter-hour when McLaughlin's cross was knocked back by Smith but there were no takers as the ball drifted dangerously across the face of goal.
But a minute later the visitors were in front with McLaughlin's inswinging corner towards the near post being diverted into his own net by Lee as goalkeeper Stuart Nelson desperately tried to prevent it from crossing the line.
Lee sought to make instant amends when hooking into the side-netting before almost heading an attempted back-pass over his own keeper, who just managed to rescue the situation ahead of Blair.
The Minstermen were continuing to appear bright with McLaughlin seeing another effort blocked and Leon Legge battling to hold off the threat of Jason Walker following Blair's inviting through ball.
In between times their opponents had already made their first substitution with Myles Weston replacing Andy Frampton. He soon witnessed Allen's corner being met by skipper Adam Barrett's header and producing a great save from York keeper Michael Ingham five minutes before the interval.
The Gills made another change as they started the second-half in purposeful fashion, until Blair's shot was parried by their keeper Nelson at the expense of a corner. McLaughlin delivery was then flicked on by Walker for Legge to clear just ahead of the arriving Parslow.
At the opposite end, Ingham parried away a Lee corner while Barrett headed over a Joe Martin free-kick before McLaughlin tried to surprise home keeper Nelson from distance.
Gillingham made their final change ten minutes into the second-half with McDonald, to great acclaim from the home support, replacing Adam Birchall. But it was Steven Gregory soon booked for a heavy challenge on Walker and skipper Smith heading McLaughlin's resultant free-kick against an upright.
York keeper Ingham next fell to his right to gather Lee's 30-yard attempt before the visitors replied with Blair cutting in from out wide and having a deflected shot saved by Nelson. Scott Kerr's follow-up was also blocked while Parslow's superb break from his own half wasn't matched by his final pass as Walker waited in space.
There was then an unfortunate clash of heads involving Oyebanjo and Lee which saw both players eventually being replaced. Gills substitute McDonald's first real involvement was a harmless effort straight through to Ingham, who also gathered Chris Whelpdale's free-kick after Smith was penalised for challenging Kedwell.
But with five minutes remaining the home side were level when Weston's cross from the right was forced in at the far post by McDonald - who had only rejoined the club on loan from Coventry City the previous day.
Back came a spirited York side with Blair almost setting up the supporting Michael Potts and Walker volleying at Nelson from 25-yards. Ingham blocked from Lee at the other end before the visitors were claiming a penalty when Blair was challenged from behind after collecting Walker's pass inside the area.
Potts then almost forced his way through during seven minutes of added time as his side continued their impressive record this season when visiting the leading promotion contenders.
Gillingham: Nelson, Martin, Legge, Frampton (Weston 38), Barrett, Whelpdale, Lee, C. Allen (Fish 46), Gregory, Kedwell, Birchall (McDonald 55)
subs (unused): Forecast, Davies, Muggleton, Burton
Goals: McDonald (85)
York City: Ingham, Oyebanjo (Challinor 81), Smith, O'Connell, Parslow, Kerr, Potts, McLaughlin, Blair, Walker, Rodman (Bullock 90)
subs (unused): Musselwhite, T. Allan, McReady, Johnson, Everson
Goals: Lee OG (17)
Ref: D. Phillips (West Sussex)
Att: 4,893 (258 York)