Gillingham 1-1 Portsmouth: Blues denied Priestfield win after Gareth Evans strike is cancelled out late on

Pompey picked up what could prove to be an important point on the road as they drew 1-1 with in-form Gillingham in League One.

Wednesday, 1st January 2020, 12:39 pm
Updated Wednesday, 1st January 2020, 4:03 pm
Pompey celebrate Gareth Evans' 36th-minute goal. Picture: Jason Brown

With the hosts unbeaten at home since early November, a tough task awaited a Blues side still hurting from Sunday's 3-1 loss at MK Dons.

However, Kenny Jackett's side responded as well against a Gills side brimming with confidence - battling out to secure a share of the spoils at Priestfield.

The recalled Gareth Evans put Pompey in front on 36 minutes following a well-timed run.

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Gareth Evans is challenged by former Blues team-mate Stuart O'Keefe. Picture: Jason Brown

But his effort was cancelled out 11 minutes from time, with substitute Alex Jacubiak firing past goalkeeper Alex Bass from close range.

Buoyed by a seven-match winning streak on home soil prior to kick-off, the hosts immediately displayed their Priestfield confidence.

The Gills' first venture forward saw them appealing for a penalty when the ball appeared to strike the arm of Christian Burgess. But referee Alan Young was having none of it and waved play on.

Seconds later, though, they were back on the attack.

On this occasion, Connor Ogilvie's long throw found Oliver Lee in plenty of space inside the box – but he was unable to beat the recalled Alex Bass in the Pompey goal, who saved well before Brandon Hanlan fired over the rebound.

It was exactly the start expected from the home side against a Pompey outfit with only two wins from their previous 10 away games in the league.

Yet Kenny Jackett's troops steadily established themselves and, in the 10th minute, Evans – one of two changes made by the manager to his starting line-up – saw his effort saved by keeper Jack Bonham after the Gills No1 had initially failed to deal with Burgess' dangerous header.

That saw a sustained period of Blues pressure, with Evans again testing Bonham.

Following good link-up play between James Bolton and Marcus Harness, he took a touch before firing goalwards – but on this occasion the keeper took the sting out of the shot before Barry Fuller cleared off the line.

A tame Harness shot on 20 minutes followed, before it proved third time lucky for Evans.

Immediately after Ogilvie headed narrowly wide from Lee's corner-kick, Bass launched the ball forward.

Harness found himself in possession deep in the Gillingham box in the 36th minute and he laid the ball off for the onrushing Evans to fire home from close range.

The hosts responded with former Blues old-boy Stuart O'Keefe rattling the crossbar after he bulldozed his way through the Pompey defence.

Yet it was the visitors who nearly extended their lead on the stroke of half-time.

Ronan Curtis thought he had continued his fine recent scoring form when he won a challenge with Bonham, with the ball then ending up in the back of the net.

However, the referee deemed the match-up illegal and ruled out the goal.

No doubt with seething manager Steve Evans' half-time words still ringing in their ears, Gillingham started the second half on the front foot.

O'Keefe's angled shot brought a save out of Bass, before Lee's volley from 30 yards raised the hopes of the home crowd.

The Blues looked capable on the counter-attack, though, with Curtis seeing his left-footed shot blocked.

Tom Naylor was appealing for a penalty at the back post just before the hour mark following good play between Ben Close and Anton Walkes down the left.

Meanwhile, on 71 minutes, Ellis Harrison headed narrowly wide from a Curtis corner from the right.

Gillingham were determined to get something out of the game, however, and Fuller reminded the Blues of that on 78 minutes when he stung the fingertips of Bass with a rasping effort from 30 yards.

Then, a minute later, the hosts secured the equaliser they craved.

The ball fell to substitute Alex Jakubiak in a crowded Pompey area after what looked to be a handball by the Gills.

Yet as the Blues hesitated, the on-loan Watford man carried on and he fired past Bass from 12 yards.

Pompey's response was to make a double substitution, with Oli Hawkins sent on to replace Evans in an atacking role, and John Marquis swapping places with Harrison.

Yet neither could find a winner for the Blues who had to settle for a share of the spoils after six minutes of time added on was applied following an entertaining and hard-fought second half.

Pompey remain ninth the table after preventing three straight defeats on the road.