COVENTRY CITY 2-2 GILLINGHAM BY KEV MONKS
Highfield Road remains a happy hunting ground for Gillingham after the Sky Blues threw away a two goal lead to finish up with a point.
After the defeat at Leeds,Peter Reid, who it appears was in line for the Blackburn managers job if the FA of Wales had rejected Blackburn's wishes to speak to Mark Hughes rang the changes.
Out when Scott Shearer who only admitted responsibility for only one of the goals at Leeds and Reid, obviously under orders from Alex Ferguson at Manchester United gave teenager Luke Steele his debut rather than Andy Marriott who has performed heroics for City Reserves this season.
With Louis Carey serving a one game ban,Andy Whing came in to the back four along side Richard Shaw,Steve Staunton and Dean Leacock on his home debut.
Reid went for what was a five man midfield minus the injured Neil Wood with Andy Morrell playing very deep and leaving the club's latest signing Stern John up front on his own.
Attacking the East Stand, Michael Doyle, who was confronted by an enraged supporter as he made his way to his car,was the first player into the book of referee Mike "Stupid Boy " Pike in the second minute for a early foul which led to Gillingham getting a corner that Stephen Hughes was on hand to deal with.
Now Andy Whing is more attack minded than Louis Carey and the ACCSCAG Young Player Of The Year got down the right flank in the seventh minute before being fouled. Michael Doyle who now takes all the set pieces took the kick and the ball was kicked away for a corner.
This came to nothing but a minute later a good ball on the left by Hughes was met by the diving head of City's Trinidad & Tobago international who did not get the direction or power he would have liked and City reject Steve Banks made the save.
City won another corner three minutes later when Andy Morrell did well with a right footer to hit a shot which was deflected out of play.
When Gillingham did get the ball it was former Wimbledon FC player Patrick Agyemang who looked the liveliest. In the 14th minute,he put Dean Leacock under pressure and the loanee from Fulham conceded the corner.
After Nicky Southall had put the ball somewhere in the West Stand with a twenty yarder,Steve Staunton got down the left found John who fed Morrell on the right of the penalty. However, Morrell could only muster a poor effort which Banks pounced on.
Another run by Whing saw him skip past John Hills in the 24th minute and send over a low drive which was hacked away for City's fourth corner of the game.
With Banks punching away a long cross from Doyle,a low drive from Morrell won City two more corners.
Coventry were now well on top and in the 28th minute,Andy Morrell slipped at the vital moment as another good cross from Doyle came in his direction.
A minute later, as Tim Sherwood advanced,in came Ian Cox who took the former England midfielder down and became the second caution of a not too unpleasant September evening.
This gave City a free kick which Sherwood got up to take. He found Doyle who played in Andy Morrell on the left inside the penalty area. The City striker did not hit the best of shots but his low drive,somehow squirmed under Banks and went into the net to delight the vast majority of the 11,966 crowd.
Andy Hessenthaler who again left himself out his side's starting line-up watched as his side won a 32nd minute corner and then a free kick which Iwan Roberts whom Peter Reid had tried to sign in the summer jumped for and Tim Sherwood sliced away for a corner. When the kick came in, Steele gathered with consummate ease.
City went up the other end and Stephen Hughes won a corner with a looping shot which deflected over Banks.
In the 36th minute,Steve Staunton who was enjoying some considerable freedom down the left flank and found John who in turn found Whing on the opposite wing and the right back drilled the ball across the face of the goal and out for a goal kick.
Banks' kick went up the other end and fell for Leicester reject Darren Byfield who turned and fired over the bar. Mr Pike must have seen something we missed as he awarded the visitors a corner.
As half-time approached,Banks had to be quick off his line to intercept a Barrett cross as Stern John came in.
Possession was quickly won back and Hughes and Barrett combined to send the Irishman away down the left. He was brought down and a free kick on the edge of the penalty area given. The ball was knocked back to Tim Sherwood who fired very wide of the goal as the half-time whistle echoed around a half-full Highfield Road.
Straight from the kick-off,the City defence panicked and gave the visitors a corner. This was caught by Steele and City broke up the field. Steve Staunton took control of the ball and went into the penalty area. Across came Nicky Southall,and down went Staunton. The Gillingham players surrounded the referee who pointed to the spot.
The ball was handed to Stern John who had scored on his Forest and Birmingham debuts. The former El Dorado striker stepped up and opened his account with Coventry by sticking the ball low in between the left hand post and the diving Banks.
Two goals to the good and City looked comfortable with three more corners following. But we,City supporters know to our cost that you have to keep scoring the goals at one end and keep them out at the other.
The 132 Gillingham fans in the upper tier of the Sky Blue stand were now sensing that all was not totally lost and in the 64th minute, the visitors reduced the arrears.
Banks sent the ball upfield to Iwan Roberts who passed it on for Darren Byfield. Across came two City defenders,Byfield slipped the ball in between them to Patrick Agyemang who stroked the ball past Steele and into the net.
Graham Barrett had not played particularly well on the left and in the 71st minute,he was replaced by Patrick Suffo.
The Cameroonian had only been on the pitch for two minutes when Stern John showed some good presence to centre for Suffo to stab at the ball which was subsequently blocked.
The miss proved costly as in the 76th minute,Gillingham levelled the game when Darren Byfield found Patrick Agyemang who got round the back of Steve Staunton and hit a shot which bounced up off Steele and went into the top corner of the net.
The mood around the ground sank as Sherwood on the right found John who crossed for Morrell some three yards out. The former Wrexham striker managed to get a touch and it was only a touch as Danny Spiller kicked the ball off the goal-line and away to safety.
Stephen Hughes had taken a knock earlier and was replaced by Bjarni Gudjonsson in the 79th minute and Hessenthaler followed suit taking off Roberts and replacing him with Andrew Crofts.
Three minutes later,City attacked once more through Morrell on the right. He found Stern John some six yards out. The new boy tried to wriggle past his marker and shoot but unselfishly squared for the unmarked Patrick Suffo who was some three foot out of goal.
With Banks helpless all Suffo had to do was touch the ball and it was in but no. Somehow he managed to send the ball out for a goal kick.
The air turned even bluer than when Gillingham had equalised and some City fans even started to head for the exits disgusted at the wasting of this easy chance and the dropping of three points.
Gillingham brought on Mamady Sidibe with four minutes of normal time left and in the last minute, A Morrell shot hit a Gillingham defender. A huge cry of handball went up but Mr Pike indicated that the ball had hit the players' chest and waved play on to the disgust of some of the West Enders and Tim Sherwood who twice confronted the referee to voice his objection to the decision.
Three minutes were added on, as City huffed and puffed to no avail and left the pitch to the sound of boos ringing around the ground.
HT CCFC 1-0 GFC FT CCFC 2-2 GFC
GOALS Andy Morrell (30 mins 1-0)
Stern John (47 mins 2-0)
Patrick Agyemang (64 mins & 76 mins)
Booked Michael Doyle,Ian Cox
Man Of The Match - Stephen Hughes took the share of the votes from Andy Morrell with nominations for Whing,Sherwood and John. However the best player on the pitch was Patrick Agyemang
Mare Of The Match - Patrick Suffo for his incredible miss
Steele,Whing,Staunton,Leacock,Shaw, Hughes (Gudjonsson 79),Doyle,Sherwood,Barrett (Suffo 71),Morrell,John SNU Shearer,Johnson, Giddings