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REVIEW | Gillingham 1-0 Wrexham AFC

A disappointing afternoon in Kent

26 February 2024

Feature

REVIEW | Gillingham 1-0 Wrexham AFC

A disappointing afternoon in Kent

26 February 2024

Timothée Dieng's tap-in was enough for Gillingham, as they edged past Wrexham by a single goal at the Priestfield Stadium.

Phil Parkinson once again rung the changes after the draw to MK Dons in the midweek, with Jordan Tunnicliffe, Ryan Barnett, Elliot Lee and Steven Fletcher all running to the starting line-up. 

This meant that Lee and James McClean would be marshalling the midfield, with Andy Cannon sitting a bit deeper. 

For the first twenty or so minutes, this trio lived up to the excitement. 

Lee and McClean often had acres of space when the ball was on the opposite side of the pitch, and with their abilities to drive forward with the ball, a dangerous proposition spelled for the Gills if Wrexham shifted the ball quick enough.  

Cannon manoeuvred well around the experienced Welsh international of Jonny Williams, who was playing a very high number ten role in defence. This often equated to Cannon receiving the ball past Williams, allowing Wrexham to progress through the Gills’ half that bit easier. 

Sadly, this didn’t equate to many chances, let alone goals.  

The substantial first half chances for Parkinson’s side came more so through counter attacks. 

Twice, Jack Marriott did exceptionally well to shepherd the ball forwards inside the Wrexham half, allowing McClean to run the length of the pitch towards the Gillingham goal. 

Both times, McClean spread the ball to Barnett. Running at his man, Barnett once opted to square the ball back to McClean and once to shoot, with neither attack resulting in 40-year-old Glenn Morris making a save. 

As these moves broke out, Wrexham had two-on-ones. By the time that the shots came off, the home side had ample numbers back and so credit must be given to them for their defensive perseverance, as the counter attacks were by no means slow. 

Although the Gills started to gather more of the ball as the half drew on, fans grew impatient with their slow tempo, as they offered little threat to Wrexham’s backline. 

Even though half time was called with the game goalless, it was 45 minutes of a competent away performance.

Max Cleworth once again handled the challenge posed by the opposition's forwards well. This too was the case when referee Scott Simpson penalised the centre back for having his shirt pulled by Oli Hawkins on the edge of the Wrexham box. 

Gillingham’s Max Clark chose to swing his free-kick into the box, instead of Remeao Hutton shooting. As Clark was about to curl the ball in, Marriott realised the danger and ran to the back-post to cover the unmarked Conor Masterson.  

It was too late though, as the ball fell invitingly onto the foot of the Gillingham number four. He pushed the ball towards the far corner, where Dieng was placed to tap it over the line and give Gillingham the lead within ten minutes of the restart.

Aside from Morris’ great reaction save to deny Fletcher’s bicycle kick in the 73rd minute, where he ended up sprawling across his line to keep the ball out, Wrexham created little in their fightback. 

Parkinson said post-match: “Football is about having that clinical, ruthlessness in the final third and we’ve not shown that enough.” 

It was a case of doing too much, amplified by substitute Jordan Davies choosing to square a loose ball to fellow substitute Sam Dalby in added time, instead of pulling the trigger on his lethal left foot.

The Red Dragons have the ability to right the wrongs immediately, as they venture to Gloucestershire tomorrow to take on relegation battling Forest Green Rovers. 

As none of the three sides currently above Wrexham are playing tomorrow, Parkinson’s men have the opportunity to go within a point off top spot. 


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