Gillingham 1 (Purrington o.g 56) Charlton 1 (Lee 18).
Owners of a one-goal lead (and good value for it) at half-time on a gorgeous Kentish evening, Charlton seemed on course to stop the recent rot of disappointing results at Priestfield. Masters of midfield, where the canny nous of Ben Watson combined with the ceaseless industry of Elliot
Lee to control the key exchanges, they also had, in Corey Blackett-Taylor, a force of nature in unstoppable mood on either flank.
A blend of pace, power and skill, Blackett-Taylor's treatment of left back Robbie McKenzie bordered on cruel and unusual punishment. He had already turned the defender inside out on the right wing before popping up on the other side to continue the process. McKenzie duly followed him but was beaten by the youngster's stop-start acceleration which brought him into the space he needed to find Lee with a hard low cross. A firm finish from Lee put the Addicks into a deserved 18th minute lead which they seemed more than capable of increasing.
Blackett-Taylor had already provided an inviting chance for Conor Washington to volley wide, then was off target himself when set up by Ben Purrington. Charlton were briefly rampant and should have doubled their lead when Lee's glorious pass sent Washington through; Jack Tucker's last ditch tackle snuffed out the danger but a second goal seemed inevitable. "It's just a shame we didn't score a few more goals in that important time," ruefully remarked Nigel Adkins, an understandable reaction if a trifle optimistic in regretting the lack of "a few more goals." Blimey, steady on there, Nige. Your chaps would have been grateful for even one more.
It's fair to say, though, that the Addicks had been as good in the first half here as they'd been embarrassingly bad during the same period at Adams Park three days previously. Their defence, organised by old soldier Jason Pearce and given muscle by Sam Lavelle, was sound while Albie Morgan responded to Lee's reassuring presence with his best performance so far this season. Up front, Josh Davison protected the ball, fought for his rights, and was a busy handful. It was the perfect half but it couldn't - and didn't - last.
The interval replacement of McKenzie by Danny Lloyd was inevitable while Steve Evans' introduction of Gerald Sithole for Charlie Kelman helped Gills to match up more effectively in the middle of the park. But it was the growing influence of skipper Kyle Dempsey which tipped the balance in Gillingham's favour. Carrying the fight into the Addicks' heartland, Dempsey demanded the ball and used it to devastating effect.
Adkins' Addicks had already survived a raucous -and possibly justified - penalty appeal for handball and a warning shot across their bows when Craig McGillivray saved smartly from Lloyd before they conceded just 11 minutes after the break. It was Dempsey who did the damage by working a short corner on the left, where Lee was unsupported, cutting into the penalty area and shooting powerfully against the far post. Purrington was an innocent victim in turning the rebound into his own net. With over a half hour left on the clock, the visitors were in sudden danger of capsizing. But they weren't entirely finished themselves. With cover doubled on him when in possession, Blackett-Taylor was quieter after the break but still had his moments. Bursting clear on the right, his firm, accurate cross was driven goalwards by Davison but saved magnificently by Cumming. The Chelsea loanee was even more impressive in making an instinctive one-handed stop to keep out Lavelle's close range volley. At the other end, meanwhile, Lloyd took aim from long distance and almost uprooted the left upright with a venomous drive.
A late post-script to an evenly fought clash was almost supplied by Jayden Stockley, who headed Alex Gilbey's outswinging corner narrowly over the bar but Charlton, by that time, were thankful for a point. It inched them above Crewe and Shrewsbury into 21st place in the League One table. Hardly cause for celebration but so much better than nothing. Because for the time being, the Addicks' priority must be to climb out of the division's relegation basement. Once that's accomplished, the sky's the limit -well mid-table anyway. One small step at a time and before you know it, you're looking up not down.
Gillingham: Cumming, Ehmer, Tucker, MacDonald, Dempsey, Kelman (Sithole 46), Lee, McKenzie (Lloyd 46), Adshead, Bennett (Tutonda 74), Oliver. Not used: Chapman, Reeves, Akinde, Akehurst. Booked: Ehmer, Lee.
Charlton: McGillivray, Matthews, Pearce, Lavelle, Purrington, Watson, Lee (Gilbey 74), Morgan, Blackett-Taylor, Washington (Leko 46), Davison (Stockley 80). Not used: Harness, Famewo, Kirk, Clare.
Referee: Keith Stroud.