Sears back but Blues held in the rain
Freddie Sears returned to action after 10 months out but Town had to settle for a point at a wet and windy Portman Road.
The Town striker played the final stages after recovering from a cruciate ligament injury and threatened a dream return with his first touch but the ball skimmed through to ‘keeper Jack Bonham.
Gillingham had the better off the first-half and Will Norris made a couple of vital saves, Town were better after the break, with Kayden Jackson the closest to ending the stalemate.
Luke Chambers sat out the game through suspension as Town made three changes to the team that lost at Portsmouth at the weekend.
Norris was straight into the action, saving from Brandon Hanlan after the ball broke to the Gillingham striker inside the box, Blues responded with Alan Judge just shy of getting on a cross at the far post, Olly Lee then sending in a corner that was forced away by Norris under pressure.
Norris dived to his right to see Mikael Mandron’s shot slide past the far post as Gillingham enjoyed the better of the opening stages, Toto Nsiala doing brilliantly to rob Hanlan 10 yards out after initially letting the frontman get in behind him.
Norris was relieved when his clearance went straight to Mandron but Gillingham didn’t capitalise, Luke Woolfenden holding strong to finally clear after the visitors camped around the Town box.
Blues were struggling to get a foothold in the game and James Norwood picked up a yellow card as frustrations grew, Town getting a first real look at goal when Jackson fired into the sidenetting on the half hour.
Town began to exert some pressure on the Gillingham goal, Jackson denied by Max Ehmer at the far post, Norwood beaten to Gwion Edwards’ cross, then Jackson raced clear down the left but his pass went behind the supporting Norwood in the last opening of the first-half.
Edwards almost got on the end of Norwood’s header on the edge of the box as the second-half got underway, Jackson diverting a header wide from Edwards’ delivery, the former Accrington striker then seeing a cross deflect off a defender and goes just wide of the far post.
Jackson fizzed the ball across goal after good interplay featuring Judge, another deflection from Jon Nolan’s delivery just wide again as Town pressed for the breakthrough, Judge then trying to release Jackson with a reserve pass but the ball skimmed away to safety.
Gillingham had a golden chance to open the scoring 15 minutes from time when Thomas O’Connor had a clear sight of goal but Nolan did enough to deflect his shot just wide, the visitors then denied twice in quick succession as Norris beat out Lee’s close range drive, then Ehmer’s follow up effort was blocked.
Sears was given a massive welcome back when he replaced Donacien for the last 10 minutes and with his first touch, he was almost in on goal from Luke Garbutt’s long ball but the ball drifted to safety and while both sides searched for a winner in difficult conditions, the breakthrough wouldn’t come.
Town: Norris, Donacien (Sears 80), Nsiala, Woolfenden, Garbutt, Edwards, Skuse, Judge, Nolan, Jackson, Norwood. Subs not used: Holy, Dozzell, Huws, Keane, Wilson, Downes. Booked: Norwood, Nsiala, Judge, Edwards.
Gillingham: Bonham, O’Keefe, Ehmer, Ogilvie, Hanlan, Mandron (Jakubiak 84), Fuller, Jones, Lee, O’Connor, Tucker. Subs not used: Walsh, Hodson, Ndjoli, Charles-Cook, Pringle, Marshall.
Att: 22, 082