Burton Albion were brought crashing down from their lofty fourth position in the table as they had two men red carded and lost 3-1 at Gillingham. A lively first half saw the teams go in level at the break with Billy Kee cancelling out Danny Kedwell's opener for the Gills. the Brewers then saw the game get further away from them as both Aaron Webster and Ryan Austin picked up second yellow cards to make it a day to forget in Kent for the Brewers.
Following last weekend's home victory over Swindon Town that lifted Albion into fourth place in the npower League 2 table manager Paul Peschisolido was able to name an unchanged side and bench for the visit to promotion hopefuls Gillingham. The Gills had suffered a barren spell in front of goal prior to last weekend's fixtures when they notched a 6-1 victory away at Hereford United.
Former Gills man Chris Palmer was named on the bench for his first visit back to Priestfield as the Brewers looked to extend their current run of form.
It was albion who made the more positive start and they spurned a great opportunity to open the scoring in the fifth minute. Justin Richards found space down the right and pulled the ball back for Jacques Maghoma who failed to make a decent contact on the ball as it came across him. Jimmy Phillips also posed a threat breaking forward moments later although his shot was also off target.
Albion's strong opening continued as Billy Kee battled away well inside the box and when Aaron Webster was brought down just outside the box, Ross Flitney in the Gills had to tip over Justin Richards shot.
Gillingham survived the early Brewers attacks and began to settle with new loan striker Frank Nouble looking a threat in attack with his pace and power. However when the first home attempt came it was from midfielder Chris Whelpdale who turned on the edge of the box to fire a low shot that Ross Atkins dropped onto neatly, dropping to his left.
Ryan Austin picked up the first booking of the match in the 19th minute for a foul on Nouble and it was the prelude to Gillingham opening the scoring. From the free kick just outside the box Danny Jackman crossed in and former AFC Wimbledon striker Danny KEDWELL got up to head home from close range.
The goal seemed to inspire the GIlls and they immediately set about the task of making it two but some resilient defending kept Albion in it. Billy Kee made a nuisance of himself on the edge of the Gills box on 27 minutes and although it looked as if he was being pulled back by Garry Richards inside the box the young striker still got his shot away although it went over the bar.
Luke Rooney, a tricky wide player was next to try his luck after a jinking run inside from the wing but his low shot from just outside the area was straight at Atkins who dealt with the danger comfortably.
Albion struck back with their first ever goal at Priesfield in the 40th minute. The move was started by Billy KEE who found Jacques Maghoma with a lovely pass. Maghoma found Justin Richards inside the box but just when it looked as if the Brewers leading scorer had missed an opportunity to shoot he was able to pick out his fellow striker who finished off the move he started with a close range header.
Nouble was close to putting the home side back in front on the stroke of half time but his angled drive was cleared away by Andy Corbett. In the aftermath as Albion scrmabled the ball away Tony James was left injured inside the box. Unable to continue the in form defender was replaced by Darren Moore in stoppage time.
Half time: Gillingham 1-1 Burton Albion
Gillingham flew out of the blocks at the start of the second half and but for a great fingertip save from Ross Atkins they would have been back in front within 45 seconds of the restart. A move down the right found Nouble in the box and from a similar position that Richards set up Kee, the West Ham man pulled the ball back for Chris Whelpdale who saw his rising drive tipped over.
The hosts did not have long to wait with the second goal eventually coming in the 49th minute. Frank NOUBLE was fouled 35 yards out by Moore and when the free kick was launched to the back post Garry Richards headed against the crossbar, Chris Whelpdale laying the loose ball into the path of the West Ham loanee who smashed home from close range.
Gillingham were three one up a minute later. Another attack saw Danny Jackman lay an angled ball across the six yard box and KEDWELL was on hand to tap home at the far post for his second of the game.
To make matters worse for Albion they were reduced to ten men in the 56th minute. Aaron Webster, yellow carded in stoppage time at the end of the first half, was caught napping as Kedwell tried to burst through down the right and a clumsy challenge brought down the Gills striker. Referee Garry Sutton was left with little option but to show a second yellow and the inevitable red card. Danny Blanchett was immediately introduced at the expense of Jimmy Phillips to bring the back four back up to it s full complement.
The pace of the game dropped significantly as Gillingham seemed content with their man advantage and a two goal lead in tact.
Albion attacks were now few and far between with the home side pushing for more goals when the chances came along. Moore had to use all of his experience to outmuscle Nouble as the two ran into the area with a firm shoulder to shoulder challenge seeing out the danger.
A bad afternoon got worse in the 79th minute as Ryan Austin also picked up a second yellow card followed by red. The central defender conceded a free kick but decided to argue the decision with the linesman with referee Sutton opting to book the Albion man for his needless show of dissent. It was the second time in six months that Albion had seen two red cards following a similar outcome at Oxford back in March. Such were Albion's available resources that Billy Kee was forced into emergency centre back duties.
Former Gills man Palmer was brought on to a welcome reception from his former fans when he replaced Maghoma with six minutes to play.
Substitute Stefan Payne was denied a fourth goal for the Gills when his angled effort was put wide of the post by the merest touch from Atkins.
GILLINGHAM: Flitney, Frampton, Lee, Richards, Whelpdale, Kedwell (Oli, 90+2), Rooney (Montrose, 71), Lawrence, Fish, Jackman, Nouble (Payne, 81). Substitutes: Weston, Gazzaniga.
ALBION: Atkins; Corbett, James (Moore, 45+3), Austin, Webster; Phillips (Blanchett, 57), Bolder, McGrath, Maghoma (Palmer, 84); Richards, Kee. Substitutes: Poole, Yussuf.
Referee: Mr. G.Sutton (Lincolnshire)
GOALS: Gillingham - Kedwell (20, 50). Nouble (49); Albion - Kee (40)
Attendance: 4,946 (79 away)