Twenty minutes of madness condemned Gillingham Town to their second straight defeat as the Gills were pegged back by Shepton Mallet.
First half strikes from James Billing, Ben Cleverly and Jordan Townsley gave the visitors to Hardings Lane a 3-0 lead at half time as Gillingham were made to pay for some woeful defending. Steve Smith and Nicholas Hewlett found the net for the improved Gills after the break – but Shepton held on for a deserved three points.
“You can’t give three goals away in 20 minutes and expect to win” explained Gills boss Kevan Davies.
“Although we didn’t have the belief that I thought we should have, I thought we looked better. Encouragingly, it’s teenagers that are performing well, so there are some good signs.”
Gillingham made the brighter start and should have opened the scoring inside three minutes when Shepton failed to clear a cross. The ball fell to Kieran Davis but his attempt was comfortably parried by Adam Garlick.
The away side broke the deadlock on 19 minutes when Billing headed home from a corner as the Gills failed to deal with a crowded penalty area. The hosts could have levelled moments later when the ball fell kindly to Tom Pawley after a goalkeeping error – but the attempt was blocked by a defender. Gillingham continued to push and a clever through ball by Will Pike sent Smith though on goal – but his weak attempt was comfortably saved by Garlick.
Ten minutes before the break, Shepton doubled their tally from the penalty spot. A speculative ball into the box by Ryan Mitchell was flapped at by Gills stopper Scott Armstong and Jack Baker pulled back Dave Stone in the box. Cleverley stepped up and sent Armstrong the wrong way to give the away side some breathing space.
Shepton all but wrapped up three points five minutes before the break when a static Gills defence allowed Townsley to steer the ball home from close range.
Davis brought on Dan Barber and Benji Ben Salem at half time – with Barber helping sure up Gillingham’s poor defence.
“I though our centre half Dan Barber made a big difference in the second half” said Davis. “To be honest, I had a conversation with him last Saturday and I said he wasn’t strong enough to play Western League football.
“I think he showed me that he is strong enough, he did very well and he’s a lad that I want to keep.”
The Gills opened their account on 61 minutes from a set piece. A free kick was pumped into the box which the away side failed to clear – allowing Smith to prod home from close range.
Gillingham dominated the second half and should have closed the gap when both Hewlett and Dan Cox had efforts cleared off the line with 13 minutes remaining. Smith scuffed his attempt from close range wide in the final minute – before the Gills grabbed a deserved second goal in stoppage time when Hewlett hooked Ryan Murray’s cross into the top corner.