THIS is a ground where Rotherham have ventured with some trepidation in recent years. Not surprising really as no Millers side had won there since 1988 and in the subsequent 10 visits up to last night since then had managed just two draws and suffered eight defeats.
Well, they still struggle to win in this part of Kent but at least they earned themselves a draw, a well deserved one, and in the final half-hour - in which they were well on top - they looked by far the likeliest side to win it including right into stoppage time when, from a corner, Jason Taylor’s header flashed right across goal with no one able to get a touch.
It stretches their unbeaten run to four matches but they will feel they may just have missed an opportunity in this second half.
Missing from the Millers side which drew at Burton were Richard Naylor and Kieron Cadogan.
Naylor came off a few minutes from time on Saturday with what manager Andy Scott said was a rib injury which was affecting his breathing although he had indicated yesterday that the experienced central defender was okay - as were the rest.
Cadogan, the winger on loan from Palace, wasn’t in the squad for the first time since he started four games ago and it meant a recall to the starting line up for top scorer Lewis Grabban.
Gillingham, starting the night with five straight defeats in the league, had home debuts for young defenders Jack Evans and Connor Essam who both got their first starts in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Port Vale.
With the string of defeats behind them, Gillingham started edgily but might have had a second minute boost from defender King’s header from a free-kick but Taylor dived full length to push it away.
The home side have been conceding a few goals lately and the youngster Essam showed true bravery when he threw himself in front of a thunderous volley by Harrad from 15 yards.
Taylor then had a shot blocked from a corner but then Rotherham could have fallen behind on two occasions.
From a long goal kick, it was a Mullins header that sent the lively Kuffour in behind the defence. He looked sure to score but his shot deflected off the challenging Rhys Taylor and bounced agonisingly wide.
Then the Rotherham keeper’s speed off his line paid dividends again.
A long ball from Evans sent Tomlin clear. Taylor came out to block as Tomlin tried to knock it past him and from the loose ball, Weston struck his effort wide from 20 yards.
There was an air of vulnerability about Gillingham’s defence and Rotherham exposed them with a good move.
Revell found Griffiths who slipped a cute ball inside the right back for Wood. He drove it across low but Taylor couldn’t get away a first time shot and then, when he tried to take control, was unable to do so and Jackman scrambled the ball away. Rotherham then should have been in front - and one of their own players appeared to prevent the goal.
Bradley overlapped and produced a fine cross to which Harrison rose superbly and put a header on target. It was on its way in only for Grabban, about two yards out, to help the ball into the net using an arm - the ‘goal’ was ruled out and Grabban was booked.
Gillingham, lifted by going towards the vociferous ‘home’ end in the second half, had a spell of pressure in which Mullins, twice, Griffiths and Raynes, all produced vital bits of defending inside the area.
Rotherham sent on veteran Paul Warne, his first appearance of the season, for Harrad who couldn’t get into the game. Warne scored the Millers goal in a 1-1 game here nine years ago which gave Rotherham one of those draws garnered since 1988 and the veteran certainly made an impact, lively and always on the go and might even have had a goal.
Rotherham emerged from a spell on the backfoot to go on and dominate the final half-hour. The busy Wood drifted a centre to the far post but Grabban’s header travelled across the goal face and Warne was just beaten to it.
When Grabban had space, he had the chance to play the ball in early for Warne. However, he delayed and the opportunity was lost.
As Rotherham’s threat grew and grew, Revell hooked an effort wide and then set up a half-chance for Wood whose volley was blocked by King.
Rotherham sensed they could back up their defensive work by snatching a winner and Wood almost got reward for his endeavours but saw his header deflected over.
GILLINGHAM; Gazzaninga; Evans, King, Essam, Jackman; Whelpdale, Weston (Lee 72), Payne, Tomlin; Kuffour, Kedwell. Subs: Richards, Martin, Montrose, Hawkes.
ROTHERHAM UTD: R Taylor; Bradley, Raynes, Mullins, Griffiths; Grabban, Harrison, J Taylor, Wood; Revell, Harrad (Warne 57). Subs: Warrington, Tonge, Cresswell, Pringle.
Referee: Andy Woolmer (Northants).
Bookings: Mullins, Grabban