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YORK City held high-flying Gillingham with a much-improved performance at Bootham Crescent.

The Minstermen were the better side in the first half and, despite Gills substitute Charlie Lee crashing a 35-yard volley against the crossbar late on, Gary Mills’ team remained resolute and deserved the point that prevented their opponents returning to the top of the table.

By keeping a clean sheet, Michael Ingham also celebrated his 100th shut-out for the club.

City boss Mills made four changes to the side that started Saturday’s 4-0 defeat at Wycombe.

Midfielder John McGrath was given his full debut for the Minstermen and Michael Rankine kicked off his second spell at Bootham Crescent following his loan switch from Aldershot.

Ashley Chambers and Jon Challinor also earned recalls, while top scorer Jason Walker, Paddy McLaughlin and Michael Potts dropped to the bench.

Captain Chris Smith, meanwhile, was left out altogether due to a foot injury.

The much-changed hosts set a good tempo from the first whistle, closing down their high-flying opponents quickly and breaking forward equally as swiftly at every opportunity.

Rankine made his physical presence felt from the off and teed up an early chance for Curtis Obeng that the on-loan Swansea reserve, playing in midfield, fired across the face of goal.

At the other end, Chris Whelpdale’s header from a Charlie Allen cross was comfortably saved by Michael Ingham and right-back Matt Fish dragged a 20-yard effort wide of the City ’keeper’s left-hand post.

Rankine’s header from a Challinor centre then called Gills ’keeper Stuart Nelson into action before Cody McDonald wasted a great chance for the visitors when he blazed high into the side-netting from an unfavourable angle with unmarked striking partner Dean Burton screaming for a square pass.

The hosts dominated the rest of the first half, however, with McGrath lifting a 25-yard shot over when he spotted Nelson off his line after Adam Barrett had intercepted Jamal Fyfield’s through ball.

On 27 minutes, Rankine met another Challinor cross but his header lacked the power to trouble Nelson and McGrath also fired wide from the edge of the penalty box.

The Gills’ defence was being given all sorts of problems aerially by Rankine in the penalty box and Leon Legge was fortunate to get away with a clear shirt tug on the strapping striker with referee Stephen Martin mysteriously awarding a free-kick the other way.

Matty Blair then fired wide of Nelson’s near post after charging on to a Rankine flick-on.

A Fyfield cross was headed over by Obeng moments later before two Rankine headers, from dangerously-delivered Chambers corners, were cleared off the line by harassed Gills defenders in quick succession.

McGrath fired an early second-half 20-yard effort out of the ground after Rankine’s low drive had been blocked at the near post, but Ingham had to be alert to keep out a thumping long-distance Andy Frampton attempt at the other end.

The Minstermen were also thankful for McDonald’s profligacy on 52 minutes when the on-loan Coventry striker headed over from five yards following an excellent Joe Martin cross.

Gillingham continued to grow stronger with Fish firing wide from 35 yards.

A sign of the visitors’ greater threat was seen by Rankine’s strength being used just as often in his own penalty box as that of the opposition.

But Nelson was forced into his first save of the second period on 79 minutes when Blair fired firmly at the near post after cutting in from the left.

Gills substitute Lee went closest to claiming the points, however, when his 35-yard dipping volley struck Ingham’s crossbar on 85 minutes.

Match facts

York City
Michael Ingham 8, Jon Challinor 8, Dan Parslow 8, Jack O’Connell 9, Jamal Fyfield 8, Scott Kerr 8, John McGrath 9, Curtis Obeng 8, Matty Blair 8, Michael Rankine 9, Ashley Chambers 8.

Substitutes: Alex Rodman (for Challinor, 76 min), Patrick McLaughlin (for Chambers 81). Subs not used: Paul Musselwhite, Jason Walker, Michael Potts, Ben Everson, Tom Allan.

Star man: Jack O’Connell – gave a very mature display at centre-back.

Stuart Nelson, Matt Fish, Leon Legge, Adam Barrett, Joe Martin, Charlie Allen (Myles Weston 46), Anton Robinson (Charlie Lee 85), Andy Frampton, Chris Whelpdale, Deon Burton (Adam Birchall 64), Cody McDonald. Subs (not used): Callum Davies, Bradley Dack, Tommy Forecast, Steven Gregory.

Referee: Stephen Martin (Staffordshire).

Referee rating: 5/10.

Booked: Martin 26, Fish 53.

Sent off: None.

Attendance: 2,699 (202 Gills fans).

Shots on target: City 5, Gills 3.

Shots off target: City 7, Gills 4.

Corners: City 5, Gills 5.

Fouls conceded: City 10, Gills 15.

Offsides: City 0, Gills 2.