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Around The Uk

banner Wednesday, 20 September, 2000, 21:58 GMT 22:58 UK
Manchester City 1-1 Gillingham
Paul Smith
Paul Smith scored for Gillingham at Maine Road
Another late strike by Manchester City was enough to deny Gillingham victory against them in a dramatic match at Maine Road.

The two teams were meeting for the first time after serving up a Wembley play-off treat a couple of seasons ago.

On that occasion City struck twice in injury time to deny the Gills victory, and then broke their hearts in a penalty shoot-out.

This time the City hero was George Weah who struck six minutes from time to save them, but this time Gillingham have a second chance when they play the second-leg at Priestfield Stadium.

It was a strange game and strange atmosphere and a strange performance. Having gone behind we have got to be pleased to have got back into it but we could have won
  Joe Royle, Man City manager
For more than an hour this had been a dour match with the Premiership side dominating possession and the Division One new boys defending in numbers.

Weah was involved in most of the positive things that City attempted, and had two good efforts in the first half.

The first came when he played a neat one-two with Jeff Whitley and then let fly from 25 yards narrowly over the bar.

A typical run

The second was a typical run by the Liberian striker, taking him past three defenders before flashing a left-footed drive wide of the target.

The second half began in much the same way as the first with Mark Kennedy and Shaun Wright-Phillips both having shots from outside the area.

Gillingham soon made them pay after player-manager Andy Hessenthaler had had a shot brilliantly blocked by Alfie Haaland, to deflect the ball for a corner.

From the resulting kick Chris Hope's header was chested down by Marlon King for Paul Smith to power home.

We were playing against world class players tonight. It was a terrific performance by our boys and sets us up nicely
  Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham manager
Smith had been waiting a long time to take revenge against City, as he missed the first penalty in that play-off final in 1999.

City were stunned and they piled forward in search of an equaliser. They survived a second scare, and hit-back to punish the Gills for not finishing them off.

Haaland made a powerful run into the area, his cross caused panic in the Gillingham defence and Weah was lurking 12 yards out, to fire the ball into the back of the net.

The final minutes were frantic and Weah made tested the visitors with another powerful drive from long range.

Not many could begrudge Gillingham their draw on the night though, and the chance to take revenge on City in the second-leg.

Manchester City: Weaver, Crooks, Ritchie, Prior, Haaland, Bishop, Kennedy, Whitley, Weah, Wright-Phillips, Wanchope. Subs: Wright, Dickov, Jobson, Granville, Allsop.

Gillingham: Bartram, Edge, Smith, Ashby, Butters, Southall, Hessenthaler, Asaba, Browning, King, Hope. Subs: Patterson, Saunders, Lewis, James, Thomson.

Referee: D Pugh (Bebington).

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