Joe Hank’s sixth-minute header was cancelled out three minutes from time as Rory McAuley rose highest at the back post to set-up a replay.
Chelmsford’s Mark Haines, plus Gloucester’s Calvin Dinsley and Matt Williams, were all sent off late on after a brawl broke out following a late challenge.
Melbourne Stadium has been a place of poor results for the Clarets this season, although considering the current form this result will be welcome. Last week’s woeful display against Eastbourne was the fifth home match without a win, and the Clarets needed some attacking spark in this FA Trophy match, a competition that they’ve struggled in during recent times having lost three out of three prior to this Third Qualifying Round tie.
Chelmsford lacked ideas and creativity last week and rarely threatened the ‘Boro backline, and it was apparent that the side needed to be quick out of the blocks in order to warm the crowd on what was a typical end-of-November afternoon.
In an attempt to put Gloucester, who have won just once in six National League North games, under pressure from the outset, Mark Hawkes made two attacking changes from the side that were on the receiving end of that 3-0 defeat against Eastbourne, with Billy Bricknell starting for the first time since September following a broken toe. He replaced Luke Daley, who dropped to the bench, while Michael Thalassitis started in place of the injured Hugo Skepelhorn.
The hosts started reasonably brightly with Bagasan Graham making some marauding runs down the left flank, but they soon found themselves pegged back within the opening six minutes.
Ben Marlow, who had an impressive first-half last week, was dispossessed outside his own box by the hassling Harry Williams. Some patient play from the Tigers soon followed before Joe Hanks beat Marvin Ekpiteta in the air to nod home Billy Jones’s teasing cross. It left the Clarets stunned with a way back looking bleak.
Hawkes’s side looked to make some ground after the restart. First, Whichelow’s free-kick was held comfortably by Jasbir Singh, and Graham looked to work some magic on the flank. The final ball failed to find a man.
The football from both sides was poor – perhaps the wind playing a significant role – with long balls often skipping out of play.
It made for a tough watch, and the deficit almost doubled for the Clarets but for Graham’s last-ditch tackle to prevent Hanks from firing in his second of the match from close-range.
Skipper Tom Webb then looked to punish the Clarets further but blazed wide from a promising position, with the Clarets still struggling to mount any sustained attacking pressure.
Chelmsford had a flurry of excellent chances to pull the game back on level terms before the break but were denied by a succession of Gloucester blocks. Matty Whichelow had perhaps the best chance of the three but his finesse shot was smothered before Bricknell watched as his shot on the half-turn was deflected wide. Rory McAuley, from a similar position, was caught off balance but managed to direct an effort towards goal, although was left frustrated as it ricocheted off a boot.
The Clarets were sent out early during the half-time interval with Marlow being replaced by Harry Morgan in an attempt from the hosts to claw themselves back into the match.
It looked to give Hawkes’s men a bit of a boost but, again, attacking chances were at a premium. Rob Girdlestone did almost open up an opportunity with a delightful cross along the face of goal. It wasn’t dealt with by Gloucester, allowing the ball to break to Bricknell, but his shot was tame and flew neatly into Singh’s grasp.
Chelmsford continued to try and get the ball forward but, credit to Gloucester, they remained compact and resolute and were difficult to break down. Bricknell had a well-placed header saved by Singh before Thalassitis’ diving header flew wide of the near post.
The hosts were given a lifeline when Graham’s deep free-kick from the right flew into the box, and McAuley was there to head home to level, his first goal in Chelmsford colours.
The drama didn’t stop there though as three red cards were brandished in the 90th minute. Chelmsford's Mark Haines and then Gloucester's Calvin Dinsley and Matt Williams were shown straight reds following a brawl on the pitch.
Both sides will have to battle it again on Tuesday night for a place in the First Round Proper.
1. Christian Dibble
2. Rob Girdlestone
3. Bagasan Graham
4. Mark Hughes (C)
5. Marvin Ekpiteta
6. Rory McAuley
7. Ben Marlow
8. Mark Haines
9. Billy Bricknell
10. Michael Thalassitis
11. Matthew Whichelow
12. Harry Morgan (On for Ben Marlow, 46’)
14. Lee Sawyer (On for Marvin Ekpiteta, 81’)
15. Damien Green
16. Luke Daley (On for Rob Girdlestone, 69’)
17. Nicky Eyre (GK)
1. Jasbir Singh
2. Spencer Hamilton
3. Billy Jones
4. Matt Williams
5. Sam Avery
6. Chris Knowles
7. Calvin Dinsley
8. Tom Webb (C)
9. Obi Anoruo
10. Harry Williams
11. Joe Hanks
12. Lewis Hall
14. Sammie Hicks
15. Joshua Cooke
16. Jonte Smith (On for Obi Anoruo, 75’)
17. Mark Richards (On for Harry Williams, 90+3)
Referee: Mr. Ian Fissenden (Gillingham)
Assistant referees: Mr. Stephen Brown and Mr. Peter Killip
Chelmsford City: Ben Marlow (29’, foul), Matthew Whichelow (45+1, unsportsmanlike conduct), Mark Hughes (67’, cynical foul)
Gloucester City: Tom Webb (85’, time wasting)
Chelmsford City: Mark Haines (90’, violent conduct)
Gloucester City: Calvin Dinsley (90’, violent conduct), Matt Williams (90+2, violent conduct)
Chelmsford City: Rory McAuley (87’)
Gloucester City: Joe Hanks (6’)
HT score: 0-1
FT score: 1-1
City Man of the Match: Rory McAuley