The Clarets made an emphatic start – Jack Bridge headed home after just three minutes – before Gate hit back almost instantly through left-back Nathan Green.
The ominous Freddie Ladapo, who’s catching the eye of a host of Football League clubs with his fine form, flicked in to give Gate a lead going into the break that they surrendered minutes after the interval, with Jason Williams tucking home from the penalty spot.
City found their feet but just as the momentum began to swing in favour of the visitors Mark Hughes, making his first start since December 12th, was shown a straight red card and, from the set-piece that followed, Glenn Wilson struck home what told to be the winner in this 3-2 victory.
In a bizarre period of the match, City’s Jason Williams was also sent his marching orders after allegedly throwing an elbow at Charlie Wassmer, bemusing all inside the ground. It left the City bench seething as they desperately searched for an equaliser that never came.
With the Clarets having had a three week break due to postponements at Hemel Hempstead and Havant and Waterlooville, interim boss Kevin Maher was equipped with a near-fully fit squad barring long-term absentee Hugo Skepelhorn, and made four changes to the side that lost 2-0 to Sutton last time out. Mark Hughes started as Marvin Ekpiteta returned to the back-line in place of his twin brother, Marvel, while Sandro Semedo was handed his City debut after signing on a one month loan from Leyton Orient. Christian Dibble also made his first start for City on a permanent basis after he terminated his contract at Barnsley last week, leaving Harry Morgan and Luke Daley to be demoted to the substitutes’ bench.
Within a quarter of an hour of the reverse fixture last month – which incidentally was Mark Hawkes’ last League match in charge – the Clarets were already trailing 2-0 in what would finish as a damaging 4-1 defeat.
But it was the Clarets who had the better start this time around, forcing the ball home within the opening three minutes despite Freddie Ladapo pulling an early Chelmsford save. Hughes picked up the ball from Billy Bricknell, firing a hard, left-footed effort from range that Chris Lewington pushed into the air. Jack Bridge was on his toes though, heading in to send the Clarets in front to settle any nerves against a Margate side who have lost once this year.
The lead was ephemeral, lasting all of seven minutes, as Margate’s Green duo linked-up tidily on the left-flank. Danny worked the ball to left-back Nathan who arrowed a shot into the bottom corner to draw the sides level, punishing the Clarets for sitting back and affording Gate too much time and space.
Chelmsford’s shape improved slightly thereafter, aided by the impressive showing of Semedo at left-wing back, with the former Benfica youngster not being afraid to put his foot on the ball and play-out from the back.
The front three of Bridge, Williams and Bricknell were still chasing shadows up front and one got the sense that it wouldn’t have taken much for Gate to steer themselves in front, as was almost the case when Ladapo’s shot on the turn forced a fingertip save from Dibble.
And Ladapo went a step closer after 24 minutes when a rare header from the forward got the better of the City defence, looping over the head of Rob Girdlestone who was guarding the goal-line.
It was a blow to Maher’s Chelmsford who looked to be recovering after the equaliser, but they couldn’t find a way to contain the menacing Ladapo who could have easily netted a first-half hat-trick.
A leveller almost came but for some outstanding defending from Charlie Wassmer – a integral performer in the reverse fixture – as the commanding centre-half prodded wide Hughes’s cross with Bricknell lurking for an easy tap-in close behind.
The Clarets could probably have done without half-time as they finished the half the strongest with Bricknell forcing a heroic save from Lewington with the ball destined for the bottom corner, but Gate’s slender lead remained intact.
In reaction to the relatively poor first-half display Maher introduced Luke Daley in place of Girdlestone, leaving the Clarets with a flat three at the back, giving Semedo the freedom to get forward.
It appeared to give Margate something else to think about as two minutes after the restart the Clarets were awarded a penalty. Bridge was tripped in the area after a loose ball flew across the box, and Williams made no mistake in rolling home the spot-kick to draw the sides level.
It was a promising start but the question was whether that could be maintained. It was thanks to Dibble that the score-line remained level when he palmed away substitute David Hunt’s curling effort from range, but again the Clarets were guilty of sitting back and inviting pressure.
Tempers began to flare as a few decisions went against the hosts, and it appeared to give Gate some added impetus, often profiting from the Clarets being unable to control the midfield for long periods.
Things then worsened for Chelmsford as skipper Hughes was brandished a straight red card for a high and late challenge on Gate’s Luke Moore, leaving the Clarets with a tough task of holding on to a point when the tide was already against them.
From the resultant free-kick, however, the hosts were punished; Dibble managed to punch away the set-piece but Margate captain Glenn Wilson hammered home to regain their lead and lump misery on a Chelmsford side struggling for consistency.
With just over 20 minutes remaining and the gap between Chelmsford and the relegation zone thinning, Maher’s outfit had to give it everything they had before heading into next Saturday’s long trek to Weston-super-Mare.
Williams was then shown a red card with 11 minutes remaining – much to the surprise of a startled crowd and City bench – to further compound misery upon the Clarets who have now won once in their last eleven League games.
It makes for worrying reading – and the Clarets are now looking over their shoulder with baited breath with only one point separating them from the final relegation spot.
1. Christian Dibble
2. Rob Girdlestone
3. Mark Haines
4. Mark Hughes (C)
5. Marvin Ekpiteta
6. Rory McAuley
7. Reece Prestedge
8. Jack Bridge
9. Jason Williams
10. Billy Bricknell
11. Sandro Semedo
12. Luke Daley (On for Rob Girdlestone, 46’)
14. Marvel Ekpiteta
15. Lee Sawyer (On for Jack Bridge, 88’)
16. Harry Morgan
18. Bagasan Graham (On for Sandro Samedo, 85’)
1. Chris Lewington
2. Glenn Wilson (C)
3. Nathan Green
4. Matthew Johnson
5. Jake Goodman
6. Charlie Wassmer
7. Luke Moore
8. Lewis Taylor
9. Freddie Ladapo
10. Danny Green
11. Daniel Akindayini
12. David Hunt (On for Daniel Akindayini, 46’)
14. Christian Jolley
15. Brett Johnson
16. Sam Rents
17. Kane Wills (On for Danny Green, 90+4)
Referee: Mr. Josh Smith (Milton Keynes)
Assistant Referees: Mr. Ian Corner and Mr. Darren Knox
Bookings: Chelmsford City: None
Sent off: Chelmsford City: Mark Hughes (63', dangerous play), Jason Williams (79’, violent conduct)
Scorers: Chelmsford City: Jack Bridge (3’), Jason Williams (48’, penalty)
Margate: Nathan Green (10’), Freddie Ladapo (24’), Glenn Wilson (64’)
HT Score: 1-2
FT Score: 2-3
City Man of the Match: Sandro Semedo