Published: 21:15, 07 September 2021
| Updated: 09:46, 08 September 2021
Robbie McKenzie fired home an injury time goal to clinch victory for Gillingham in their EFL Trophy match at Colchester.
The Essex side had the better of the first half, in Tuesday night's Papa John's Trophy group match, but the Gills came alive after a switch of formation at the interval, going from zero shots in the first 45 to double figures in the second, deserving the win in the end.
Gillingham had a reasonably strong side out to face League 2 Colchester despite missing five senior players.
Kyle Dempsey was out ill - as was manager Steve Evans - while strikers Vadaine Oliver, John Akinde, defender Ryan Jackson and midfielder Olly Lee were also missing. Gillingham were taking no risks with players in the Trophy match.
Striker Charlie Kelman - a recent addition from QPR - was handed his debut in a Gills shirt but it was Colchester who created the best of the first half chances. Kelman would have to wait until the second half to get the service he needed.
The home side attacked the right-side of Gills’ defence early on with Armando Dobra and former Priestfield loan striker Frank Nouble looking to cause problems.
Goalkeeper Aaron Chapman made a couple of good saves in the opening half, alert to keep out Noah Chilvers’ early free-kick that was destined for the top corner. But his best save came from Dobra after he was put in on goal by Chilvers, getting down well to his right to make the block. That chance had come about after Gillingham had lost out in their own half.
Just before the break there was another chance for United as Dobra hit a shot into the side netting.
Gillingham abandoned their wing-back set-up for the second half as they looked to make more of an impact in the game and it worked. They got more of the ball in midfield and were able to boss the second 45.
The Gills still handed Colchester a great early chance after the restart when Jack Tucker lost possession to half-time sub Freddie Sears. Dobra picked the ball up from the opposite flank and managed to find Sylvester Jasper in the box but his shot struck the outside of the post.
Gillingham’s first attempt on goal came on 49 minutes, Alex MacDonald - making his first appearance of the season - sent a drive into the keeper’s arms.
Alan Judge put another Col U chance into the side netting before Kelman sent a low shot at goal which failed to trouble the goalie. It was progress at least for the Gills.
A good move from the Gills further emphasised their improvement and Stuart O’Keefe fired over after Kelman’s deft touch put him in with a chance. Dan Phillips and Ben Reeves both went close as the visitors continued to threaten.
Colchester had to play the last 20 minutes with ten men after Harry Beadle was helped off with an ankle injury. The home side had already used all three subs.
Kelman found the side netting for the Gills and worked his way into another shooting chance soon after but Reeves took it on instead and fired wide.
Colchester weren’t finished and Chapman had to get behind a shot from the ever-dangerous Dobra. It was a half-chance and as good as they could muster.
Mustapha Carayol and Gerald Sithole were introduced for the last 10 minutes. Kelman met a Carayol cross that was turned over as the Gills pressed for a late winner. Max Ehmer also headed a corner wide.
Gillingham were doing all the attacking when the board went up for six minutes of stoppage time and in the third of those McKenzie placed the ball home from a cross, played in by Carayol, who for 10 minutes of action had terrorised the Colchester defence.
Gillingham: Chapman, Lintott (Reeves 46mins), Tutonda, Ehmer, Tucker, McKenzie, Phillips, O’Keefe, MacDonald (Carayol 82mins), Lloyd (Sithole 86mins), Kelman. Subs not used: Cumming, Bennett, Adshead, Akehurst.
Colchester: Turner, Beadle, Tchamadeu, Kennedy, Wiredu (Judge 46mins), Coxe, Chilvers, Jasper (Hannant 64mins), Eastman, Nouble (Sears 46mins), Dobra. Subs not used: George, Kazeem, Tovide.
Referee: Brett Huxtable
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