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Gillingham 1 Colchester United 1 (Gills win 5-4 on penalties): Lewis Walker on target again in Papa John’s Trophy and John Akinde scores for the U’s

Gillingham ended their EFL Trophy group stage with a draw against Colchester United and a bonus point from a penalty shoot-out win.

Lewis Walker’s opener was cancelled out almost immediately by former Gills man John Akinde, both goals coming at the end of an otherwise uneventful first half. No goals in the second half meant the tie went to penalties, won with Jordan Green’s spot-kick.

Lewis Walker opened the scoring in Tuesday night's EFL Trophy match
Lewis Walker opened the scoring in Tuesday night's EFL Trophy match

Gillingham made just the four changes for their final group stage match, with striker Lewis Walker, wide-man Jordan Green, midfielder Dom Jefferies and goalkeeper Jake Turner all getting another chance to impress.

It was wholesale changes for the visitors, making use of a much bigger squad, with only captain Luke Chambers keeping his place in the U’s team after their 2-1 league win over Harrogate at the weekend. Former Gills striker John Akinde - who scored their winner last time out in the competition - was among the 10 players brought in to start at Priestfield.

Qualification from the first round group stage was wide open, the Gills knowing a decent win against the visitors would put them in with a good shout. With prize money of £10,000 on offer for each group stage win, this game wasn’t a complete waste of time.

Aside from the match there was a half-time shootout featuring US actor Anthony Anderson, in town to film his reality series ‘Anthony Anderson and Mom: European Vacation’ that will be broadcast in the States. If he was hoping to soak up some English football atmosphere this wasn’t the occasion.

Colchester had the better of the first half chances as the Gills struggled to create anything meaningful at the top end of the pitch. Beryly Lubala went close with a couple of efforts for the visitors while Alex Newby tested keeper Jake Turner with a free-kick.

The Gills stopper was beaten by a Noah Chilvers’ effort but the Gills were saved by the woodwork.

With their first effort on target, the Gills took the lead on 43 minutes and it was Walker who headed them infront, guiding Will Wright’s free-kick past goalkeeper Kieran O’Hara.

That lead lasted less than two minutes, Colchester hitting back almost immediately. Morris saved from Matty Longstaff but the ball then fell to Akinde who struck from an acute angle, squeezing it in at Turner’s near post.

Anderson stuck away three penalties during the interval as Gills readjusted, bringing on Robbie McKenzie, Hakeeb Adelakun, Scott Kashket and Max Ehmer for the second 45.

Positive running from Green created a chance early on in the second half for substitute Kashket, whose shot was blocked.

Colchester had more good chances to score, however. Tom Eastman put a volley narrowly wide, flashing his effort across the face of goal.

Gills goalie Turner found himself in no man’s land after coming off his line but was grateful to Ehmer’s intervention as he cleared from Alan Judge before Dan Chesters’ shot was deflected wide soon after.

Turner had to stick out a foot to deny Ossama Ashley as the visitors continued to threaten, forcing the Gills backwards.

Wright created a late opportunity with a deep cross that Kashket was unable to control and Chesters put a shot wide for Colchester after a good run as the match ended level, going straight to penalties as the teams fought it out from 12 yards for a bonus point.

Walker, Adelakun, Wright and Kashket scored their penalties before Josh Chambers had his saved as the contest went to sudden-death. With Marley Miranda missing for the U’s, Green stepped up to roll home the winning spot-kick.

Gillingham will have to wait on Charlton’s game against Brighton under-21s on November 2 before finding out whether Tuesday’s result was enough to qualify for round two.

Gillingham: Turner, Alexander (Ehmer 46mins), Law, Wright, Baggott, Jefferies (Chambers 78mins), Williams (McKenzie 46mins), Green, MacDonald (Adelakun 46mins), Walker, Mandron (Kashket 46mins). Subs not used: Morris, Akehurst.

Colchester: O’Hara, Clampin, Chambers, Judge (Miranda 84mins), Chilvers, Lubala (Chesters 63mins), Ashley (Tchamadeu 81mins), Eastman, Newby, Akinde (Nouble 63mins), Longstaff. Subs not used: Hornby, Dallison, Tchamadeu, Kazeem.

Attendance: 828 (71 away)

Referee: Sam Allison

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