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Gillingham 0 Colchester United 1: Junior Tchamadeu scores winner at Priestfield in scrap of the bottom two in League 2

It was the start of a new era at Priestfield on Boxing Day but the same old story for rock bottom Gillingham.

There may be a new owner at the club but until the January transfer window opens manager Neil Harris must continue with the same side which has managed just two wins and six goals from 21 games so far in League 2. They lost out to Colchester United in the battle of the Football League’s bottom two, booed off after another disappointing show.

Elkan Baggott challenges John Akinde for the ball (61549302)
Elkan Baggott challenges John Akinde for the ball (61549302)

New American owner Brad Galinson and his wife Shannon weren’t at the ground for the festive fixture but are expected to return to England early in the new year following his purchase of a majority stake in the club, keen to get down to business and reshape a side that struggled against a Colchester team without an away win prior to their visit.

Manager Neil Harris made two changes to his personnel from the cup game at Wolves but stuck with three at the back.

Colchester had a terrible away record ahead of the visit to Priestfield, picking up just one point from their first 11 games but they led at the break after being given a helping hand for their 26th minute opener.

Former Gills man John Akinde had missed a chance at the near post as both sides struggled for meaningful chances.

Colchester’s opener came about after Gills striker Mikael Mandron had lost possession to Samson Tovide, who ran forward and found Tchamadeu in the box, who got just enough power and accuracy on his shot across goal to send the ball rolling into the net.

Gillingham were wasteful with their set-pieces and their only attempt at goal in the opening half was a weak header from Shaun Williams that keeper Kieran O’Hara comfortably dealt with. Two penalty appeals were turned down, with Hakeeb Adelakun going down under pressure from Al-Amin Kazeem and later seeing a cross blocked by Tom Dallison, with calls for handball. Footage showed the ball hitting the defenders hand.

There was an edge to the match. Goalscorer Tchamadeu appeared to have reported a comment to the referee early in the half - presumably coming from the crowd - as he cupped his ears to the Rainham End after scoring. Max Ehmer and Tovide were also both booked for a coming together that spilled over into the Gills technical area.

Mandron headed an early chance over for Gills as play resumed without any changes to the teams.

Mikael Mandron on the ball for Gillingham against Colchester (61549305)
Mikael Mandron on the ball for Gillingham against Colchester (61549305)

Alex MacDonald was introduced shortly after the restart, however, replacing Ben Reeves who went down injured and was taken off on a stretcher.

Adelakun’s deflected shot got ironic cheers from the home crowd as it bounced safely into the away keeper’s arms. It was his final act as Callum Harriott was introduced for his debut against his former club. Scott Kashket also came off the bench.

Gills keeper Jake Turner blocked a shot from Noah Chilvers with an hour gone and a glancing header from Luke Chambers went close. Chilvers put another effort just wide as Gills continued to struggle in their own attacking attempts.

A free-kick with eight minutes left gave the Gills a chance to do something, after Jordan Green was fouled, but Alex MacDonald’s effort went over the bar.

Gillingham put some pressure on late in the game and Elkan Baggott headed a great chance wide from a corner. Shaun Williams also shot wide as eight additional minutes were displayed on the fourth official’s board.

It was to be a lot more than that as the stretcher was back out for Matty Longstaff, who like Reeves had sustained his injury seemingly by slipping on the surface.

When play restarted Gills had another penalty appeal turned down when Green went down in the box. Colchester survived the late pressure to take the three points.

Gillingham: Turner, McKenzie, Tutonda (Green 78mins), Baggott, Ehmer, Williams, Jefferies, O’Keefe (Kashket 59mins), Reeves (MacDonald 52mins), Adelakun (Harriott 59mins), Mandron. Subs not used: Holtam, Alexander, Wright.

Colchester: O’Hara, Chambers, Smith, Dallison, Skuse, Chilvers, Tchamadeu, Akinde (Sears 90mins), Huws, Kazeem, Tovide (Longstaff 82mins (Hannant 90mns)). Subs not used: Collins, Eastman, Chesters, Fevrier.

Referee: Sam Purkiss

Attendance: 4,962 (420 away)

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