Gillingham were defeated 2-1 in Southern Group H of the Checkatrade Trophy on Tuesday evening. The Gills took the lead through Josh Wright, but goals from Fred Onyedinma and Steve Morison won it for the Lions, who progress through to the next stage of the Checkatrade Trophy.
Gills manager Justin Edinburgh started with a 3-5-2 formation, deploying Ryan Jackson and Emmanuel Osadebe as wing-backs. Wright, Jake Hessenthaler and new signing Chris Herd started in centre midfield, with Rory Donnelly and Elliott List the attacking threat.
The game’s first attack came in the sixth minute from the away side. New signing Herd played the ball out wide to Jackson, who crossed into the penalty spot. Hessenthaler met the cross with a sweetly-struck volley that flew just over the bar.
There was little between both sides in the opening stages, with plenty of long balls from each team and lots of space in the middle.
However, the Gills took the lead on 17 minutes through captain Wright. Donnelly tried his luck shooting through a group of bodies and Wright, the ex-Millwall man, poked in the ball from close range to make it 1-0.
Millwall’s first shooting opportunity came on 25 minutes through Noah Chesmain, but the left-back’s effort landed in the upper tier behind the goal where the travelling supporters were sat.
As the opening half wore on, the Gills began to dominate and looked confident when going forward, with the midfield trio and wing-backs supporting the forwards on the attack.
On 32 minutes Herd’s mis-kick landed at the feet of Hessenthaler on the left of Millwall’s box. The midfielder looked as though he crossed the ball, when shooting may have been the better option, but no-one was anticipating the cross and could get on the end of it.
Herd was seeing plenty of the ball in the middle of the park, and played an inch-perfect ball over the top to List with the half nearly over. List took a touch into the box and managed to shoot, which goalkeeper Tom King parried into the path of Donnelly, but the angle proved too tight for the Irishman. His shot was cleared off the line.
List, making his second senior start for the Gills, was continually troubling the Lions’ defence with his pace. On 45 minutes the forward cut inside from the right-wing, taking on four players in the process, before being halted on the edge of the box with a foul from Shaun Williams.
A minute later, and against the run of play, the scores were level. Stuart Nelson came out to clear a crossed free-kick and the ball bounced up to Onyedinma, who headed into an empty net.
Mitch Dickenson replaced Josh Pask at the restart, with the latter going down injured during the equalising goal just before half-time. The Lions also made two changes, with Steve Morison and Joe Martin replacing Gregg Wylde and Chesmain.
The Gills defender was straight into action, superbly blocking a shot from goal scorer Onyedinma that looked destined for the bottom corner.
Just one minute later, Millwall’s half-time substitute Morison clipped a ball to the back-post, where both Calum Butcher and Lee Gregory were waiting, but the former headed wide.
From the resulting goal-kick, Onyedinma picked up the ball on the right and burst forward, before cutting the ball back across the box, but Gregory couldn’t provide a finishing touch as the Gills cleared their lines once more.
Mark Byrne and Billy Knott came on on 61 and 71 minutes respectively, replacing Jackson and Herd, as Edinburgh changed formation to a 3-4-1-2, with Knott in the number 10 role.
The second-half wasn’t as free-flowing for either side as the first, as both opted for the long-ball route as they looked for the winner.
The best move of the game came from the Gills on the break on 82 minutes. List beat his man, before playing a through ball to Hessenthaler, who returned the favour with a neat cross that found List, but the striker shot went high over the goal.
Morison won it for the Lions with just two minutes of normal time remaining. The striker took a deft touch over Dickenson, before making no mistake with a finish into the bottom corner.
Nelson made a fantastic save in the fourth minute of injury time that kept the score at 2-1, denying Morison with a strong hand after the striker was sent one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
Having lost the first game in the competition to Luton Town, and with both the Hatters and Millwall top of the group on six points, the Gills now cannot progress past the group stage in the Checkatrade Trophy.
The Gills return to MEMS Priestfield Stadium action on Saturday as they face Sky Bet League One strugglers Oldham in a 3pm kick-off. Season ticket holders can get two FREE tickets for this match – contact the club’s Customer Service Centre on (01634) 300000 for more information.
Millwall: King, Craig, Williams, Thompson, Gregory, Onyedinma, Wylde (Morison, 45), Nelson, Butcher, Brown (Abdou, 54), Chesmain (Martin, 45)
Unused subs: Archer, Abdou, Twardek, Philpot, Rooney
Gillingham: Nelson, Jackson (Knott, 71), Pask (Dickenson, 45), Ehmer, Oshilaja, Osadebe, Wright, Herd (Byrne, 61), Hessenthaler, Donnelly, List
Unused subs: Hadler, O’Mara, Chapman, Oldaker
Referee: Christopher Sargison
Attendance: 2,104 (111 away)