Academy team suffer defeat at Beechings....

As the Gills were without a scheduled league or cup game for a couple of weeks, friendlies were arranged with Northampton Town and Oxford United.

The Cobblers went into the game lying bottom of the South East Conference but having qualified as leaders of Group 3 in the Football League Youth Alliance Cup and so were in form.

Head of Youth Darren Hare took the opportunity to once again blood a number of his younger charges and using 17 players overall, some being used more than once.

Neither side were really able to take control of the game in the early stages on a slick surface in the heavy drizzle at Beechings Cross, the only noteworthy attempt seeing Charlie Webster finding the Town keeper with a low shot.

Then in the 29th minute the visitors went ahead when Callum Powell sent Luke Nalder the wrong way from the penalty spot.

Brave blocks by Nalder and Callum Emptage denied the Northampton centre-forward before, at the other end, Michael Freiter saw a header saved.

There were a number of substitutions and positional changes at the break as Darren Hare utilised his squad but it was Town that moved into a three-goal lead with an hour on the clock by scoring twice more.

The impressive Greg Cundle then pulled one back for the Gills and, after both Connor Hendricks and Cundle again went close, the deficit was cut to just one goal with ten minutes remaining. Josh Staunton was felled in the area and Aiden Blanchard smashed the resultant spot-kick high into the roof of the net.

Gillingham went in search of an equaliser but were denied by the keeper who first turned aside a low effort from Cundle before also keeping out an acrobatic late attempt from Webster.

Then in the 89th minute the Cobblers broke away to add a fourth to give the visitors a greater margin of victory.

The initial starting XI for the Gills was – Nalder, Emptage, Beale, Munnery, Stevens, Staunton, Freiter, Blanchard, Sellens, Webster, Leonard with Dickenson, Vincent, Cundle, Hendricks, Arif, Kitt and Iandoli on the bench.

The game at Oxford was subsequently postponed.

Following the game Head of Youth Darren Hare briefly spoke about the game and his reasons for going with a mixture of first-year scholars and schoolboys.


He said: “I decided to go younger to test the players and look at my schoolboys and I was delighted with the performance. The goals we conceded were areas for improvement for sure, but overall our tempo, passing play and work ethic was very good indeed.”