Richard Day reports from Beechings CrossDarren Hare’s side registered a superb first win in Group 4 of the Football League Youth Alliance Cup when beating Leyton Orient 4-2 at Beechings Cross on Saturday morning.
As usual in the competition the Gills named a number of their younger players in the squad but led brilliantly by skipper Ollie Lee they upset the applecart by beating an O’s side that topped the league table having lost just one of their opening seven games.
With Lee and Josh Maughan looking solid at the back, keeping nine-goal Affy Obafemi in their pockets, Gillingham started well on top and led 3-0 with 37 minutes on the clock. Andy Edwards East Londoners then fought back to reduce the deficit to one goal before a fourth home goal steadied the ship to deservedly record the victory.
It may be a little unfair to pick out individuals following a good performance but others that deserve a mention are keeper Luke Nalder, who made a brave block with the score at 3-2, Sam Muggleton, his long throws put the visitors defence under pressure time after time, and Charlie Webster, his pace and determination constantly putting the O’s on the backfoot.
Right from the start the Gills were on top and Josh Staunton had fired over and Maughan headed over before they took a 10th minute lead. Webster created space around 20-yards out and curled home a terrific right-foot effort that gave Luke Bartlett no chance.
Schoolboy Charlie Munnery fired a long range shot at the keeper and a Muggleton throw found the back of the net directly but a second goal did come in the 26th minute. Kane Haysman’s overhead kick was touched over by the keeper and from Aiden Blanchard’s resultant corner, Bartlett failed to collect enabling Staunton to drill the loose ball home.
Eight minutes from half-time it was 3-0, a quick break, which started with keeper Nalder, ended with Haysman finishing sweetly from the edge of the area. It was his sixth goal of the season.
Then in the 42nd minute Orient pulled one back, a break down the left ended with Obafemi cutting the ball back for Rob Nash to side-foot home.
Six minutes after the break it was 3-2 when Harry Lee’s corner was headed home by De’Reece Vanderhyde.
Aaron Millbank fired a shot the keeper but then at the other end Obafemi held off a challenge and put the ball on a plate for George Wickings but Nalder got across well to block at close range.
With 20 minutes to go the Gills made it 4-2. Millbank got away down the right and he crossed to Webster, who with time and space, controlled well and slotted home.
The visitors still weren’t finished, Sinclaire Sandy glanced a header wide and Sean Grace hit the bar with a header from another corner but that was as close as they came.
Youngsters Alex Arif, Dominic Lelliott and Ellis Iandolo were introduced at various times in the second-half and Lelliott saw a shot, from Alfie Coates pull-back, saved by Bartlett.
The excellent Webster was denied a hat-trick late on, after weaving his way through the visiting defence his low strike was blocked by the keeper.
Gills – Nalder, Staunton, Muggleton, Munnery (Arif 59), Lee, Maughan, Coates, Blanchard (Lelliott 67), Millbank (Iandolo 71), Haysman, Webster