Gills end their pre-season campaign with defeat at the Kingfield Stadium
With the start of the of the new Football League season just seven days away Martin Allen named a very strong XI featuring last season’s title winning back five and summer signings Antonio German and Cody McDonald paired in attack.
With both sides looking to stamp their authority on the game Stuart Nelson was called into action after just three minutes, leaping above the Woking forwards to claim a testing cross from former Gills defender John Nutter. Moments later, at the opposite end, Antonio German connected with Amine Linganzi’s flick- on but pulled his finish wide of the mark, from distance.
The opening stages were played at a frantic pace with neither side allowing their opponents any time on the ball, in fact 20 minutes had elapsed before either team fashioned a shot on target. Gills right-back Matt Fish was the creator, delivering a pin-point cross to the far post where Cody McDonald was unlucky to head over after out-jumping the Woking defence.
On 26 minutes Cards’ defender Jack Parkinson was fortunate to escape disciplinary action after pulling back McDonald, who was clean through on goal. Four minutes later Nelson was well placed to save a close range header from John Akinde after Lee Sawyer had picked out the former Ebbsfleet target man, lurking at the keeper’s far post.
With players starting to find space, as the half wore on, Steven Gregory helped a Bradley Dack corner back into the box but German fired just wide from McDonald’s knock down.
Moments later the hosts took a 35th minute lead as Gavin McCallum raced on to a ball over the top of defence before chipping the advancing Gills custodian to find the keeper’s bottom right corner.
Gills midfielder Chris Whelpdale was on the receiving end of a couple of weighty challenges that would certainly have warranted cards under normal league standards but, by fair means or foul, the hosts maintained their one goal advantage at the break.
Gills started the second half with purpose and came close to levelling the scores in the opening minute. A Fish header was flicked on by Whelpdale to send McDonald clear on the right of goal, his pull back evaded German but Steven Gregory made up ground to drill a low effort just wide from 20 yards.
Three minutes later Gregory was involved again, latching on to a Whelpdale missile hurled into the Woking area, his first effort was blocked by the lunge of Parkinson and sadly his follow up effort drifted just over the keeper’s top left corner.
On 50 minutes Linganzi played Whelpdale through but Arran Howe punched his rising drive to safety before Leon Legge was controversially penalised at the opposite end for a foul on Akinde, when he seemed to have played the ball. Gavin Williams took the honours for the home side, smacking the ball into the roof of the net to put Woking 2-0 up.
The goal prompted a double substitution from Martin Allen, German and Dack making way for Charlie Allen and Bayo Akinfenwa and the Gills almost pulled one back on 62 minutes. Whelpdale’s quickly taken throw found the run of McDonald who shrugged off Newton only to see his near post shot pushed onto the bar by the Cards keeper.
On 65 minutes young right-back Stephen Butcher came on in place of Fish and Gills were unlucky with another opening soon after. Allen touched a free-kick square to Whelpdale whose shot was blocked and helped back in for skipper Adam Barrett, his header taking a layer of paintwork off the crossbar as it passed over.
Danny Kedwell entered the fray on 72 minutes as a replacement for Gregory with the Gills switching to a forward three but it was the hosts that created the next opening, Gavin McCallum cutting in from the right touchline before testing Nelson with a curling effort that dipped late under the keeper’s crossbar.
Five minutes later Akinfenwa nodded down Barrett’s long pass to give Allen a sight of goal, sadly the livewire midfielder got just too much on his shot, carrying the ball over the bar. Ashley Miller replaced Chris Whelpdale for the final 10 minutes and soon after Akinfenwa set up Charlie Allen again but the keeper gathered his rising effort to his chest.
The Gills were denied a clear penalty five minutes from time as Danny Kedwell was barged to the ground with no one to beat but the keeper. The visitors continued to pile on the pressure right to the final whistle but it was Woking that secured the win with a stunning injury time strike from Anthony McNamee, struck from the right angle of the box, into the
top left corner.
Woking: Arran Howe, Adam Newton (Daniel Thompson 75), John Nutter (Rene Steer 75), Mark Ricketts (Joe McNerney 56), Jack Parkinson (Mike Cestor 56), Brett Johnson (George Frith 56), Lee Sawyer (Anthony McNamee 65), Josh Payne, John Akinde (Gez Sole 65), Gavin Williams (Niall Wright 75), Gavin McCallum (Oliver Taylor 65).
Subs not used: Sam Beasant.
Gillingham: Stuart Nelson, Matt Fish (Stephen Butcher 65), Adam Barrett, Leon Legge, Joe Martin, Steven Gregory (Danny Kedwell 72), Amine Linganzi, Chris Whelpdale (Ashley Miller 81), Bradley Dack (Charlie Allen 56), Antonio German (Bayo Akinfenwa 56), Cody McDonald.
Subs not used: Callum Davies, Harry Grant, Jack Parter, George Howard.