We look back at previous first day meetings with the U's

So, as announced earlier today, League Two champions Gillingham will be entertaining Colchester United on the opening day of the 2013-14 season.

Perhaps Irishman Joe Dunne, who scored one goal in 134 games during his spell as a player here at Priestfield, had a crystal ball and knew what was coming as his team returned to pre-season training earlier this week. 

While this will be the fifth time on the trot that the Gills will have been at home for the opening game unfortunately for the U’s they face a fourth consecutive away trip. Thankfully for them the journey will not be quite as long having visited Exeter City and Preston North End (twice) in the last three years.

The last time that the two sides actually met was here in January 2010 in a League One fixture that ended goalless.

There were three meetings that season, Colchester won the opening league meeting 2-1 coming from behind after Curtis Weston had given Gillingham an 11th minute lead thanks to goals from Scott Vernon and Kevin Lisbie.

The other game was a Johnstone's Paint Trophy game on September 1 which the Gills won 4-3 on penalties which followed a 1-1 draw. Simeon Jackson had opened the scoring with a 77th minute penalty which Clive Platt equalised seven minutes later.

In the penalty shoot-out Jackson, Chris Palmer, Weston and Mark McCammon were all successful, Adam Miller the only one to fail when hitting the bar, for United Vernon, Anthony Wordsworth and Matt Lockwood converted but  David Fox saw his effort saved by Alan Julian and David Perkins skied his as the Gills progressed.

There have been 85 games between the two sides in all competitions previously and the overall results being very close, the Gills have won 30, Colchester are just one behind on 29 while 26 have ended in draws.

These games date back to the first, a Southern League game at Layer Road on the first day of the 1938-39 campaign which the U’s won 2-0. That day the Gillingham line-up was – Strong, Tweed, Costello, J. Smith, Armstrong, Neal, Day, Brallisford, Johnson, Rowley, Ross.

In 1950-51, the first season after both clubs had been elected into the Football League, after an eight-year hiatus in Gillingham’s case, the teams met at Priestfield on August 19.

That day a crowd of 19,525 came through the turnstiles to witness a goalless Division Three (South) game. Archie Clark’s team that day was Gage, Marks, Lewin, Boswell, Kingsnorth, Collins, C. Burtenshaw, W. Burtenshaw, Russell, Ayres, Veck.

Things were a little different in 1973-74 when the first game of the campaign was a League Cup Round One tie with Colchester making the short journey from Essex. The crowd of 3,991 saw a goal fest as David Peach, Dave Quirke, Alan Wilks and Brian Yeo all netted for Andy Nelson’s side in a 4-2 victory. The Gills side was Gibson, Lindsey, Peach, Quirke, Hill, Jacques, Tydeman, Jacks, Richardson, Wilks, Yeo.

Four years later it was a home Division Three meeting but this time round despite Danny Westwood scoring for the Gills it was United that departed with the points on the back of a 3-1 win. The Gillingham team that day was Hillyard, Williams, Armstrong, Overton, Shipperley, Knight, Nicholl, Weatherly, Price (Hughes), Westwood, Richardson.

An up and coming player called Steve Bruce, then a midfielder, took a liking to playing against the U's after breaking into the Gillingham team at the start of the 1979-80 season. His first goal against them came in a 2-2 home Division Three draw in April 1980, Ken Price got the other, and his eye for goal continued the following season when it was back to League Cup action when Gerry Summers outfit had to play United in a two-legged affair.

The first of these (August 9) was at Layer Road when Price and Bruce were again on target in a 2-0 away triumph and just three days later Bruce found the net once more, this time along with Andy Ford in a 2-1 win which meant the Gills went through 4-1 on aggregate. The Gillingham team in Essex had been Hillyard, Sharpe, Ford, Overton, Weatherly, Hughes, Donn, Duncan, Price, Henderson, Bruce.

This came on August 6 2005 in League One when Darren Byfield clinched the points with an 89th minute winner as Neale Cooper’s side came from behind. Neil Danns put the U’s ahead in the 50th minute and Chris Iwelumo hit the post before Andrew Crofts levelled matters with a fine diving header from Danny Spiller’s right-wing cross. Then with a minute remaining Michael Flynn played the ball in to Byfield who found the bottom corner with a left-foot strike from the edge of the area.

The two teams that afternoon were as follows -

Gillingham: Brown, Rose, Jackman, Hessenthaler (Shields 61), Cox, Hope, Flynn, Pouton (Jarvis 72), Byfield, Spiller (Corneille 85), Crofts. Unused subs – Knowles, Johnson.

Colchester: Davison, Halford, Danns, Brown, Watson, Duguid, Izzet (Williams 90), Baldwin (Yeates 90), Chilvers, Stockley, Iwelumo. Unused subs – Gerken, Elokobi, Howell.

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