Gillingham slip to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Fleetwood Town at Highbury Stadium
A third minute strike from Tom Hitchcock proved enough for Fleetwood to secure a 1-0 win over Gillingham at Highbury Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The striker drilled a shot beyond Stephen Bywater from inside the box with the keeper having punched away an initial corner kick, and the debutant made no mistake having only joined the club 24 hours prior to kick off.
The visitors enjoyed good spells of possession in both halves but couldn’t find a way past Chris Maxwell – Cody McDonald having Gills best opportunity well saved by the keeper’s legs in the first half.
Peter Taylor made four changes to the side that drew 1-1 with Crawley last time out, with Bywater returning between the sticks in place of Stuart Nelson.
Skipper Doug Loft returned to the side with Kortney Hause joining Leon Legge and John Egan at the back.
Josh Pritchard was recalled into the midfield with Michael Doughty starting his second game in succession since joining on loan from QPR.
Fleetwood didn’t take long to register the opening goal – a corner on three minutes from the left hand side was punched away by Bywater, the connection wasn’t the best but debutant Hitchcock made space for himself to convert the rebound.
The striker only signed on Friday afternoon but he took his chance well and drilled the ball beyond the retreating defenders.
It gave the visitors an early setback but they responded well, a well struck free kick from Egan was tipped over by Maxwell before a low effort from McDonald inside the box was well saved by the Fleetwood goalkeeper.
There wasn’t an awful lot to separate the two teams until the break with neither keeper thoroughly tested, however Maxwell was called upon twice to gather 20 yard efforts from Loft.
Pritchard then found a yard of space to launch a shot slightly further out, Maxwell was at full stretch but the ball whistled past his right hand post.
Gills were the better side as the half came to a close, but were unable to draw level before the interval.
Gillingham started the second half brightly but were unable to turn their possession into an early goal.
A decent cross from Doughty was cleared at the far post before the following corner was well defended.
Hoyte was replaced by Jermaine McGlashan on 56 minutes to try and inject some pace on the right wing, but the hosts were far from content with a one goal advantage – Pond missing the target with a powerful header just before the hour mark with Bywater needing to be alert moments later to collect at the second time of asking having palmed away an initial effort from Josh Morris.
He was on hand again inside the last 10 minutes to save a shot from sub Antoni Sarcevic, and with the clock ticking down Leon Legge very nearly clinched a point at the death, but his left foot shot missed the target.
Fleetwood: Maxwell, McLaughlin, Pond, Evans, Dobbie (Sarcevic 74), Hughes, Morris (Andrew 90), Southern, Jordan, Hitchcock, Crainey.
Unused subs: Lucas, Roberts, Blair, Forbes, Haughton.
Gills: Bywater, Hoyte (McGlashan 56), Egan, Legge, Hause, Martin, Pritchard, Loft (Dack 67), Doughty, Kedwell (Norris 67), McDonald.
Unused subs: Nelson, Fish, Hessenthaler, Dickenson
Attendance: 2951 (252 Gills)
Referee: Mr T Harrington