Gills slip to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Coventry City on their return to the Ricoh ArenaA first half strike from former Gills forward Frank Nouble was enough to clinch a 1-0 win for Coventry City on Friday night on their return to the Ricoh Arena.
The striker, on loan from Championship side Ipswich, found the net on 10 minutes following an accurate low pass from winger Ryan Haynes to spark celebrations among the 27,000 home faithful in front of the live Sky TV Cameras.
Gillingham controlled proceedings for large periods and were desperately unlucky not to equalize with a number of chances coming their way either side of the break, most notably in the dying seconds when John Egan was inches away from securing, what would have been, a deserved point.
Manager Peter Taylor made six changes to the side that beat Stevenage 1-0 in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy with Stephen Bywater, John Egan, Kortney Hause, Jermaine McGlashan, Aaron Morris and Brennan Dickenson all returning to the starting line-up.
As a result Glenn Morris, Josh Pritchard, Luke Norris, Gavin Hoyte and Leon Legge all sat out. Danny Kedwell also missed out due to a knee injury which Peter revealed after the game.
Both sides started well in the first five minutes with Gills showing glimpses of their pace on the flanks with McGlashan and Dickenson stretching their legs, but it was the hosts who took the lead on 10 minutes.
Haynes burst down the left hand side and cut a ball back for former Gills striker Nouble, and with Bywater coming out to narrow the angle the forward site footed an effort past the stopper and into the corner.
The visitors responded well and got the ball into good areas, but Coventry continued to push forward themselves with Conor Thomas and Jim O’Brien going close following a well struck volley by Bradley Dack which went over Ryan Allsop’s crossbar.
For the latter 15 minutes of the half Gills were unfortunate not to draw level after enjoying plenty of possession – the closest they came to scoring was courtesy of a cross from McGlashan which was nearly directed into the goal by a recovering defender.
The Coventry back four stood firm as the half came to a close to ensure their advantage was maintained at the break.
A couple of minutes after the re-start and Coventry had a good chance to double their lead.
O’Brien picked out Nouble with a delicate pass over the top of the back four, he held the ball up and waited for the run of Fleck whose header glanced just wide before Martin hacked it clear.
For the next 15 minutes Gillingham dominated proceedings and progressively asked more questions of the home defence – a series of corners finally resulting in a strong header from John Egan which forced a fine stop from Allsop at his near post.
On 65 minutes however Fleck produced a piece of near brilliance, the midfielder spotted Bywater off his line and launched a hopeful shot from all of 40 yards.
The keeper back tracked quickly and did well to prevent the ball from crossing the line.
Chances came and went at either end – the introduction of Luke Norris nearly having an immediate effect when his shot was blocked inside the penalty area on 77 minutes.
A low shot at the other end by O’Brien was comfortably saved by Bywater before Antonio German was introduced for the last five minutes in place of McGlashan.
And it was the striker who very nearly created the equalizer in the dying moments – he delivered a teasing ball wide from wide on the right hand side across the face of goal, but with no Gills player on hand to convert their best opportunity to burst the net came and went in the blink of an eye.
The visitors won a last gasp free kick, but this was headed away with ease prior to the full time whistle.
Coventry: Allsop, Willis, Webster, Johnson, Thomas (Finch 89), Fleck, O’Brien, Nouble (McQuoid 59), Tudgay (Hines 89), Clarke, Haynes
Unused subs: Burge, Pugh, Coulibaly, Phillips
Gillingham: Bywater, Egan, Hause, Davies (Norris 76), Martin, McGlashan (German 86), Hessenthaler, A Morris, Dack, Dickenson (Pritchard 76), McDonald
Unused subs: G Morris, Fish, McKain, Linganzi
Referee: Mr K Stroud
Attendance: 27,306 (495 Gills)