Mark Patterson's development side unlucky to lose 1-0 in their opening league fixture to Cambridge at Beechings CrossGillingham slipped to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Cambridge in their opening fixture of the Final Third Southern Development League at Beechings Cross on Wednesday afternoon.
A drilled left foot strike midway through the first half from Bobby-Joe Taylor proved enough for the visitors to clinch victory, although Mark Patterson’s side were left wondering how they didn’t score following a host of chances in the final 20 minutes.
The starting line-up contained Amine Linganzi who is close to full fitness following his hamstring problem, while Matt Fish was out to impress at full back.
Josh Pritchard, Antonio German and Aaron Millbank were also named in the first XI.
The Gills had an opportunity within the first couple of minutes when German found some space on the right hand side of the penalty area, but his shot struck the side netting before another effort minutes later was deflected wide.
Cambridge began to work their way into the game and on the quarter hour mark nearly found a way through when Michael Freiter had to be alert to put behind a potentially dangerous cross from the right wing – he was then on hand to clear the resulting corner while under pressure from an advancing forward.
However on 23 minutes Cambridge took the lead when a low pass from the right hand side evaded all blue shirts, and Taylor steadied himself before drilling a low effort beyond the reach of Hadler.
The keeper had to be ready shortly after the re-start when he caught a shot from just outside the box, and Gills responded well as they created one of their best chances of the match on 34 minutes.
German did well to regain possession just inside the Gills half and skipped away from a couple of challenges before firing a left footed strike wide of the right hand post.
Cambridge nearly found the net again before the interval with one shot being blocked at the near post, before a long range effort went narrowly wide of the target with Hadler at full stretch.
Gillingham dominated proceedings for much of the second half although Cambridge still looked threatening on the counter.
German hit the side netting once again on 51 minutes via a through ball from Linganzi, before Hadler made a good stop four minutes later to deny a second for the visitors.
On 59 minutes Linganzi’s 20 yard shot took a couple of ricochets before landing in the hands of the goalkeeper, prior to a terrific effort from Mahlon Romeo which hit the side netting.
The lively defender, who can also play further up in midfield, tried again moments later but this time Norris in goal had a simple stop to make.
The introduction of Charlie Webster, in place of Aiden Blanchard, just after the 70 minute mark seemed to make a lot of difference – the lively attack minded midfielder very nearly produced an equalizer when he found German in space just outside the six yard box but a recovering defender put in a great block to deny the goal.
The youngster then went himself, finding a yard of space inside the area following some clever footwork before firing a curling shot narrowly wide of the target. Aaron Millbank was then desperately unlucky not to connect with a Romeo delivery from the left wing, he had the goal at his mercy but yet again a vital touch from a defender saw the chance come and go in a flash.
Norris then made a decent stop from a Webster effort, before Cambridge missed the opportunity to kill the game off three minutes from time when a one on one chance resulted in a wayward effort which failed to trouble Nalder.
Cambridge: Norris, L.Coulson, Bender, Whittall, Joynes, B.Taylor, Hurst, Lowe, Doyle, Akintunde, Bevins.
Gillingham: Hadler, Fish, McKain, Staunton, Romeo, Blanchard (Webster 70), Freiter (Sellens 25), Linganzi, Pritchard, German, Millbank