Mikael Mandron's first goal for Gills against former club not enough as Colchester take their chances in entertaining cup tie at Priestfield.
Gillingham opened their Leasing.Com Trophy campaign with a 3-2 defeat to Colchester United at Priestfield on Tuesday evening.
In what was an entertaining game at Priestfield, both Stuart O’Keefe and Mikael Mandron opened their accounts for the season. A late siege on the U’s goal nearly brought a leveller, but it wasn’t to be for the Gills as Colchester came out on top.
Manager Steve Evans made nine changes to the side that beat Bolton on Saturday with Tom O’Connor and Connor Ogilvie the only survivors from the 5-0 win. Joe Walsh was one of the nine incomings, the young goalkeeper making his first competitive start for his hometown club.
Gills started the better side in Kent and Mark Marshall sliced over the first chance of the game from inside the box. In truth, the winger didn’t get hold of it properly. Tom O’Connor then blazed over the bar as Gills looked for an early lead at Priestfield.
Instead, Colchester went ahead in the seventh minute, against the run of play. After some neat build-up down the left channel, Theo Robinson beat Walsh to the ball and Paris Cowan-Hall had an easy finish from inside the six-yard-box. 0-1.
Colchester threatened again soon after, a driving run from left to right by Ryan Clampin saw the full back tee-up Kwame Poku, but his effort was blocked by Connor Ogilvie. Charles-Cook then saw a free-kick saved by Ethan Ross as the game opened up.
Gillingham drew level half-way through the first-half. After a cross wasn’t cleared properly by the U’s defence, the ball fell to Stuart O’Keefe. The midfielder struck sweetly in to the bottom corner to leave Ross with no chance in the visitor’s goal. A real moment of quality from the Gills number 4. 1-1.
It was certainly a lively affair in ME7 and the physical presence of Mikael Mandron was causing issues for the U’s backline, with much of the good work the home team were doing, involving him.
The other Mikael, Ndjoli, was then denied at the near-post before Jack Tucker had an effort blocked behind for a corner as the Gills sought a second before the break.
Gills had bossed proceedings in the first half and were certainly unfortunate to not be ahead at the interval.
Neither side made a change at the break and it was O’Keefe who had the first opportunity of the second half, though his effort sailed wide this time.
Colchester regained the lead just nine minutes into the second half. A long clearance from one of the U’s defenders fell kindly to Theo Robinson. The forward jinked left and right before shooting low into the far corner. 1-2.
And it was three not long after. Some slick football from the visitors resulted in Cowan-Hall being teed up on the edge of the area. His powerful shot went in off the crossbar to extend the lead, and give the visitors some breathing space. 1-3
Despite controlling large spells of the game, Gillingham now found themselves with a mountain to climb. Evans rung the changes, introducing Alex Jakubiak, Olly Lee and Mark Byrne for the final attack.
And the changes evidently worked as Gills pulled a goal back in the 78th minute, with substitute Olly :ee providing the assist for Mikael Mandron. Lee delivered a corner to the far-post and Mandron powered home his first Gills goal!
Gillingham nearly pulled level just two minutes later after Lee was brought down on the edge of the box, but after dusting himself down, the midfielder fired his effort a whisker over the bar.
Gills thought they had levelled in added time through Mandron but referee David Rock adjudged the forward to have fouled his man. A late Gills siege on the goal went unrewarded as O’Connor saw his last ditch attempt saved by the keeper as it ended in defeat.
Gillingham: Walsh, Hodson, Tucker, Ogilvie, O’Connor, Cisse (Jakubiak 69), O’Keefe, Ndjoli (Lee 69), Charles-Cook (Byrne 72), Marshall, Mandron.
Unused subs: Bonham, Ehmer, Fuller, Jones.
Colchester: Ross, Sowumni (Eastman 60), Brown, Cowan-Hall (Senior 75), Wierdu, Robinson, Comley, Kensdale, Clampin, Chilvers (James 82), Poku.
Unused subs: Vose, Stevenson, Hasanally, Nouble