Pre-season friendly at Priestfield ends 0-0.
Gillingham’s first game at The MEMS Priestfield Stadium in nearly six months ended 0-0 as Cambridge United and Gills played out a stalemate during a pre-season friendly.
With Storm Francis causing havoc for both teams the game struggled to maintain any element of fluidity, but it was a second clean sheet of pre-season as Steve Evans’ men continued to build for their Sky Bet League One campaign opener with Hull City on September 12.
Matty Willock returned to the starting XI with Trae Coyle and Vadaine Oliver combining in attack. Zech Medley partnered Jack Tucker and Robbie McKenzie once more in the centre of defence with Jordan Graham providing the creativity in midfield.
The first chance of note for either side went to the Gills when Oliver was bundled over on the edge of the box. Kyle Dempsey stood over the free-kick, but his effort from 25 yards went over the crossbar and into the empty away end.
Despite the early chance, it was Cambridge who were edging proceedings in the opening stages and Paul Mullin really should have put them ahead midway through the first half. After dancing round a couple of challenges, the forward put his effort wide when he looked destined to score.
Cambridge came close again towards the end of the first half, but Luke Hannant, who was proving to be very lively down the left-hand side, also shot wide from the edge of the box when he should have, at least, tested Bonham who had come off his line to narrow the angle.
Gillingham thought they had taken the lead just before the break, but Trae Coyle’s clinical finish was ruled out due to the offside flag being raised. It was a sharp finish from the young man, who signed on loan from Arsenal earlier this month.
Stuart O’Keefe was introduced into the action at half-time, replacing Connor Ogilvie, as Steve Evans returned to a back four for the second period having operated with three centre-backs during the first 45.
And it was the substitute who nearly made an immediate impact just minutes after coming on. Jordan Graham stood a ball up to the back-post and O’Keefe did well to climb highest but his header was well saved by Callum Burton in the United goal.
Cambridge were still looking a threat on the break though and again came close to breaking the deadlock when Joe Ironside drove into the Gills box from deep and fired towards goal. Luckily for Jack Bonham, and the Gills defence, the ball went the wrong side of the post.
Minutes later and Cambridge had the best chance of the game. A corner from the Gills right found Paul Digby unmarked in the penalty box but from six yards out he fired his header over the bar.
The game struggled to find any real rhythm during the final 20 minutes as multiple changes for both teams meant there was little in the game as it ended all square.
However, a clean sheet and the fact a number of players completed the whole game without succumbing to injury will have pleased the Gills management who now prepare for Saturday’s game at Leyton Orient.
Gills team: Bonham, Jackson, Ogilvie (O’Keefe 45), Tucker, Medley, Willock (Mellis 70), Dempsey (Woods 75), Graham (Macdonald 65), Coyle (Hanlan 65), Mckenzie, Oliver (Akinde 65).
Cambridge starting XI: Burton, Knoyle, Digby, Taylor, Darling, Hannant, O’Neil, Mullin, Dunk, Ironside, Knowles.
Referee: Mr Gavin Ward