Gills open their Papa John’s Trophy campaign with a win at Colchester United.
Robbie McKenzie was the late hero as his volley ensured Gills left the JobServe Community Stadium with a 1-0 win in the Papa John's Trophy on Tuesday night.
Second-half substitute Mustapha Carayol made a huge impact late in the game, and it was his cross that created the goal. His cross was met on the volley by McKenzie, who did well to keep it controlled to find the bottom corner.
Steve Evans, although not in attendance, made several changes for the club’s first group stage fixture. Alex MacDonald started his first game of the season, while deadline day signing Charlie Kelman made his Gills debut.
Harvey Lintott and Gerald Sithole were both in the squad, having missed games due to COVID. Lintott started the game at right-back, and Sithole was named on the bench.
Noah Chilvers had the first chance of the game in the sixth minute. He had a free-kick from a tight angle and tried to find the far top corner. However, Aaron Chapman was equal to it and palmed it away for a corner.
Jack Tucker did brilliantly denying Sylvester Jasper a goal-scoring opportunity in the 23rd minute. Gills lost possession near their penalty area, and the hosts had a three on two. The ball was played into the path of Jasper, who shot, but Tucker was on hand to get in front of the effort to block.
Chapman did brilliantly to prevent Armando Dobra from scoring from close range just after the half-hour mark. The Colchester forward got into the penalty area and shot from close range. Chapman managed to get down quickly and push it away from danger as the ball went out for a corner.
Dobra had another great opportunity in first-half stoppage time but could not hit the target. His effort from a tight angle only found the top of the side netting as Chapman did well to close him down and narrow the gap.
HALF-TIME: Colchester United 0-0 Gillingham
Colchester came inches away from taking the lead through Jasper shortly after the interval. He received the ball on the penalty spot and directed a shot with the side of his foot towards the goal. Fortunately, the ball hit the face of the woodwork before trickling out for a goal kick.
Alex MacDonald forced Jake Turner into a save in the 48th minute. The midfielder tried his luck from distance, but it was straight at Turner and proved to be comfortable for the host’s keeper.
Stuart O’Keefe came close just after the hour following some great build-up play by the Gills. A switch of the play allowed Robbie McKenzie to slip the ball into a good position, and O’Keefe managed to find himself in space on the edge of the area. He fired a shot at goal, but it went over the bar.
Daniel Phillips forced Turner into a tough save shortly afterwards. A cross into the box was headed as far as the Watford loanee, who tried a speculative volley. It was a low effort that bounced on its way towards the goal and forced Turner to get down low to push it out for a corner.
The hosts went down to ten men after Harry Beadle was forced off through injury. Due to The U’s having used all of their substitutes, they were unable to replace him.
Charlie Kelman came close in the 72nd minute to opening his account on debut. A long ball forward allowed the Gills debutant to get in behind the Colchester defence, and he tried a left-footed half volley first-time but blasted it into the stanchion.
Kelman was denied courtesy of a brilliant save from Turner with just five minutes remaining. Mustapha Carayol was brought on and made an immediate impact with a fierce run at Luke Hannant. He lofted a cross towards the six-yard box where Kelman was waiting. He directed a header across the Colchester goalkeeper, and Turner somehow managed to get a hand on the effort to push it out for a corner.
Robbie McKenzie scored the winning goal in stoppage time with a controlled volley. Carayol caused Colchester issues at the back again and directed a nice ball into the box. It fell to McKenzie, who found the bottom corner with a very accurate and controlled finish.
FULL-TIME: Colchester United 0-1 Gillingham
Colchester United: Turner, Beadle, Eastman, Tchamadeu, Coxe, Wiredu (Judge 46’), Chilvers, Kennedy, Nouble (Sears 46’), Dobra, Jasper (Hannant 64’)
Unused Substitutes: George, Kazeem, Tovide
Gillingham: Chapman, Lintott (Reeves 46’), Ehmer, Tucker, Tutonda, O’Keefe, McKenzie, Phillips, MacDonald (Carayol 82’), Lloyd (Sithole 86’), Kelman
Unused Substitutes: Cumming, Bennett, Akehurst, Adshead
Attendance: 731 (41 Gills)
Referee: Brett Huxtable