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Report | Gillingham 1-1 U's

U's through to knockout stages as group winners

11 October 2022

Colchester United progressed to the knockout stages of the Papa Johns Trophy as Southern Group A winners with a 1-1 draw at Gillingham.

The hosts struck first, against the run of play, with Walker nodding beyond O’Hara two minutes before half time.

But the U’s were back in the game quickly when John Akinde found the target in first half stoppage time.

The second half saw some chances for both sides, but neither was clinical enough to take them as the game came to a close at 1-1.

The hosts won the penalty shoot-out for the additional point, but the U’s had already made it through to the next round with the point collected in the ninety minutes.

Matt Bloomfield named a side with ten changes from Saturday’s league action with Luke Chambers the only remaining starter from the weekend’s win over Harrogate Town.

Kieran O’Hara was named in goal, with a back four of Ossama Ashley, Luke Chambers, Tom Eastman and Ryan Clampin in front of him. A midfield two of Alan Judge and Matty Longstaff would line up behind the attacking three of Beryly Lubala, Noah Chilvers and Alex Newby, assisting John Akinde as the out-and-out striker.

Colchester United started brightly in the game, looking the most likely to find the net first with an encouraging opening twenty minutes of play.

Former U’s ‘keeper Jake Turner was called into action a handful of times as the visitors tried to find their range. Noah Chilvers and Beryly Lubala were both looking to find their range, but neither really troubled Turner.

There was sixteen minutes on the clock when Turner was really tested for the game. Noah Chilvers picked out John Akinde’s run with Baggott booked for a foul on the U’s front man on the edge of the area. Alex Newby stepped up to take, and drove the ball low towards goal with Turner scooping the set-piece out of danger.

The game evened out, with Gillingham starting to get a foothold in the contest, but the U’s were still creating chances in front of goal – going the closest of both teams through Noah Chilvers.

Searching for his fourth goal of the season, Noah allowed the ball to run across him on the apex of the penalty area, taking aim with a curling effort that smacked off the post and away from danger.

But it was the hosts who opened the scoring, with Lewis Walker on target. Neil Harris’ side won a free kick in a position on the right flank, lofting in a cross for Walker to flick past O’Hara and give his side the advantage on forty-three minutes.

Gillingham’s lead wouldn’t even last until half time though, as John Akinde got his second goal in as many Papa Johns Trophy matches. Matty Longstaff’s effort from inside the penalty area was blocked but fell kindly for Akinde to power home at the far post, levelling the scores before the break.

Neil Harris made four substitutions at half time, with Ehmer, McKenzie, Kashket and Adelakun all introduced to try and win the game for his side.

The first fifteen minutes of the second half was more even than the first, with both sides creating opportunities in front of goal.

The first of which fell for Gillingham, but it came from a misplaced Colchester United pass. Longstaff’s ball hit the back of Beryly Lubala’s calf, falling for Jordan Green to slide the pass to Kashket, who saw his effort blocked and cleared.

The U’s had the next chance, with Tom Eastman attacking Ryan Clampin’s corner. The defender reached the ball first, flicking it across the face of goal, but out for a goal kick.

An hour had been played when Matt Bloomfield made his first changes of the evening, opting to replace Beryly Lubala and John Akinde with Dan Chesters and Frank Nouble.

There were limited chances for the last half an hour of the match as the pace slowed towards full time. Colchester United had a couple of efforts on goal, but nothing that troubled Turner, with O’Hara barely getting a touch at the other end of the pitch.

The full time whistle blew at 1-1 to signal that the U’s had won Southern Group A, earning a home tie in the knockout stages of the Papa Johns Trophy, with a penalty shoot-out at Priestfield to decide who would claim the additional point.

Matty Longstaff netted the first for the U’s with Gills’ goalscorer Lewis Walker also scoring. Frank Nouble missed the second for the U’s, before Newby, Tchamadeu and Chilvers all scored to keep the tie alive.

And Kieran O’Hara saved the fifth from Josh Chambers to take it to sudden death. But the U’s couldn’t carry the momentum as Marley Marshall Miranda blasted wide with Jordan Green scoring from the spot.

Regardless of the shoot-out defeat, the U’s had already done enough to progress to the knockout stages of the competition with the draw to be made in the coming weeks.

Next up for Matt Bloomfield’s side is a trip to the County Ground on Saturday afternoon, and a return to Sky Bet League Two action, with Swindon Town this weekend’s opponents.

Gillingham starting XI: Turner, Alexander (Ehmer 46’), Wright, Baggott, Law, Jefferies (Chambers 78’), Williams (McKenzie 46’), Green, MacDonald (Kashket 46’), Walker, Mandron (Adelakun 46’).

Subs: Morris, Ehmer, Akehurst, Chambers, McKenzie, Adelakun, Kashket.

Colchester United starting XI: O’Hara, Clampin, Chambers, Judge (Marshall Miranda 84’), Chilvers, Lubala (Chesters 62’), Ashley (Tchamadeu 80’), Eastman, Newby, Akinde (Nouble 62’), Longstaff.

Subs: Hornby, Dallison, Tchamadeu, Chesters, Kazeem, Marshall Miranda, Nouble.

Attendance: 828 (71)

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