Colchester United 0 Gillingham 1, match report: Kurtis Guthrie returns but U’s lose to Max Ehmer’s late free-kick
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Colchester United 0 Gillingham 1
Kurtis Guthrie started his first match for more than seven months, during tonight’s Checkatrade Trophy Southern Group B match against League One visitors Gillingham.
But the U’s were beaten by a long-range injury-time free-kick from defender Max Ehmer, whose 25-yarder surprised keeper Sam Walker on its way in at the near post.
That 91st minute strike secured the Gills a passage through to the knock-out stages of the competition, while the U’s remain stuck on two points with one group match remaining, away at Southend.
Guthrie had made a cameo appearance as an injury-time substitute at Yeovil last weekend, but this was the striker’s first proper run-out since damaging ankle ligaments at the end of February, late on in the home win over Hartlepool.
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Not surprisingly, Guthrie looked a little rusty during his 45 minutes of action, before he was substituted at half-time.
But it was a big boost to see the Jersey-born front-runner back on the pitch, especially as he had so impressed with 12 goals from 33 league games in his first season with the U’s last term.
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Tonight’s match looked like it was going to go to a penalty shoot-out, to decide the extras point, just as the U’s first game against Reading Under-21s (2-2 draw, U’s won shoot-out) was decided.
But in the end, Ehmer’s free-kick won it in normal time.
Managerless Gillingham, with the experienced Peter Taylor (Director of Football) in charge on a caretaker basis, earned a free-kick in a dangerous position in the fifth minute, but Darren Oldaker scooped the 20-yard set piece well over the top.
The U’s showed six changes from the side that recorded their first away win of the season, and only their second win on the road in 2017, at Yeovil last Saturday.
And Sean Murray, who netted the winner in that 1-0 victory in Somerset, registered the U’s first goal attempt, although his speculative 25-yarder rolled harmlessly wide of target.
The visitors went much closer on the quarter-hour mark. Front-runner Elliot List sneaked behind the U’s three-man defence and fired in an angled drive which Sam Walker managed to finger-tip beyond his far post.
Five minutes later and Sanmi Odelusi, operating behind the front two of Guthrie and Mikael Mandron, sliced a first-team shot several yards over the bar from a promising position.
This was Odelusi’s full debut for the U’s, following a couple of substitute appearances at Cambridge and against Chesterfield during their first half of last month.
Gills keeper, Steve Arnold, was forced into his first save in the 25th minute. Left wing-back Lewis Kinsella powered onto Mandron’s pass and connected sweetly with a low shot which Arnold did well to smother on his goal-line.
A minute later and Walker denied the Gills an opener with a wonderful save. Sean Clare’s dipping 25-yarder was heading for the roof of the net until the U’s keeper stuck out a hand to divert the ball over the bar.
Otherwise, chances dried up until Mandron tried his luck with a long-range thunderbolt, in first-half stoppage-time. The ball flew straight into Arnold’s arms.
The U’s made a change at half-time, with Nicke Kabamba replacing Guthrie up front, and the hosts went close when Murray’s 47th minute free-kick was deflected wide of the far post with Kane Vincent-Young not far from diverting home while at full stretch.
Tom Eaves squandered the best chance of the match when the big striker ballooned a shot over the bar from just eight yards out, just before the hour mark.
At the other end, Odelusi had a goal-bound shot parried by keeper Arnold, who was well off his goal-line, with Murray firing the rebound only a foot wide of the far upright.
There was a welcome appearance from Craig Slater, who was introduced as a 78th minute substitute following all his recent injury concerns. It was the Scotsman’s first outing since the second weekend of the season.
COLCHESTER: Walker, Kent, James, Kpekawa, Vincent-Young, Comley, Murray, Kinsella, Odelusi (sub Slater, 78), Guthrie (sub Kabamba, 46), Mandron (sub Senior, 60). Unused subs: Gilmartin, Jackson, Hanlan, O’Sullivan.
GILLINGHAM: Arnold, Omara, Ehmer, Nugent, Parker (sub Nash, 82), Clare (sub Chapman, 73), Hessenthaler, Oldaker, Simpson, List (sub Bingham, 46), Eaves. Unused subs: Nelson, Cundle, Starkey, Tucker.
Referee: John Brooks (Leics)
Attendance: 684 (69 away fans)