Colchester United denied a victory at the death
- Credit: Richard Blaxall/Focus Images Ltd
Gillingham 2 Colchester United 2
Colchester United came within seconds of recording back-to-back victories for the first time this season, at Gillingham this afternoon.
But they were ultimately to be denied by Doug Loft, who slammed home a dramatic equaliser in the sixth minute of injury time.
Chris Porter’s 87th minute header appeared to have won all three points for the visitors, after George Moncur’s opening goal had been cancelled out by Max Ehmer’s close-range header.
But the Gills had the last laugh, right at the death.
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Moncur’s goal arrived on 63 minutes, when Porter rose high at the far post to meet a deep cross by substitute Gavin Massey.
Porter headed into the six-yard box and, although the lurking Sammie Szmodics could not help it on goalwards, there was the onrushing Moncur to slam the ball into the roof of the net from 12 yards out.
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But the U’s could not hold out, and centre-half Ehmer stole in to head home the equaliser with eight minutes remaining, from Bradley Dack’s cross.
However, there was still time for Porter to seemingly clinch all three points, with a bullet header from Matt Briggs’ excellent cross.
But there was to be a late sting in the tale. Jacob Murphy lost the ball in the middle of the park, and the U’s were made to pay, with skipper Loft crashing home the last gasp equaliser.
U’s boss Tony Humes made two changes to the side that beat basement dwellers Yeovil on Tuesday night.
Elliott Hewitt was sidelined through illness, so Alex Wynter came in at right-back, and Porter was recalled up front following loanee Rhys Healey’s return to his parent club Cardiff.
It was the Gills who settled early on. In fact, Sam Walker was forced into a fine save after just 20 seconds, blocking Cody McDonald’s shot at point blank range after Luke Norris’ through ball had split open the U’s defence.
The visitors offered very little as an attacking threat during the first 15 minutes.
Gills keeper Glenn Morris, making his first league start of the season, and his first for the Gills, smothered one rather tame shot by Alex Gilbey, but otherwise he had very little to do.
The U’s did exert some pressure around the 20-minute mark, and Chris Porter could have done better when heading straight at keeper Morris, from David Fox’s teasing corner.
That was one of several corners that Fox swung into the box, during the mid-point of the half, and from one of these Morris did well to punch clear from his own goal-line.
At the other end, Walker had to dive smartly to his right to keep out a speculative 25-yarder from midfielder Aaron Morris, which otherwise would have sneaked in on 27 minutes.
The game rather drifted, for the remainder of the half, although Gills striker Norris was only a whisker away, on 41 minutes, with a long-range rocket which whistled over the bar.
Just as Gillingham had nearly scored within the first few seconds of the first half, so the U’s were desperately close to breaking the deadlock inside 19 seconds of the second period.
Porter had a clear sight of goal, but screwed his shot a foot wide of the far post, with just keeper Morris to beat.
The U’s had made a change at half-time, with Massey replacing the ineffective Dion Sembie-Ferris down the right flank. And they had to make another one on 51 minutes, with skipper Fox limping off injured – on came Sammie Szmodics.
The game was opening up and Massey’s cross was diverted into the path of Moncur, on 52 minutes. However, Moncur’s half-volley was beaten away by keeper Morris.
The Gills had strong appeals for a penalty turned down in the 58th minute, when Matt Briggs appeared to upend substitute Jermaine McGlashen. But referee Darren Sheldrake merely waved play on.
And five minutes later the U’s took the lead, thanks to Moncur’s deadly finish from 12 yards out.
Walker made a couple of crunch saves in the 76th minute. Firstly, he arched back to fingertip a goal-bound header from Bradley Dack over his bar and then, from the ensuing corner, he blocked McDonald’s close-range shot at his near post.
Ehmer equalised on 82 minutes, only for Porter to regain the lead with a sweet header – but Loft still popped up with a late leveller.
GILLINGHAM: G Morris, Bell (sub Dickenson, 74), Egan, Ehmer, Hoyte, A Morris (sub McGlashen, 46) Hessenthaler, Loft, Norris (sub Marquis, 68), Dack, Norris, McDonald. Unused subs: Nelson, Legge, Galbraith, Muldoon.
COLCHESTER UNITED: Walker, Wynter, Khumalo, Eastman, Briggs, Fox (sub Szmodics, 51), Gilbey, Moncur, Sembie-Ferris (sub Massey, 46), Porter, Murphy. Unused subs: Lewington, Marriott, Vincent-Young, Bonne, Lapslie.
Referee: Darren Sheldrake (Surrey)
Attendance: 5,399 (344 away fans)