Colchester United win a thriller against league leaders
- Credit: Richard Blaxall/Focus Images Ltd
Colchester United 2 Gillingham 1
Colchester United recorded back-to-back wins by toppling league leaders Gillingham in a thriller at the Weston Homes Community Stadium this afternoon.
Gavin Massey started the early goal flurry in the fourth minute, by bursting onto Callum Harriott’s pass and directing his low shot beyond keeper Stuart Nelson.
Gillingham were level just three minutes later, striker Luke Norris latching onto Cody McDonald’s flick to slot past the advancing Jamie Jones.
But the U’s regained their lead on 29 minutes, thanks to a sensational finish from Harriott. The Charlton loanee rammed home a first-time shot past a dazed Nelson, following Matt Briggs’ pass.
The Gills had the ideal opportunity to equalise in the 34th minute, when Frankie Kent was harshly adjudged to have handled the ball in the penalty area.
Jones had saved a late penalty at Sheffield United, to ensure the U’s first win (3-2) of the season on Tuesday night, and he obliged again by keeping out McDonald’s spot kick.
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Once again, Jones’ penalty save was to prove crucial, as the U’s held on to record their first home win of the season.
Aside the two early goals, it was still a breathless start to the game with chances aplenty at both ends of the pitch.
Gills midfielder Jordan Houghton volleyed inches over the bar after only 38 seconds, and there were still only 72 seconds on the clock when McDonald rattled the far post with a skidding low drive.
The U’s also attacked brightly, and Marvin Sordell, making his home debut, blasted over the top following a quick break on the two-minute mark.
Then came a couple of quickfire goals, Massey sweeping the U’s into a fourth minute lead, before Norris tucked home an equaliser just three minutes later.
Gillingham continued to enjoy a purple patch, after this equaliser, and certainly looked the better team, Jones standing up well to block Norris’ rasping shot from the edge of the box.
However, an in-form George Moncur, with four goals in his previous four appearances, went close with a 14th minute volley which was charged down by a defender, following Massey’s cross.
On 22 minutes, Owen Garvan delivered a very deep cross to the far post, where Kent managed to connect with a downward header. However, Nelson kept this out with a degree of comfort.
Goalscorer Massey then tried his luck with a mazy run and a well-struck low drive which Nelson dived to his right to smother.
There were also four bookings in the first half-hour, and Gills left-back Brennan Dickenson was lucky to still be on the pitch after committing another two fouls after his early booking.
The entertainment continued apace, and the U’s regained their lead in the 29th minute, thanks to a superb finish by Harriott, who beat keeper Nelson all ends up with a 12-yard thunderbolt.
There was hardly time to blink, and the Gills were awarded a soft-looking penalty in the 34th minute, for handball against Kent.
But Jones pulled off another of his terrific penalty saves, keeping out McDonald’s spot kick to preserve the U’s 2-1 lead.
The first half ended with three goals scored, and six yellow cards dished out by referee Craig Breakspear.
Into the second period and Jones made a brave double save in the 53rd minute, to deny both Houghton and McDonald on the edge of his six-yard box. The U’s keeper denied Houghton on a one-on-one situation, before pouncing on the rebound before McDonald could pounce.
It had been a quieter second period, although Harriott lifted a 30-yarder narrowly over the bar in the 68th minute, and Bradley Dack headed straight at Jones at the other end.
Dack was denied again by Jones in the 85th minute, the Preston loanee diverting his fierce shot off target.
COLCHESTER: Jones, Vincent-Young, Kent, Eastman, Briggs, Edwards, Garvan, Moncur (sub Gilbey, 84), Massey, Sordell, Harriott (sub Ambrose, 79). Unused subs: Parish, Szmodics, Bonne, Sembie-Ferris, Harney.
GILLINGHAM: Nelson, Jackson, Egan, Ehmar, Dickensen (sub Garmston, 46), Houghton, Loft, Wright (sub Hessenthaler, 64), Dack, McDonald (sub Donnelly, 64), Norris. Unused subs: G Morris, Williamson, A Morris, Osadebe.
Referee: Craig Breakspear (Surrey)
Attendance: 4,694 (1,171 away fans)