Super sub Bond grabs late winner for U’s
Gillingham 0 Colchester United 1
Super sub Andy Bond scored with his very touch to snatch an opening day victory for Colchester United at newly-promoted Gillingham this afternoon.
Midfielder Bond, introduced as an 87th minute substitute, hit the back of the net within 60 seconds, converting fellow substitute Drey Wright’s excellent lay-off from eight yards out.
It was a dream finish for the U’s in the Kent sunshine, and an away win that they deserved, thanks to their impressive showing in the latter stages of the game.
However, the U’s were also indebted to some fine saves from Sam Walker.
The excellent Walker tipped a thunderbolt from Danny Kedwell onto the underside of his bar on 20 minutes, and later made a superb double save in the second half to thwart both Chris Whelpdale and Amine Linganzi.
But the U’s had just as much pressure as their hosts, with Jabo Ibehre, Freddie Sears, Brian Wilson, Marcus Bean and substitute Alex Gilbey all registering efforts on goal, before Bond obliged with the last gasp winner.
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Summer signing Sanzhez Watt was the one absentee for the U’s, after picking up a lower leg injury during last weekend’s pre-season game at Maldon & Tiptree.
But there was a competitive U’s debut for the ex-Brentford and Southampton left-back, Ryan Dickson.
Gillingham’s Stephen Butcher made his own debut for his new club, but off the substitutes’ bench, as a replacement for injured right-back Matt Fish after just five minutes.
Despite the early disruption caused by this injury, it was the Gills who settled the better and striker Kedwell was not far adrift with a low angled drive on eight minutes that whistled a foot wide of the far post.
Three minutes later and the U’s launched their first attack. Brian Wilson floated a free-kick to the far post, where keeper Stuart Nelson was just able to punch away before Jabo Ibehre could pounce.
Ibehre went closer in the 19th minute. Freddie Sears slid over a low cross ball which Ibehre diverted over the bar from point blank range.
A minute later and Gillingham were desperately close to taking the lead. Kedwell spotted Sam Walker off his line and tried his luck with a spectacular 25-yarder – the alert Walker managed to finger-tip the ball onto his bar, and the rebound hit his head and dropped to safety.
The action was warming up, midway through the first period, and Sears planted a shot across goal and narrowly wide, with keeper Nelson scurrying across his line.
Just after the half-hour mark, danger-man Kedwell, proving a danger-man up front, knocked down a free-kick for his skipper Adam Barrett, but the angle was too tight and the defender’s shot looped into the side-netting.
At the other end, poor control let down Ibehre at the vital moment. Gavin Massey found the big man in space, just outside the six-yard box, but he failed to control and Nelson mopped up.
Walker produced the best save of the half in the 41st minute. Charlie Lee had a sight of goal, but could not squeeze his shot beyond the Chelsea loanee, who blocked with his legs.
Just before the break, Nelson was forced into his first real save, parrying Brian Wilson’s snap shot and catching at the second attempt.
Nelson was forced into a better save on the hour mark. Midfielder Bean met Ryan Dickson’s teasing cross with a thumping volley which the Gills keeper did well to palm away.
Otherwise, chances dried up in the second period until Gills substitute Myles Weston ballooned a free shot over the bar, from a dangerous position.
Walker then obliged with a terrific double save in the 72nd minute. First he saved low to his right from Chris Whelpdale, before scrambling to his feet to block the follow-up by Amine Linganzi.
Alex Gilbey, on as a 74th minute substitute for Bean, nearly grabbed the lead for the visitors with his first touch of the ball. His goal-bound header was clawed away by Nelson.
Gilbey had another header saved by Nelson on 83 minutes, and Massey then saw a shot blocked by his own team-mate Ibehre late on.
However, there was still time for Bond to send the 779 U’s away fans home delirious, with his late winner.
GILLINGHAM: Nelson, Fish (sub Butcher, 5), Barrett, Legge, Martin, Gregory, Linganzi, Lee (sub Akinfenwa, 62), Whelpdale, McDonald (Weston, 56), Kedwell. Unused subs: Davies, Dack, German, Howard.
COLCHESTER: Walker, Wilson, Okuonghae, Eastman, Dickson, David Wright, Eastmond (sub Bond, 87), Bean (sub Gilbey, 74), Massey, Sears (sub Drey Wright, 79), Ibehre. Unused subs: Thompson, Morrison, Olufemi, Cousins.
Referee: Keith Hill (Hertfordshire)