Gillingham booked their place in the Round of 32 of the EFL Trophy (known this season as the Checkatrade Trophy) with a dramatic 1-0 win at Colchester United.
The Gills and the U’s looked to be heading for a penalty shoot-out with the game heading into stoppage time goalless, but a late free-kick strike from centre-half Max Ehmer stunned the hosts and put the Gills away and clear at the top of Southern Group B.
The Gills put out a team of young pros and fringe players as Director of Football Peter Taylor shuffled the pack for the midweek game.
Steve Arnold got a start between the sticks, youngsters Finn O’Mara, Aaron Simpson and Darren Oldaker all played the full 90 minutes and Elliott List played the first half.
Great feeling to make my full debut tonight and even better to get the win, great shift from the boys⚽️🔵 onwards and upwards🙏🏽
— Aaron Simpson (@aaronsimpson_10) October 3, 2017
But it was one of Gillingham’s more experienced heads who made the match-winning contribution, as Ehmer stepped up to curl a stoppage-time free-kick low into the bottom corner to secure Gillingham’s third win in all competitions this season.
— BradleyGarmston#3 (@BradleyGarmston) October 3, 2017
The game was poorly attended, with just 683 fans (including 69 Gills fans) showing up to watch the action. The low attendances for games in the competition – particularly following the Football League’s controversial decision to change the format and allow 16 Under-21 sides from the Premier League and the Championship – must be a concern as clubs AND their fans have made clear their priorities lie elsewhere.
But that won’t concern Gillingham, for whom any win is a big win right now. And with the EFL Trophy producing two of the Gills’ three wins so far this season, this is a cup run Gills fans are all too happy to see continue.
The win puts the Gills clear at the top of Southern Group B with a perfect six points from two games with just one more game – against fourth-placed Reading – still to go before the knock-out stages begin.
With the top two sides qualifying for the last 32, Gillingham are already guaranteed a spot in the knock-out stages. A single point would secure the Gills top spot in the group, but even defeat to Reading would still see the club through in one of the two qualifying spots, even if Southend beat Colchester and overhaul the Kent side’s goal difference.
EFL Trophy: Southern Group B
Gills XI vs Colchester
Arnold, Ehmer, Nugent, O’Mara, Simpson, Parker (Nash 82), Hessenthaler, Clare (Chapman 73), Oldaker, List (Bingham 46), Eaves.
Unused subs: Nelson, Tucker, Starkey, Cundle