It proved a frustrating evening at the Abbey Stadium as Cambridge United fell to a 0-2 defeat to Gillingham.
In a battling encounter, Vadaine Oliver drew first blood for the visitors before Danny Lloyd’s thunderous attempt on the hour mark put the game to bed in what was a professional away performance from the visitors.
Mark Bonner made two changes to the team that shared the spoils with Fleetwood Town three days earlier – Lloyd Jones returned to the fold and Sam Smith was restored as the U’s tinkered with formation.
United approached the encounter in fine form, having lost just one of their previous six leagues games in what had been an encouraging start. The Gills, on the contrary, were in the midst of a sticky injury situation and were eager to banish an ongoing five-game winless league run.
The visitors started in the ascendency, causing havoc from their early corners. George Williams was forced into action on the 2nd minute, making an astute clearance from his own goal line after the ball fell to an unmarked Rhys Bennett from 10 yards.
United’s first opportunity arose after 17 minutes when Jack Iredale’s lofted ball towards the right hand side was met by Sam Smith who beat the Gills defence in a speed race but pulled the trigger too soon after seeing Jamie Cumming off his line.
The U’s found themselves a goal behind on the 25th minute. Robbie McKenzie’s floating cross from the right was flicked on well by John Akinde towards Oliver who latched onto the loose ball and poked home.
The response was a positive one. Continuing to press with intensity and linking up strongly down either flank with slick movements, the hosts predominantly threatened the Gills with some menacing deliveries into the box crafted out by Williams and Iredale.
That remained evident on 37 when Shilow Tracey’s teasing goal-bound cross was flicked on by the head of Paul Digby, but he was to be denied by the reflexes of Cumming who parried away from danger.
It proved the last action of a testing first half for the U’s, who had been frustrated by a stubborn Gills defence and put through the gears physically. Ultimately, they were very much still in the game.
United stamped their authority from the get go after the interval and continued to enjoy stretching their opponents out wide. A pinpoint cross deep down the left from Iredale on the 47th minute was met by a rising Smith whose looped header was astoundingly denied by the fingertips of Cumming.
Despite a period of possession and a flurry of corners after stepping up the tempo, the U’s were in desperate need of rejuvenation after Gillingham extended their lead to two goals on 59. After intercepting a misplaced pass, Lloyd marauded forward and cannoned a barnstorming attempt into the top corner.
Endeavour to claw back a goal was still on show for the hosts, but Steve Evans’ side were proving a tough nut to crack, limiting them to very little clear cut attempts as the match petered out in the midst of torrential outpour on what was a stern examination.
As you’ve done so fantastically this season, be sure to back the U’s once more when they look to bounce back as they hit the road again on Saturday (2nd October) where they take on Dave Artell’s Crewe Alexandra.
Cambridge United: Mitov, Williams, Jones, Masterson, Iredale, Tracey, Digby (May, 75), O’Neil, Brophy (Lankester, 65), Smith (Weir, 75), Ironside
Gillingham: Cumming, McKenzie, Ehmer, Bennett, Tutonda, Adshead, MacDonald, Dempsey, Lloyd, Akinde, Oliver (Kelman, 62)
Bookings: Tutonda, Ehmer
Attendance: 4019 (326 away fans)