Today has to be the one of the worst days as a Gillingham supporter since the arrival of manager Justin Edinburgh. The pre-season meeting with League 2 outfit Leyton Orient was overshadowed by the injury midfielder Lee Martin had suffered just thirteen minutes from time. Later reports saying the summer arrival has broken and dislocated his ankle, meaning the pre-scan assumption is Martin will be out for at least the majority of the 2016/17 season.
Whilst the game was abandoned in the 83rd minute, the Gills were trailing 2-0 and being there I must admit it was a very undeserved lead for the home side. Loanee Deji Oshilaja was put into the starting eleven by Edinburgh, making his first start of the pre-season calendar. The opening chance of the game came after 15 minutes inside the first-half, with Cody having out-muscled the Orient defence before his header being saved by impressive Alex Cisak between the posts.
Just six minutes later and captain Josh Wright saw an effort from the edge of the box be superbly saved by the goalkeeper again, after some good play by fellow midfield-man Jake Hessenthaler. The resulting corner led to an effort from striker Joe Quigley, who received the ball from Mark Byrne but only to see his volley saved by Cisak, again!
One of Leyton Orient’s summer signings, Gavin Massey from Colchester United, found space on the right-wing and a neat piece of skill allowed him to find Jordan Bowery who scuffed it into the far left corner to give The O’s a lead. The Gills suffered a second blow just before the interval when Ryan Jackson wrongly fouled Harry Cornick inside the 18-yard box, last season’s 25 goal machine Jay Simpson sent the ball to the top-right from the resulting penalty, sending Stuart Nelson the wrong way.
The Gills went into half-time two goals behind, although were undeservedly so until the first goal and then after that we seemed to had switched off.
Ten minutes into the second-half it took for ‘boys from Kent’ to register the first chance after the break. Substitute Lee Martin was played in by the experienced Paul Konchesky, his pass found Byrne but the Irishman’s shot could only find it’s way wide. Nelson made his only notable save in the game just moments later, denying front-man Bowery a second goal of the game from six yards out by performing an amazing save to keep the score at 2-0.
Orient’s Ollie Palmer nearly did make it three goals to the home side in the 75th minute, a cross from Dean Cox fell onto his head, only for the post to deny him. 60 seconds later the game fell to a stand still after Martin went down after a cross into the box, with Andy Hessenthaler and Justin Edinburgh agreeing to abandon the game. After 83 minutes or so, the match finished and ended 2-0 to the London-based club.
Nelson, Jackson, Ehmer, Oshilaja (Osadebe 46), Konchesky, Hessenthaler (Knott 60), Wright, Dack (Martin 46), Byrne, McDonald, Quigley (Donnelly 60) Unused subs: Hadler, Cundle, Oldaker, List
Shortly after the game, it was revealed what the extent of Martin’s injury was and he will most likely be out for the entire season – leaving Gillingham short of options in attacking midfield, with Scott Wagstaff missing the first couple of weeks of the new campaign. Also, fans found out why striker Luke Norris was not involved in the day’s action. Edinburgh stating the club had accepted a bid for the frontman from an unnamed team.
My man-of-the-match had to be Max Ehmer, or Josh Wright. The latter displayed a fine performance, like he does every week, amongst a very average display from vast majority of the squad. The captain proved why he was given the armband, being able to organise his team-mates and his range of passing was astonishing, always cutting through Leyton Orient’s midfield and constantly succeeded in his short and long passes.
Meanwhile, Ehmer didn’t do anything amazing apart from being a safe defender. Rather than hoof the ball upfield and lose possession again, the German would always take a touch and look for a pass. We failed to see a lot of that last season, but then again there’s two main factors contributing to the impressive display by Ehmer – the opposition being a division below us and the fact it was pre-season and no one really wanted to get injured.
Last campaign’s star man Bradley Dack was disappointing, just like he was at Barnet. Perhaps my expectations of him are set way too high and bring myself back down to Earth, his outstanding part in the 2015/16 season could have just been a purple patch for the 22 year-old. Two notable free-kicks were taken by Dack and both failed to reach their targets, with Orient able to clear at ease.
Someone who I thought had a lacklustre game was Ryan Jackson. For me, it looked like he lost all confidence he had last year before the injuries. Everytime he had the ball you’d be hoping he’d take the man on and, whether it was good or not, whip a cross into the box. The full-back instead would have the ball at his feet and pass it back or lose it.
Those were just some of the players I decided to pick on, but nevertheless I enjoyed the day and it was our last preparation for the upcoming campaign. Unfortunately I had already been to the Matchroom/Brisbane Stadium, when we drew 3-3, so I am unable to add the ground to my 92 – which currently stands at 15 following last week’s visit to The Hive in Barnet. The Gills were backed by 147 supporters, which for a friendly, I must admit isn’t bad at all. The official attendance stood at 706.
All pictures in this were taken by myself (apologies for the poor quality).