Full time report as United beat the leaders
United grafted their way to a deserved win at the league leaders tonight with a performance built on team spirit, hard work and resilience. Alfie Potter slid home the decisive goal late in proceedings but it was a result that all of the United players deserved for their non-stop efforts.
There were changes of shape and line-up for the U’s from the off as they adopted a new look 4-2-3-1 shape. The usual backline of Damian Batt, Michael Raynes, Jake Wright and Liam Davis were augmented by Adam Chapman and Tony Capaldi sitting just in front of them and then a line of Sean Rigg, Potter and Simon Heslop linking them with lone striker Deane Smalley.
It was flexible and worked very well in the first half in particular as they caused the league leaders plenty of problems. A couple of early free kicks were only just hacked clear, with a ninth minute one causing a good old-fashioned goalmouth scramble. At the other end Luke McCormick made one good save to top a long range effort after three minutes, but his opposite number Stuart Nelson was the busier keeper as he caught another Chapman shot from a free kick after 11 minutes and watched other efforts go close or be blocked by brave challenges
United forced corners and set pieces and pushed the Gills back with the tireless Smalley running his socks off for the cause, but the danger was always that Gillingham would counter and a well worked move on 38 saw Deon Burton tee up sub Bradley Dack for a shot which McCormick saved brilliantly to keep the scores level.
At the other end a driving run from Liam Davis ended with a shot which Nelson saved well, before a fine cross from the ever dangerous Rigg was wasted as Potter just delayed his shot too long and allowed a defender to block.
The second half was equally fiercely contested, with the excellent Raynes and Wright throwing themselves in to blocks and keeping Gillingham at bay and Capaldi and Chapman smothering any danger at source. Behind them McCormick was unflappable and dealt with anything Gillingham could throw at him, which meant that the home crowd were starting to vent their frustration as we reached the hour mark.
Understandably United started to drop deeper as they sensed that another clean sheet and a valuable point were within their grasp while Gillingham started to throw everything they had at them. Sub Antonio German had a half chance which McCormick fell on gratefully but that would have been harsh on Raynes and Wright in particular who were magnificent and deserved to be on the winning side.
With five minutes to go United secured all three points. Capaldi slipped the ball down the left channel and Potter was off with only veteran Adam Barrett trying to get across to stop him. Potter took the direct route, Barrett never quite got there, and the forward slipped the ball almost casually across Nelson and into the far corner to secure all three points for his side. As if beating the leaders wasn't impressive enough the U's were also upsetting the history books with Potter's goal the first the U's have scored at Gillingham since 1986!
When the chips are down the U's have an unbelievably good habit of somehow upping their game and beating the odds. This was a great result, simple as that. See you on Saturday as they take on Port Vale at the Kassam Stadium.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Darrell Fisher, stats by PA Sports
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