Two goals inside the first 15 minutes saw Fleetwood Town end 2017 at Highbury with a 2-0 defeat against Gillingham.
Josh Parker and Luke O’Neill’s strikes were enough for all three points for the visitors, despite Town dominating possession throughout the 90 minutes.
Jordy Hiwula had Fleetwood’s best chance three minutes from time, but shot wide from inside the area.
Uwe Rosler made two changes from the side that played against Peterborough last Sunday afternoon, with Hiwula and Baily Cargill coming into the starting eleven. Nathan Pond and Wes Burns dropped to the bench.
It wasn’t the start Rosler would have wanted with Gillingham taking the lead in just the second minute of the match. Parker was the goal scorer, with the midfielder managing to pick up the ball inside Fleetwood’s box, turn his man and place his left-footed shot past Alex Cairns at the near post.
Town didn’t let the early goal get them down. The next chance fell for the Cod Army when Amari’i Bell’s through ball sent Cole down away the left wing. The striker did well to break away from the chasing pack, but his shot at goal went wide of Tomas Holy’s right-hand post.
However, Gills doubled their lead on the quarter hour. O’Neill cut inside of his marker on the right flank, he tried his luck from distance and it paid off. His curling effort skidded off the surface just in front of the goalkeeper and into the far corner. A great start for Steve Lovell’s men.
The home side grew into the game and with patient build-up in the middle of the pitch; the ball was played out wide to Lewie Coyle. The wing back beat his man, whipped in a dangerous ball into the box to Hiwula, but it was Zakuani whose last-ditch challenge blocked the shot on target.
With five minutes until the end of the half, Town continued to press the back line of the Gills. Cian Bolger did well to get down low to George Glendon’s corner, however the centre-half couldn’t direct his head goal wards.
The red waves of Fleetwood kept pushing against the Gillingham wall in the remaining minutes of the half, but they kept solid until the break.
The second half began with Jack Sowerby and Ashley Hunter being introduced into the match; with Aiden O’Neill making way along with Cargill.
The two substitutes linked up in the final third straight away. Hunter crossed the ball in from the left wing, with Sowerby millimetres away from connecting with the ball. If the midfielder did get contact on the ball, it would have been a certain goal.
Ten minutes into the half, Tom Eaves thought he had made it 3-0 to the visitors with his header back across goal. It was a well-worked move by the Gills, but the linesman’s flag saved Town.
It was the Cod Army who got on the front foot after that disallowed goal. The home side came close when Bolger beat his opposite number to the ball and despite his header on target, the blue shirts of Gillingham got in the way to deny the boys in red.
Bolger took a knock after his effort at goal, and was replaced by club captain Nathan Pond. That was Rosler’s last substitute of the match.
Fleetwood never gave up and kept going until the final whistle, with Hiwula going close near the end, but it was to be defeat in the final home match of 2017.
Town XI: Cairns (GK), Coyle, Bell, O’Neill (Sowerby 46’), Eastham, Hiwula, Dempsey, Bolger © (Pond 70’), Glendon, Cargill (Hunter 46’), Cole
Subs not used: Neal (GK), Burns, Maguire, Schwabl
Gillingham’s XI: Holy (GK), O’Neill, Ehmer, Zakuani, Wagstaff (Hessentahler 39’), Eaves (Wilkinson 82’), Martin ©, Ogilvie, Parker, Clare, Bryne
Subs not used: Arnold (GK), Lacey, Nugent, List, Cundle.
Referee: David Webb
Attendance: 2,088 (85 away)