Wycombe Wanderers 0, Gillingham 1.

WANDERERS paid the price for being second best in the second half as their home campaign got off to a losing start.

Gillingham full-back Joe Martin notched the only goal of the game, tapping in from close range as a free-kick fell kindly to him, but it was no less than the visitors deserved.

Not even the dismissal of defender Tom Flanagan with 12 minutes remaining was enough to give Blues a way back in, as they failed to build on flashes of promises in the first half.

They were outplayed after the break and the Gills could have added to their single goal several times as Blues – without a home win since March 6 – came up short again.

Gillingham, opening day 3-1 winners against highly fancied Bradford, looked a very good team and should be challenging at the top of the table. It remains to be seen if Wanderers can do the same, but a vast improvement on this showing is needed.

Yet they created the first chance of the game as Matt Spring’s pass freed Sam Wood on the left and his cross in turn picked out Stuart Beavon, who swivelled smartly but was out of luck as a nick on his shot was enough to take the ball off target.

Back came Gillingham as Chris Whelpdale slipped trying to tuck home Myles Weston’s cross, and Anthony Stewart had to be alert to smuggle the ball away with Danny Kedwell sniffing for scraps.

Burly striker Kedwell should have given the Gills the lead shortly afterwards as Weston, who Blues struggled to contain when he featured for Brentford in the last Adams Park pre-season friendly, again escaped down the right and sent over a superb cross that Charlie Lee looked like he was going to nod in until the visiting skipper nipped in ahead of him and fluffed his header wide.

Lee was left screaming in frustration and Wanderers almost punished them as Sam Wood, scorer of a beauty at York on Saturday, wriggled away from Tom Flanagan and was unfortunate to see his right footed effort curl just the wrong side of the post.

But Gillingham were doing more of the attacking and Nikki Bull made a great save to deny Weston after the flying winger hurdled challenges from Spring and Johnson and bulldozed his way into the area.

Blues settled after that and Spring’s firmly-struck effort rebounded into the path of Beavon, who was denied by visiting keeper Stuart Nelson as he came out to smother at his feet. Wanderers managed to force a corner in the ensuing melee, from which the increasingly influential Spring had a shot blocked by debutant Adam Barrett.

The home side’s rhythm was disrupted as Wood had to go off injured just before the break, to be replaced by Dennis Oli – one of three former Gillingham men in the Wanderers squad.

They could have gone in a goal up as Nelson fumbled an admittedly fiercely-struck free-kick behind for a corner, which was headed inches wide by skipper Gary Doherty.

Gillingham boss Martin Allen made a change at half time, bringing on son Charlie, and he almost made an instant impact as Bull beat away his close range effort within minutes of the restart. Allen senior could then only head across the face of goal from a narrow angle with Bull grounded after the save.

Bull was in action again to tip over Lee’s header but he was powerless to prevent Gillingham from going in front. Weston’s hammer of a free-kick from 30 yards out smacked against the post and bounced into the path of Martin who, unmarked and a matter of yards out, made no mistake.

Joel Grant almost conjured an instant equaliser as he bent one wide but Blues boss Gary Waddock opted to change formation and went with two up front as Richard Logan replaced Matt Bloomfield.

It was the visitors who were continuing to create the openings however and Whelpdale was inches away from doubling the lead as he headed Weston’s cross narrowly wide.

The midfielder was at it again moments later as his long ranger was batted away by Bull as the Kent club threatened to run riot, with Allen stooping to head into the keeper’s arms.

From nowhere Grant almost pulled an equaliser out of the bag as he broke from the halfway line, beat two men before Nelson flapped his stinging drive away, with Jack Payne throwing himself at Logan’s follow-up effort.

But dangerman Weston almost put the game beyond doubt as he went steaming through onto a precise pass, and a combination of Bull and Doherty managed to foil him.

Wanderers were given a lifeline as Flanagan – having already been booked for a crude first half hack at Stuart Lewis – hauled back Logan as he looked to break clear and he received a red card.

It mattered little as, a Beavon shot that was easily blocked by Barrett aside, Wanderers were unable to break through.

Wanderers: Bull, Stewart, Johnson, Doherty, Basey (sub Angol), Grant, Bloomfield (sub Logan), Lewis, Spring, Wood (sub Oli), Beavon. Substitutes not used: Harrison, Winfield, Kewley-Graham, Hause.

Attendance: 3,507