Southern Football Conference One East

COLCHESTER Gladiators' winning run was ended after their depleted squad fell to defeat in hot conditions at Kent Exiles.

Gladiators' squad of 25 players took on the tough 56 kitted players from the Exiles, who are second in the league.

And without key players such as Casey Campbell and Jake Wickham, the heat and poor squad depth combined to increase the size of the task ahead of them.

Head Coach Luke Box was proud of the way his beleaguered troops fought their way from the first whistle to the last in trying circumstances.

He said: “It was a tough, physical game and we lost a couple of players early to injury which made it hard for our already depleted squad.

"The guys remaining played hard, some on both sides of the ball and out of their usual positions.

“Late in the game we took a few chances to get back into the game which didn't pay off and led to two further scores from Kent making it seem worse than it was.

"But we still have to keep working hard and find a way to win the tough ones.”

The first quarter ended scoreless and the Gladiators backed up deep in their half after a good Kent punt.

But Rob Wickham found Adam Dickens, playing both ways due to player shortage, for a gain of 49 yards to take them across midfield.

However, they couldn't maintain the momentum and had to punt.

A sack by Josh Milgate forced a Kent punt but another good kick forced them to start their next drive deep in their half and Wickham's third down pass was intercepted and returned 28 yards for a touchdown.

The extra point was added to give the Exiles the lead at 7-0.

The Gladiators took possession again but worse was to come as Wickham was shaken up by a block on the interception return and went to the medical staff for assessment.

Curtis Bourke was unable to take over as he had received a shoulder injury and with third choice Jake Wickham absent, options were limited.

Gennings bravely stepped into the breach with very limited experience of the position behind him and backed up on the six.

But two good runs from Eddie Collison gave him some breathing room and he found Tommy Clarke over the middle for a first down, as the Gladiators went in at half-time trailing 7-0.

Another interception and regular sacks of their QB ensured the Gladiators remained scoreless in the third period.

But the defence was hanging together, keeping the Exiles out of the end zone to give them hope.

However, it was the Exiles who scored next to effectively seal the game with a 41-yard field goal after a 49-yard run by their nippy running back.

With Gladiators trailing 17-0, Box had to roll the dice on fourth down but the offence turned the ball over on downs and the Exiles were able to pad the score with a late score after getting the ball on a short field.

A three-yard run was good for six points and the point after brought the final score to 24-0.

The Gladiators are bottom of the table with two games remaining, both against the London Hornets.

The Garrison-based club know that if they win both, they should see division one football again next year.

Gladiators' play their penultimate game of the season is at home to London Hornets on Sunday, July 23, 2.30pm kick-off.