The Gills eased through to Round Two of the FA Cup with an impressive victory over League One Scunthorpe, courtesy of second half strikes from Matt Fish, Deon Burton, Danny Kedwell and Adam Birchall.
Perhaps with one eye on Tuesday night’s League Two match with Cheltenham Town, Martin Allen made five changes from the starting XI that beat AFC Wimbledon 1-0 last weekend.
Danny Jackman came in at left-back while Callum Davies replaced Tom Flanagan at centre-half. There were also starts for Jack Payne and Bradley Dack in midfield while Deon Burton partnered Myles Weston in attack.
Not surprisingly, given that the game was Brian Laws first match in charge of Scunthorpe, the League One side made a lively start, forcing two quick corners in the opening moments, while Stuart Nelson was also called into action to deny a half chance from Mike Grella.
Having weathered that early barrage, Gills took the game by the scruff of the neck with Myles Weston looking particularly dangerous down the Scunthorpe left. Indeed they could well have taken a lead in the 15th minute but keeper Sam Slocombe was quick off his blocks to punch Weston’s cross off the head of Vincelot.
Martin Allen was forced to make a change to his side on 21 minutes as Bradley Dack made an early exit after a knock to his right ankle, fortunately, in Charlie Lee, Gills had a more than capable replacement.
Four minutes later Matt Fish struck a powerful effort just over from Weston’s corner and Chris Whelpdale was desperately unlucky not to get a touch to Vincelot’s deft through ball moments later as Slocombe slid in bravely to take the ball off his toes.
On 38 minutes former Gills forward Andy Barcham cut into the area from the right but his shot was well blocked by a combination of Barrett and Jackman. Moments later at the opposite end Matt Fish found space to cross from the right but for once there was no one on hand to apply the finish.
Five minutes before the break Michael Collins earned a booking for a clumsy challenge on Romain Vincelot that left the latter requiring lengthy treatment. From the resulting free-kick, Fish went agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock with a low effort just wide of the post from fully 25 yards.
Gills raised the gear another level and could have taken the lead within minutes of the restart as Myles Weston’s corner was headed goalwards by Adam Barrett, only for keeper Slocombe to show great reactions and punch off his line at point blank range.
Moments after Charlie Lee had seen a low effort denied the Gills finally took the lead in the 59th minute. Slocombe dived superbly to his left to turn away Chris Whelpdale’s clever shot on the turn but was powerless to prevent Matt Fish stabbing home the loose ball, at the far post, to claim his second goal in successive home fixtures.
Two minutes later Paul Reid earned the games second booking for an ugly challenge on Jack Payne, fortunately the Gills midfielder was quickly back on his feet.
Six minutes after taking the lead the Gills made it 2-0 in clinical fashion, Myles Weston delivering a pinpoint cross from the left touchline, Deon Burton arriving unmarked at the far post to nod a bullet header across goal and into the bottom corner.
With the visitors’ defence creaking under the pressure, Dave Mirfin became the third Scunthorpe player to see yellow, collecting a booking for a foul on Vincelot, on the left edge of the area. Shortly after goalscorer Deon Burton received a standing ovation as he was replaced by Danny Kedwell.
In the 76th minute Gills were awarded a penalty after Danny Jackman was hacked down in the area by Josh Walker. Danny Kedwell never misses from the spot and sure enough he smacked his 11th goal of the season, high into the roof of the net to put the Gills 3-0 up.
With just over ten minutes remaining Martin Allen made his final change, Adam Birchall arriving to warm applause on his return from a loan stint at Dartford. Within seconds of the substitution the home side almost added a fourth, Whelpdale arriving at the far post to meet Jackman’s cross but Slocombe was out smartly again to smother the ball at his feet.
The icing on the cake arrived with time added on as Adam Birchall ended his recovery from injury by netting his first competitive goal for the club, Kedwell headed Jackman’s free-kick from the left goalwards, Slocombe pushed the ball to his left and Birchall was on hand to force home and seal a memorable cup win for Gillingham
Attendance: 4016 (156 Scunthorpe)
Gillingham: Stuart Nelson, Matt Fish, Danny Jackman, Adam Barrett, Callum Davies, Jack Payne, Chris Whelpdale, Romain Vincelot, Bradley Dack (Charlie Lee 21), Deon Burton (Danny Kedwell 71), Myles Weston (Adam Birchall 79)
Subs not used: Tommy Forecast, Andy Frampton, Ben Strevens, Lewis Montrose.
Scunthorpe: Sam Slocombe, Christian Ribeiro, Josh Walker, Dave Mirfin, Paul Reid, Mike Grella (Connor Jennings 78), Andy Barcham (Jimmy Ryan 79), Mark Duffy, Michael Collins (Damien Mozika 70), Tom Newey, Karl Hawley
Subs not used: Callum Kennedy, James Severn, Robbie Gibbons, Niall Canavan
Referee: Andy Woolmer
Assistant Manager: Chris O’Donnell and Wade Norcott
Fourth Official: Oleksandr Saliy