A last gasp equaliser from Bradley Dack set up a replay in an epic FA Cup with Budweiser First Round clash at MEMS Priestfield Stadium
With Leon Legge suspended, Amine Linganzi missing through injury and Danny Hollands unavailable, Peter Taylor was forced to make three changes. Callum Davies partnered skipper Adam Barrett at the back,
Steven Gregory came into midfield and Cody McDonald joined the attack, with new loan signing John Mousinho named on the bench, along with youngsters Joe Carter and Jake Hessenthaler.
Brackley, currently flying high in the Skrill North division, made a very positive start indeed, pressing the Gills all over the park and could have taken the lead in the fifth minute as Steve Diggin hooked an effort over the head of Stuart Nelson, only to see it come back off the keeper’s crossbar.
Two minutes later the visitors went close once again, Izak Reid delivering a free-kick to the far post where Saints skipper Ryan Austin rose above the home defence but could only head into the side-netting.
Steve Towers saw a shot from distance blocked by Adam Barrett for a corner, before Michael Harriman earned the game’s first booking for kicking the ball away in the 13th minute. He was followed into the book moments later by Izak Reid, who clipped the heels of Cody McDonald midway inside the Brackley half.
On 16 minutes Stuart Nelson made a superb reflex save to deny a certain goal for the visitors after Diggin had helped Curtis McDonalds’s ball into the path of Steve Towers. The pass caught the Brackley midfielder wrong-footed and Nelson raced out to make a timely stop for the hosts.
As the half wore on the Gills began to assert their authority and tested the Brackley defence on 26 minutes as Danny Kedwell climbed to meet a Whelpdale corner, sadly his header dropped the wrong side of Billy Turley’s far post.
Ten minutes from the interval Elliot Sandy cut in from the right but saw his effort deflect off Whelpdale for a corner. While at the other end a well-worked corner routine saw Whelpdale dummy Charlie Lee’s delivery for Kedwell to shoot but his effort cleared the crossbar.
On 40 minutes Charlie Lee collected a yellow card for a tackle on Steve Diggin before the Gills spurned their best opening of the half, Myles Weston broke down the left, pulled the ball back across goal but unfortunately Kedwell got too much on his finish and fired over.
The Gills tested Brackley straight from the restart as Kedwell headed Whelpdale’s long throw-on goalwards, only to be denied by keeper Turley, before Glenn Walker pounced on a loose ball in the Gills area but his effort was well blocked by Joe Martin.
Adam Barrett went into the book in the 49th minute for a foul on former Gill Gary Mulligan and Nelson was called into action once more from the resulting free-kick, saving Diggin’s glancing header.
Three minutes later, Cody McDonald’s blocked shot carried into the path of Lee, who pulled his finish wide of Turley’s left-hand upright and soon after Whelpdale forced his way in from the left hand touchline but couldn’t get his rising drive on target.
On 61 minutes keeper Turley pulled off a fine save to push Kedwell’s close range effort around the post after the Gills top scorer connected with Weston’s right wing centre.
With two thirds of the match gone Peter Taylor made a triple substitution, introducing Mousinho, Dack and Akinfenwa for Weston, Davies and Lee, Danny Kedwell dropping to centre-half as Bayo partnered Cody in
Second later Brackley took the lead on 67 minutes as a cross from the left fizzed into the box, Steve Diggin and Joe Martin both seemed to get something on it and the ball diverted past Stuart Nelson and into the keeper’s bottom left corner.
Play was then held up due to a change in referee as Lee Collins was replaced by his fourth official Barry Holderness but the visitors continued to look buoyant after the restart, with Brett Solkhon firing a long range effort just over the top right corner.
On 77 minutes the Gills were desperately unlucky not to find the net as Whelpdale’s free-kick dropped in the area, McDonald, Dack and Kedwell were on the spot but couldn’t force the ball home as Brackley defended for their lives.
At the opposite end Nelson had to palm Walker’s floated free-kick over the bar as the visitors continued to threaten, while on 82 minutes Michael Harriman made space to cross from the right but McDonald’s finish was the wrong side of Turley’s near post.
Four minutes later another Whelpdale header sparked muted celebrations in the Rainham End as Bayo Akinfenwa’s glanced header seemed to have hit the net, but the ball had gone behind, then Bradley Dack was sent through one-on-one with the keeper but Turley made another great block to deny the Gills once again.
In the final minutes of normal time, Turley’s goal-kick carried straight to sub Nat Jarvis who fired goalwards, Nelson couldn’t hold the ball but recovered to block the back-heeled follow up from Ben Mills at his near post.
It was backs to the walls for Brackley for six minutes of time added-on and in the dying seconds the Gills finally got the breakthrough they deserved as Nelson’s long ball forward allowed Bradley Dack to rifle home the equaliser and set up a replay at St James Park.
Attendance: 3,004 (231 Brackley Town)
Gillingham: Stuart Nelson, Joe Martin, Callum Davies (Bayo Akinfenwa 66), Chris Whelpdale, Danny Kedwell, Cody McDonald, Myles Weston (Bradley Dack 66), Steven Gregory, Charlie Lee (John Mousinho 66), Michael Harriman, Adam Barrett.
Subs not used: Antonio German, Joe Carter, George Howard, Jake Hessenthaler
Brackley Town: Billy Turley, Izak Reid, Curtis McDonald (Eddie Nisevic H/T), Steve Towers, Tom Sharpe, Ryan Austin, Elliot Sandy, Brett Solkhon, Gary Mulligan (Ben Mills 70), Steve Diggin (Nat Jarvis 89), Glenn Walker.
Subs not used: Owen Story, Eddie Odhiambo, Alistair Worby, Charlie Griffin.
Referee: Lee Collins
Assistants: Michael Smith & Carl Fitch
4th Official: Barry Holderness