Gillingham’s FA Cup with Budweiser ambitions are ended after Glenn Walker’s stunning strike settles an even encounter
With new boys Craig Fagan and Elliott Hewitt, together with loan signing Danny Hollands ineligible to play, Michael Harriman on international duty, and Danny Kedwell and Steven Gregory ruled out through injury, manager Peter Taylor was forced to make six changes to the side that beat Sheffield United on Saturday.
Stephen Butcher came in to the right-back role for his first senior start, Bradley Dack and Charlie Lee returned to the midfield, while Bayo Akinfenwa led the line, partnered by the pace of Myles Weston and Antonio German on either flank.
The home side, urged on by their highest attendance of the season, started the game with much the same momentum that they brought to the first tie at Priestfield. Brackley almost fashioned an opening in the third minute as Steve Diggin’s chipped pass caught Leon Legge off balance but Adam Barrett was on hand to deny Gary Mulligan a shooting opportunity.
Gills responded with a sixth minute free-kick from Bradley Dack that saw Elliot Sandy send a glancing header just wide of his own back post and from the resulting corner Charlie Lee drew the games’ first save with a rising drive from just outside the area.
The visitors gave themselves a scare on 13 minutes as Legge’s back header from a Curtis McDonald long ball evaded the oncoming Stuart Nelson, fortunately the Gills keeper recovered quickly to claim the ball at the feet of Mulligan. Moments later at the opposite end Myles Weston found space to cross for Bayo Akinfenwa to head at the far post but Saints keeper Alastair Worby was equal to the challenge.
It was another piece of opportunism that led to Brackley opening the scoring in the 21st minute, Charlie Lee was dispossessed, deep in his own half, and the ball was squared for Glenn Walker to fire a stunning drive beyond Nelson.
After a sustained period of pressure from the hosts, Gillingham had a chance to strike back on 32 minutes as Mulligan’s pass went straight to Weston, the pacy forward burst through the Brackley defence and let fly with a powerful angled drive that just flashed the wrong side of the keeper’s near post.
Soon after Joe Martin made a blistering run into the area and squared for Antonio German but the young striker couldn’t connect cleanly with the ball and cleared the cross bar. Then four minutes from time Gills got the ball in the net after Bayo headed Butcher’s right wing cross towards the keeper’s far corner, sadly Bradley Dack’s final touch was ruled offside and the goal was chalked off.
Gills came out from their half time team talk with the bit firmly between their teeth and were unfortunate not to level the scores within seconds of the restart. John Mousinho laid off Weston’s corner for Joe Martin to strike from distance, only for keeper Worby to keep it out with a diving save low to his left.
The visitors totally dominated the opening exchanges of the second half and went close again five minutes later, Weston playing a short corner to Martin who hung a cross towards the far post where Leon Legge headed agonisingly wide of the keeper’s right hand upright.
On 55 minutes Lee glanced a near Dack corner across the face of goal, it carried to Joe Martin but the full-back couldn’t stear his finish under the bar. Moments later Steve Diggin saw a powerful strike denied by Nelson before Walker fired wide from just outside the box.
On the hour mark Bayo Akinfenwa took a coat of paint off the crossbar after Dack had laid off German’s low centre. It was the young forward’s last contribution before he was replaced by Chris Whelpdale.
Chances came thick and fast at either end, Bradley Dack fired wide after a good run through the Brackley defence, Diggin sent another effort from distance straight down the throat of Nelson and Solkhon’s blushes were spared by keeper Worby after he turned a low Weston cross towards his own goal.
21 minutes into the second half Peter Taylor increased his attacking options with the introduction of Cody McDonald for Stephen Butcher, with Lee dropping back to cover the right-back berth. But it was Brackley that nearly extended their lead on 71 minutes, Walker cutting in from the right before dragging his finish just wide of Nelson’s left hand post.
The visitors went desperately close once more, four minutes later as Worby denied Whelpdale’s flicked header from a deep Lee cross, the ball fell back to the substitute who hooked a shot over the stranded keeper, only to see it land on the roof of the net.
Cody McDonald saw a shot turned behind from Akinfenwa’s knock down and Whelpdale headed behind at the far post as the Gills laid siege to the Brackley goal. Two minutes from time John Mousinho beat the keeper only to see his effort hit the post and the follow up finish was also cleared off the line as Brackley rode their luck.
With play drifting into four minutes of time added-on, Martin sent a rising drive over the bar but it just wasn’t to be Gillingham’s night.
Gillingham: Stuart Nelson, Stephen Butcher (Cody McDonald 66), Adam Barrett, Leon Legge, Joe Martin, John Mousinho , Bradley Dack, Charlie Lee, Bayo Akinfenwa, Antonio German (Chris Whelpdale 61), Myles Weston
Subs not used: George Howard, Joe Carter, Callum Davies, Devante McKain, Jake Hessenthaler
Brackley Town: Alastair Worby, Eddie Odhiambo, Curtis McDonald, Steve Towers, Tom Sharpe, Ryan Austin, Elliot Sandy, Brett Solkhon, Gary Mulligan, Steve Diggin, Glenn Walker
Subs not used: Owen Story, Eddie Nisevic, Charlie Griffin, Nat Jarvis, Darren Collins, Ben Mills, Neil Cartwright
Referee: James Linnington
Assistants: Adam Crysell & Chris O’Donnell
4th Official: Tim Robinson