PRESTON NORTH END 2-0 GILLINGHAM
The Gills bowed out of the FA Cup with a defeat to Preston North End at a very chilly Deepdale.
Martin Allen opted to shuffle his pack, making four changes from the side that drew 1-1 at Accrington in the league last weekend.
Tommy Forecast replaced the suspended Stuart Nelson between the posts while Adam Birchall was handed his first senior start in attack.
Joe Martin made a welcome return at left-back, after missing several fixtures with a hand injury, while Charlie Allen also came into the side on the right of midfield.
On a bitterly cold afternoon, Gills had to work hard in the opening stages to counter the attacking threat of their League One hosts.
It was during that spell of pressure that Adam Barrett earned the game’s first yellow card on eleven minutes for a foul on Lee Holmes on the left edge of the box.
From the resulting free-kick Preston took the lead, as Nicky Wroe’s set-piece delivery was cleared to Jeffrey Monakana whose finish was deflected beyond Forecast and into the keeper’s top
The Gills were desperately unfortunate not to square the scoreline on 22 minutes with Romain Vincelot sending a sweet shot goalwards only for German shot stopper Thorsten Stuckman to deny him with an acrobatic save, high to his right.
Preston looked odds on to score their second in the 29th minute as Monakana burst through the Gillingham half before laying off to Beavon on the edge of goal, he leapt the challenge of Barrett but his powerful finish was kept out by a fine save from Forecast.
Four minutes later, after Matt Fish had fired a shot over at the opposite end, Vincelot collected the Gills second booking for a challenge on Wroe.
The visitors’ best move of the half came in the 37th minute as Birchall fed Fish on the right of the box, he delivered a peach of a ball across the face of goal but neither Vincelot, at the near post, or Burton, at the back stick, could apply the finish it deserved.
Within seconds Preston were 2-0 up thanks to an opportunistic finish from Beavon. Gills custodian Forecast came out to deny a Monakana chance only for the ball to land straight at the feet of Beavon who returned it with interest into an empty net.
Two minutes before the break Joe Martin was harshly booked, after clipping the heels of Todd Kane, to complete a frustrating half for Gillingham.
Martin Allen made bold changes to his side at the break bringing on Charlie Lee and Chris Whelpdale for defenders Joe Martin and Callum Davies to give the team a much more attacking shape.
He was rewarded after just 22 seconds when the Gills were awarded a penalty for hand ball. Deon Burton stepped up to the spot but struck a low effort against the foot of Stuckman’s right hand upright.
Four minutes later it was the home side’s turn to hit the woodwork, Beavon rifling a shot on the turn against Forecast’s far post as the play ebbed from box to box. Soon after, Charlie Allen and Cansdell-Sherriff were booked following an off the ball tussle.
Burton was denied again in the 54th minute, this time he saw a clever hooked shot from the edge of the “D” palmed away at full stretch by Stuckman. While Preston skipper John Mousinho sliced wide of the far post after good work by Monakana.
A quick counter attack on 67 minutes saw Adam Birchall’s rising drive to the near post thwarted by Stuckman before Martin Allen made his final change, introducing leading scorer Danny Kedwell for Deon Burton.
Moments later Monakana had the ball in the net for the third time but the goal was chalked off as the referee, quite rightly, judged that Beavon had kicked the ball out of Forecast’s hands to set up the goalscoring opportunity.
On 76 minutes Lewis Montrose earned the Gills fifth booking for a foul on Lee Holmes, referee Kettle allowed play to continue but carded the player retrospectively at the next break in play.
The visitors never gave up but this wasn't to be their day and the Gills can now focus all their attentions on League Two success
Gillingham: Tommy Forecast, Matt Fish, Joe Martin (Charlie Lee H/T), Charlie Allen, Callum Davies (Chris Whelpdale H/T), Lewis Montrose, Adam Birchall, Deon Burton (Danny Kedwell 68), Myles Weston, Adam Barrett, Romain Vincelot
Subs not used: Ben Strevens, Danny Jackman, Andy Frampton, Ross Flitney
Preston: Thorsten Stuckman, Paul Huntington, Chris Robertson, Shane Cansdell-Sherriff, Nicky Wroe (Jack King H/T), Lee Holmes, Todd Kane, Jeffrey Monakana (Lee Trundle 90), John Welsh, John Mousinho (Andy Proctor 75), Stuart Beavon
Subs not used: Akpo Sodje, Joel Byrom, Steve Simonsen, Will Hayhurst
Referee: T Kettle
Assistants: D Benton & R Joyce
4th Official: S Oldham