Richard Day reports from the ArenaGillingham’s youngsters were knocked out of the FA Youth Cup as Brentwood Town provided a major First Round surprise on Halloween night at the Arena.
Although the wet and windy conditions played a part and the heavy pitch was a great leveller, no credit should be taken away from the battling Essex side.
The Gills were already a goal down, following an unfortunate own goal, when goalkeeper Dan O’Neill saw red and substitute keeper Luke Nalder’s first touch was to pick the ball out of his net from the resultant free-kick.
Brentwood, who are top of their Eastern Junior Alliance (Essex) group having won all six games, took a 28th minute lead. The goal came when Josh Norman found space down the left and his cross from the left somehow evaded O’Neill and bounced off the unlucky Josh Maughan and in via the woodwork.
Aaron Millbank saw a shot deflected over the top and Aiden Blanchard put a long range shot at Will Russell as Darren Hare’s team looked to hit back.
However the uphill task got worse just two minutes into the second-half when Alex Akrofi went through and was clipped by O’Neill as he rushed off his line. Referee Ian Bentley took his time and consulted with an assistant before brandishing his red card to the Gillingham custodian.
Nalder came on for Blanchard but he was beaten immediately as Sam Cross netted from the free-kick around 20-yards out.
It was after this that the home side began to sit back allowing the Gills to press, Millbank, Michael Freiter, Alfie Coates and Kane Haysman (twice) had openings and later both Greg Cundle and Jack Sellens were introduced to liven things up.
Town, who picked up a couple of late bookings as they looked to waste-time at every opportunity, were understandably ecstatic having booked a trip to Brentford in Round Two.
Town – Russell, Edey, Cross, Rolls, Cosson, Witherspoon, Roberts, Ngandu, Dingli, Norman (Ellis 56, Burgess 85), Akrofi Unused subs: Bagnall, Kelly, Quant
Gills – O’Neill, Romeo, Staunton (Sellens 84), Freiter, Lee, Maughan, Coates, Blanchard (Nalder 49), Millbank (Cundle 73), Haysman, Webster Unused subs: Dickenson, Lelliott