Gills exit the FA Youth Cup with a battling defeat to the Bees at MEMS Priestfield Stadium
Gillingham’s FA Youth Cup ambitions ended in the first round as a highly entertaining tie with Brentford ended in defeat at MEMS Priestfield Stadium.
With a lengthy injury list to contend with Head of Youth Darren Hare admitted he had few options in his team selection and was forced to name two Under-16’s on his substitutes bench. And with Brentford’s Academy competing one level higher than their hosts it was always going to be a testing challenge.
Even so the Gills settled into the match quicker than their opponents and fashioned the first chance of the half in the fifth minute, Aiden Blanchard playing a neat one/two with Jack Sellens before pulling his finish just wide of Bees keeper Nik Tzanev’s left hand post.
Minutes later Michael Freiter tested the keeper with a wicked drive from 25 yards that dipped in flight, forcing Tzanev to parry to safety.
The Bees responded on nine minutes when Montell Moore’s free-kick fell to the feet of Bradley Clayton, fortunately Callum Emptage reacted quickly to deny a goalscoring opportunity with a brave block tackle.
Home keeper Luke Nalder was called upon to make a save from Kujo Awotwi, while Moore fired wide from a good position, as the visitors found their feet in the game. Awotwi spurned another good opening on 25 minutes and Makhosini Khanye fired a free-kick over but the home side held out.
On the half hour mark Mitchell Dickenson headed over from a Blanchard corner, the chance was the first of a good spell of pressure from the home side. Their best opening came seven minutes later as Sellens and Mahlon Romeo combined to set up Frieter but Tzanev pulled off a great stop to push his goalbound effort away from the far corner.
At the other end Khanye and Awotwi both went close from narrow angles, while a Dickenson clearance cannoned off Khanye in the final minute of the half but rolled the wrong side of Nalder’s right hand upright to keep the scores level at the break.
Brentford began the second half with renewed purpose and went close again in the first minute of the half, Clayton setting up Khanye to curl an effort just over the cross bar from the right hand angle of the penalty area.
Gills were in no mood to roll over though and had an equally good chance to open the scoring on 52 minutes as Blanchard placed a free-kick onto the head of Josh Staunton, sadly the Gills skipper headed just the wrong side of the bar and onto the roof of the net.
The home side finally took the lead on 57 minutes thanks to good anticipation from Michael Freiter, the Gills midfielder got behind the Bees defence and beat the oncoming keeper to ball over the top, chipping his side in front from just inside the area.
Bees substitute Courtney Senior showed a good turn of pace to get away from his man and test Nalder with an angled drive from distance five minutes later. While James Ferry chanced his arm from distance but failed to get his shot on target.
Gillingham were unlucky not to add a second on 66 minutes as Sellens neat through ball sent Romeo clean through with just the keeper to beat but the winger fired just wide and moments later the home side paid the price as Montell Moore rifled into the bottom left corner to level the scores.
Twenty minutes from time Darren Hare introduced the fresh legs of Sam Muggleton for Dan Bent, while Ross Ibbertson replaced Webster soon after as the home side looked to seal the victory.
Subs Lewis Lavendar and Zain Westbrooke combined for the latter to fire just over then with ten minutes to play Brentford struck again. A precise pass split the home defence, sending Courtney Senior clear and the substitute slotted past Nalder to put the visitors in front.
Five minutes from time Senior could have had another but was denied by the legs of Nalder, the ball carried to Tom Field who flashed an effort across goal and wide of the keeper’s back stick. Then in the final minute of time added on Moore raced on to a Ferry through ball to claim his second of the night and seal a victory for the Bees.
Gillingham: Luke Nalder, Callum Emptage, Mitchell Dickenson, Danny Leonard (Harry Stannard 85), Josh Staunton, Dan Bent (Sam Muggleton 69), Mahlon Romeo, Aiden Blanchard, Jack Sellens, Michael Freiter, Charlie Webster (Ross Ibbertson 72)
Subs not used: Tom Hadler, Max Kilman.
Brentford: Nik Tzanev, Richard Bryan, Tom Field, James Ferry, Gradi Milenge, Seth Owens, Makhosini Khanye (Courtney Senior 54), Michael Onovwigun (Zain Westbrooke 69), Bradley Clayton (Lewis Lavender 77), Kujo Awotwi, Montell Moore
Subs not used: Josh Stockwell, Joseph Taylor