Gills exit the Kent Senior Cup in Round One after an epic encounter with Erith

Gillingham’s youngsters bowed out of the Kent Senior Cup after a thoroughly entertaining tie with Erith & Belvedere.

With Martin Allen watching from the stands, Development Manager Mark Patterson took charge of a young Gills side for the trip to Park View Road. Callum Davies wore the captain’s armband and, alongside Ashley Miller, Nathan Nyafli, Harry Grant and Kane Haysman, was one of the few players on display with Football League experience.

The visitors looked sharp and lively direct from the kick-off and had their hosts on the back foot, despite playing up the slope in the first-half. Their efforts were rewarded with a deserved lead in the fifth minute as Harry Grant delivered a precision free-kick from the right touchline for Kane Haysman to glance a header into the far corner.

Six minutes later the Gills made it two as Grant pulled a corner back for full-back Jack Parter to cross from the right, Erith failed to cut out the danger and the ball carried for Nathan Nyafli who made no mistake, smacking a blistering finish in off the far post.

A mix up in the visitors defence allowed Erith a way back into the game on 17 minutes and the hosts scored with their first sight of goal, Luke Tanner intercepting Devante McKain’s back pass before slotting beyond the advancing George Howard.

McKain was unlucky not to get himself on the score sheet on 25 minutes, the centre-half had pushed up for a set-piece and was on hand to dispossess a Deres’ defender, from Ashley Miller’s free-kick, only to see his powerful shot on the turn blocked in the box.

On 36 minutes, Erith keeper Andrew Young did well to stop a vicious strike from distance from Grant, while five minutes later a blocked Grant shot fell to the feet of Aaron Millbank but his finish deflected behind for a corner, McKain glancing his header just wide from the resulting flag-kick.

H/T: 1-2

Erith and Belvedere made the perfect start to the second half scoring in the first minute. Chris Edwards looped over a corner from the left which dropped kindly for Aidan Sherlock to headed in from point blank range at the far post.

On 50 minutes the home side came close to taking the lead for the first time in the match after James Golding found room to cross from the right, Sherlock was well placed in the box again but headed wide of Howard’s right-hand upright.

Howard did well, soon after, to gather Edwards’ half volley from the edge of the area before Ashley Miller earned the games’ first booking on 56 minutes for what the referee perceived to be a dive just outside the Deres’ penalty box. It almost arrived on 72 minutes as McKain beat the home defence to a Miller corner but his header was hacked off the line.

Ten minutes from time Callum Davies joined the attack and headed a Grant free-kick from the left just over the cross bar. Then with the prospect of extra time looming the Gills sent on Michael Freiter, allowing Kane Haysman to push forward into a three pronged attack with Webster and Miller.

The switch almost paid dividends in the 90th minute as Miller collected the ball on the left of goal and centred a wicked ball that fell for Davies, the Gills skipper took a touch, picked out his spot and was unlucky to see his rising drive come back off the underside of the bar.

Extra Time – First Half

The visitors continued to threaten and fashioned a good chance in the third minute of extra time, Michael Freiter finding space to shoot, the ball was blocked and Haysman could not turn in the rebound before Erith cleared their lines.

On 98 minutes Davies started and ended a move, arriving in the box to connect with Haysman’s lay-off, only for keeper Young to scramble to his right and push the centre-half’s low drive around his right-hand post.

Four minutes later the Gills went closer still as Freiter smacked the near post with a low effort after latching onto Webster’s ball in from the right. Soon after, Harry Grant was yellow carded for a foul on Chris Edwards, the Deres’ forward dusting himself down to curl the free-kick over Howard’s top left corner.

Extra Time – Second Half

Against the run of play the home side took the lead for the first time in the tie in the second minute of extra time. Laurence Collins delivered a high corner from the right and Jamie Miller headed home to put the hosts 3-2 up.

The Gills continued to attack though, Grant going close with another strong effort from distance but it proved to be his last contribution of the evening as the midfielder was shown the red card, moments later, for a tackle on Louis Sprosen.

Joe Carter curled a free-kick over the bar after Miller had been fouled on the right-hand angle of the box, before Frieter connected with a Davies through ball but hit his finish straight at the keeper, which proved to be the Gills final chance of the match.

Attendance: 55

Gillingham: George Howard, Jack Parter, Joe Carter, Josh Hare (Mahlon Romeo 61), Devante McKain, Callum Davies, Nathan Nyafli (Michael Freiter 88), Kane Haysman, Aaron Millbank (Charlie Webster 61), Ashley Miller, Harry Grant.

Subs not used: Aiden Blanchard, Josh Staunton.

Erith & Belvedere: Andrew Young, James Golding, Laurence Collins, Jamie Miller, Aidan Sherlock, George Benner, Jamie Lawrence, Marcus Cassius (George Savage 63), Luke Tanner (Mo Conteh 110), Richard Morgan (Louis Sprosen H/T), Chris Edwards.

Subs not used: Ben Healy, Aaron Jeffrey