Gillingham advance to the second round of the FA Youth Cup following a fine display under the lights at PriestfieldA second half brace from centre-back Ricardo Thompson helped guide Gillingham to a comfortable 4-1 victory over Eastleigh in the first round of the FA Youth Cup on Wednesday evening at MEMS Priestfield Stadium.
Dan Adams had put the hosts ahead in the first half via the penalty spot, and after the break they turned up the tempo with Thompson and Ryan Crandley increasing the advantage.
Tony Lee pulled one back for Eastleigh, but a second for Thompson ensured Gills progressed to the second round.
Steve Lovell was in the dugout for the match with first team Manager Peter Taylor watching on from the stands with Assistant Manager Andy Hessenthaler, Development boss Mark Patterson and Academy Manager Darren Hare.
Gills started brightly with Greg Cundle being the first to have an effort on goal, his 20-yard shot gathered by Sam Beale before the midfielder earned a 12th minute spot kick.
After some clever work outside the area to wrong foot his marker, he drove towards the byline and although he stayed on his feet following a tackle the referee pointed to the spot.
Adams stepped up, and although Beale went the right way, the power of the effort was too much and the hosts deservedly found themselves in front after a positive opening.
Harry Stannard very nearly found a way through for a second less than two minutes later but a recovering defender timed his challenge well to block the effort with Beale on hand to deal with the loose ball.
The visitors came close to an equaliser on 17 minutes when Benny Read’s free kick was only half cleared and Joe Nougbele retreated quickly to head off the line.
Gillingham enjoyed the majority of possession for the next quarter of an hour but chances were few and far between as both defences dealt with any danger that came their way in convincing fashion.
On 41 minutes Eastleigh created their best chance of the game with Matthew Bainbridge threading a neat ball through for Harry Weeks. The forward took a heavy touch but was clean through on goal, however Mitchell Dickenson sprinted back and did well to intercept.
On 53 minutes Beale had to be more than alert to deny an early Stannard effort. The striker found himself with a yard of space on the left hand side of the penalty area, he looked to place his shot in the far corner but the goalkeeper was at full stretch to palm the effort over the bar.
However four minutes later and the advantage was doubled – Cundle got his head up and spotted the run of Crandley. He played a beautifully weighted ball in behind the defence for the striker and Ryan delicately placed it beyond the advancing Beale.
After beginning the half so well it was the reward Gills deserved for their hard work and Cundle very nearly found the net himself a couple of minutes later but his shot was fired just across goal from a narrow angle on the left hand side of the box.
With Gills continuing to push forward they scored again on 69 minutes, a corner from the right hand side by Mitchell Welch was floated towards Thompson and he connected brilliantly with a strong header which was too powerful for Beale to keep out.
Eastleigh were far from out of the match though and pulled a goal back three minutes following the re-start. Lee broke free down the right hand side; he drove into the area and launched a powerful right foot effort beyond Chris Haigh to reduce the deficit.
However the match was all but over on 77 minutes. A free kick was awarded 30 yards from goal just right of centre, a low delivery found Thompson unmarked 12 yards out and he did enough to guide the ball beyond Beale to bag a second half brace.
With five minutes to go Dickenson nearly got in on the act, a good corner by Ben Chapman looked for the skipper towards the penalty spot. Mitchell met it well and looped it over the head of the goalkeeper, however it nestled on top of the goal.
Stannard then forced a good save by Beale before substitute Sam Lawford struck narrowly wide as a defender made a last ditch tackle to prevent a fifth.
Gills: Haigh, Emptage, Welch, Chapman, Thompson, M Dickenson, Adams, Crandley (Lawford 62), Stannard, Cundle (Stevenson 85), Nougbele (Stewart 82).
Unused subs: Newcombe, O’Mara.
Eastleigh: Beale, Rock, Attrill, H Weeks, Smith, Lee, Read, Bainbridge (Hunt 62), H Weeks, Masterton, Suraci (Cross 62).
Unused subs: Brady, Stirland, K Thompson
Referee: Mr E Kaye