Gillingham's U18 side knocked out of the FA Youth Cup following 2-1 defeat to AFC Wimbledon at PriestfieldGillingham were knocked out of the FA Youth Cup on Tuesday evening following a 2-1 defeat at the hands of AFC Wimbledon at MEMS Priestfield Stadium.
In a lively second half, Neset Bellikli had given the visitors a 56th minute lead when his low left foot drive beat Chris Haigh into the bottom corner, only for Greg Cundle to level the scores with a powerful effort of his own just four minutes later.
However AFC Wimbledon scored what proved to be the winning goal on 64 minutes when Ben Harrison’s strike found its way in.
The hosts nearly forced extra time right at the death, but the visitors held out to secure a third round home tie against Burnley.
Steve Lovell made just one change to the team that defeated Eastleigh 4-1 in the first round – Saw Lawford coming into the attack in place of Ryan Crandley.
The hosts had more of the early possession but Daniel Agyei nearly found a way through on five minutes when he evaded a number of challenges inside the Gills box, only for Dan Adams to slide in and ensure the danger was cleared.
The match was fairly even for the next quarter of an hour, but AFC Wimbledon should have taken the lead on 18 minutes.
Agyei’s low cross from the left hand side found Egli Kaja in space just six yards out, but with the whole goal to aim at he managed to skew it wide from close range.
Three minutes later and it was Gills chance to find a breakthrough – Cundle did brilliantly to win possession just outside the penalty area, he shrugged off a challenge before threading a low cross for Harry Stannard whose first time effort was well blocked by Callum Wilson.
Moments later Callum Emptage delivered a low corner to the edge of the area which was only half cleared, Mitchell Welch lined up a shot from 25 yards and drilled an effort narrowly wide of the right hand post.
A midfield battle ensued with neither side able to fully take control of proceedings, the score remaining level at the break.
The second half started as the first had ended, with both sides eager to gain a foothold on the tie. However, with Gills just about looking the better side they suddenly found themselves 1-0 down on 56 minutes.
The hosts pounced on a loose ball just outside the Gillingham penalty area, Bellikli was onto it like a flash and shifted his weight to one side before drilling home a left footed effort beyond Haigh and into the corner.
The visiting contingent applauded as their team went ahead, but their joy was short lived – four minutes to be exact. A low cross from the left hand side made its way to Cundle 12 yards from goal, with bodies blocking every other option he chose to shoot and launched an effort into the roof of the net giving keeper Billy Bishop no chance.
With the scores level it threw the game wide open, and with the hosts looking to put themselves in front AFC Wimbledon regained the lead on 64 minutes.
Agyei drove forward and evaded a couple of challenges before spotting the run of Harrison, it looked as though the recovering defenders had done enough to put him off but he produced a terrific left foot effort from outside the area which flew past Haigh and into the bottom right hand corner.
Gills went in search of an equaliser but the visitors were eager themselves to put the game beyond doubt – Kaja’s low effort comfortably gathered by Haigh before a long range effort from Harrison went wide of the post.
Haigh had to be alert on 86 minutes when sub Josh Ano produced a powerful left footed effort from just outside the box which took a deflection before being caught by the Gills number one.
With the clock ticking down Gills nearly forced extra time when a free kick was floated into the danger zone, a neat flick on was cleared just in front of the goal line but a foul was given in AFC Wimbledon’s favour which proved to be the last meaningful action of the match.
Gills: Haigh, Emptage, Welch, Chapman, Thompson, Dickenson, Adams (Stewart 76), Lawford (Leonard 62), Stannard, Cundle, Nougbele (Stevenson 89).
Unused subs: Sykes, O’Mara.
AFC Wimbledon: Bishop, Wilson, Harrison, Roles, Sweeney, Gallagher, Kaja, Frost (Stripp 89), Agyei (Ano 68), Egan, Belliki (Bowers 80).
Unused subs: Mannion, Batchelor
Referee: Mr S Parmenter