Gills grab a late winner against Plymouth to advance to the next stage of the U21 Premier League Cup
An own goal in the dying moments from Plymouth defender Mason Hughes booked Gills a place in the second qualifying round of the Premier League U21 Cup with a 1-0 win over Plymouth Argyle at MEMS Priestfield Stadium on Tuesday.
The hosts dominated proceedings for much of the game and should have won it in normal time, but the visitors proved stubborn in defence and it took a stroke of good fortune with just a minute to play to settle the result.
A few members of the first team squad were included within the starting line-up with Callum Davies, Leon Legge, Matt Fish and Antonio German all getting minutes under their belt.
Josh Staunton captained the side with Aaron Millbank and Jack Sellens providing other attacking options.
Argyle started quickly and very nearly took the lead inside two minutes. The ball made its way to Nathan Thomas on the right hand side; he cut in following some clever footwork and curled his effort just past the far post with Glenn Morris at full stretch.
On 10 minutes Louis Rooney decided to try his luck from just outside the penalty area – he looked to place his effort into the far corner but instead missed the frame of the goal completely as Morris watched the ball go over the bar.
Gillingham progressively began to assert their authority and had their first meaningful attempt on goal on 24 minutes.
German held the ball up well and found Sellens in space on the left hand side, he move forward before playing in Millbank, he skipped past his marker and launched a left foot shot which brushed the side netting and out for a goal kick.
Four minutes later and the hosts had two chances in quick succession to take the lead – firstly Romeo, played in by Staunton, burst down the right hand side before seeing his effort well blocked by James Bittner inside the box.
Moments later and a cross from the right hand side was met by Millbank, but with the ball slightly behind him it gave the keeper time to position himself and collect the effort with ease.
Romeo was in the thick of the action again on 33 minutes, Staunton played a short ball to the winger and he did brilliantly to turn his defender before sprinting for the box. His first shot was blocked with the second off target.
Plymouth, who had been on the back foot for 20 minutes, very nearly took the lead against the run of play when a left foot strike by Ollie Norburn required Morris to make a good stop low to his right.
The keeper made a brilliant stop moments later when Thomas rather fortuitously got clean through inside the box following a double ricochet.
He tried to chip Morris as he came out to block, but he stood tall and did well to clear the danger.
The first chance of the half fell to Argyle on 51 minutes when Norburn found himself with a couple of yards of space outside the penalty area – he could have taken a touch but his first time shot was comfortably stopped by Morris.
The introduction of Michel Freiter on 55 minutes nearly had an immediate impact; he rose highest following a decent cross by Devante McKain, on for Aiden Blanchard at the break, and put his header inches past the post with keeper Bittner stranded.
On 65 minutes German received the ball just inside the Gills half and burst forward in search of space for a shot, he produced an effort from 25 yards but it went a couple of yards wide of the keeper’s right hand post.
Mark Patterson’s side were dominating play but were unable to find a way through – Josh Hare nearly producing the opener on 73 minutes but Bittner was equal to his effort.
Hare was denied again by the keeper two minutes later. Freiter delivered a good corner to the back post, the defender connected well but the goalkeeper just about got his right hand to it and diverted it over the bar.
Millbank saw another headed effort go just wide of the post before Freiter failed to connect with a low pass from the right which may well have produced the opening goal.
Despite bossing possession the final whistle sounded to force extra time.
An early shot by River Allen sent Gillingham a warning sign that the visitors were still in the game, but within three minutes the hosts could have been ahead.
A cross by Hare on the left found Romeo in space, he directed his effort to the far post and with the keeper struggling to get across he was thankful to see the ball bounce wide.
H/T in ET: 0-0
With the game destined to go to a penalty shoot-out Gillingham finally did get their noses in front just a minute before the whistle.
Freiter looked to take take advantage of a low pass from the right, he took a shot but slightly mis-hit it.
The ball looked to be going out of play but Hughes got an unfortunate touch and the ball rolled into the empty net to gift Gillingham victory.
Gills: Morris, Fish, Staunton, Legge, Davies, Romeo, Hare (Webster 100), Blanchard (McKain HT), Sellens (Freiter 55), Millbank, German
Unused subs: Hadler, Bent
Plymouth: Bittner, Hughes, Purrington (Hall HT), Sargeant, Bentley, Norburn, Thomas (Miller 70), Allen, Harvey, Rooney (Vincent 90), Moxham.
Unused subs: Hannah, Roberts
Referee: Mr A Ajibola