Gillingham FC book their place in the second round of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy following a 1-0 win over StevenageA first half penalty from Luke Norris was enough to earn ten man Gills a hard fought 1-0 victory in the first round of the JPT against Stevenage at the Lamex Stadium on Tuesday evening.
The striker confidently stepped up to convert a 17th minute spot kick beyond Chris Day, with the keeper having conceded the penalty following a foul on Cody McDonald which saw him earn a booking for his troubles.
Stevenage had the majority of possession in the second half, although helped when Gavin Hoyte was shown a straight red card for a foul on Roarie Deacon.
Peter Taylor made six changes to the side that defeated Crewe 2-0 at the weekend with Glenn Morris, Leon Legge, Josh Pritchard, Luke Norris, Callum Davies and Brennan Dickenson coming in for Stephen Bywater, Kortney Hause, John Egan, Aaron Morris, Jermaine McGlashan and Danny Kedwell.
Davies was chosen as Captain for the game with Tom Hadler providing cover for Morris in goal. Aaron Millbank and Devante McKain were among the substitutes.
Stevenage named two familiar faces in their starting 11 with Charlie Lee and Chris Whelpdale getting the nod to play, both of which left MEMS Priestfield Stadium in the summer.
The opening minutes were fairly even with Gills perhaps shading the possession statistics – early deliveries into the box were aimed for Leon Legge but on two occasions he was unable to test Chris Day.
However at the other end Glenn Morris was called into action on nine minutes when Lee successfully took on Hessenthaler and tried his luck from 20 yards with a decent left foot shot.
Morris pushed the effort up with his right hand before catching at the second attempt.
With the hosts slowly getting a hold on the game they switched off momentarily which allowed Dack to play a pass over the top for the sprinting McDonald.
He went round the keeper and was inside the box when he was brought down by Day – the referee judged that a yellow card only was suffice enough punishment before Norris decided to take the spot kick.
He sent the keeper wrong way in clinical fashion to put the Gills ahead, although some sections of the ground were wondering how the hosts had not been reduced to ten men.
Stevenage responded well and progressively began to boss the game again – efforts from Whelpdale and Connor Calcutt either off target or well blocked by the Gills back four.
With half time looming the hosts very nearly found the net following a Simon Walton corner. Hessenthaler and Legge got their bodies in the way to prevent Morris being tested, with Calcutt in particular looking threatening in the final third.
Within a minute of the restart Brennan Dickenson had a shot at the near post well saved by Day, the winger delivered a follow up cross and Norris was just off target with a superb flying header.
On 52 minutes Gills went even closer, a Hessenthaler corner was put on a pin head for the advancing Legge – the defender met it well but sent the effort just inches wide of the post.
Pritchard and McKain, on as a half time sub for Martin, then had low shots blocked before Calcutt had a goal disallowed for offside.
A cross had been headed back across goal into his path, and although his shot from close range was too powerful for Morris to keep out, celebrations were cut short as the linesman slowly raised his flag.
An effort by Henry was blocked by Legge before another strong chance for Gillingham. Norris had worked his way into space on the right hand side of the penalty area, his shot was saved before Dickenson had his follow up blocked prior to a wayward shot by Antonio German who had replaced McDonald at the interval.
However on 63 minutes the visitors were reduced to 10 when Hoyte was given a straight red for a late challenge on Deacon.
Although not the best of tackles everyone on the visiting bench looked stunned when the referee decided to send the right back off, forcing Pritchard to play the rest of the match in his position.
Gills coped well considering the numerical disadvantage in the minutes that followed, but with Stevenage sensing a potential result they went in search of an equalizer.
Deacon had two efforts well saved by Morris before Lancaster and Calcutt were then thwarted by the Gills rearguard.
Stevenage ploughed forward in the dying moments but Gills used the counter attack well to relieve any pressure, and Graham Westley’s side were unable to break down a stubborn defence as Gillingham booked their place in the next round.
Stevenage: Day, Whelpdale, Walton, Charles, Calcutt (Marriott 80), Wells, Lee, Okimo, Lancaster, Henry (Ashton 88), Deacon (Zola 81)
Unused subs: Beasant, Casey
Gills: G Morris, Hoyte, Davies, Legge, Martin (McKain HT), Dack, Hessenthaler, Pritchard, Dickenson, Norris, McDonald (German HT)
Unused subs: Hadler, Fish, Millbank
Referee: Mr D Deadman