The Gills crash out of the FA Cup at the expense of League Two strugglers StevenageA spirited second half comeback wasn’t enough for the Gills as they were knocked out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle against Stevenage this afternoon.
Boro were 2-0 up within 30 minutes thanks to goals from Steven Schumacher and ex-Gill Chris Whelpdale, and made sure of the result in stoppage time as they caught the Gills with a decisive break.
Illustrating the importance of the game to the club, manager Justin Edinburgh made three changes – two enforced - to the team who played so well at Walsall last Saturday. Loanee Harry Lennon was ineligible and was replaced in defence by Max Ehmer, Emmanuel Osadebe came in for the suspended Bradley Dack while Jermaine McGlashan made way for Jordan Houghton.
Both sides had early chances: Doug Loft almost getting on the end of Brennan Dickenson’s driven cross on 10 minutes, before Ben Kennedy’s curling effort forced Stuart Nelson into a top save.
And two corners later, Stevenage took the lead. In a well-worked move, former Everton man Schumacher fired home from the edge of the box.
In the hunt for a quick-fire equaliser, Houghton had a shot deflected, Osadebe started a move that eventually saw him loop a header into Jesse Joronen’s hands and Rory Donnelly almost went through on goal after a quick Gills break.
However, the Gills fell further behind on 28 minutes. From a Dean Parrett corner, Whelpdale headed goalward and the ball travelled through a packed penalty area and into the net.
Cody McDonald had his low shot on the turn saved by Joronen and Donnelly headed just over from a Ryan Jackson cross as half time drew closer, but the hosts deservedly took their two-goal advantage into the break.
Boro’s best player Parrett looped a long-range effort over the bar in the opening five minutes of the second half, which Gills started playing a 3-5-2 formation.
Loanee Armand Gnanduillet fired over on 58 minutes for the hosts and only a Jackson’s block on the line denied Kennedy a second shortly after the hour mark.
After the game hit a short lull, a full-stretch Donnelly was close to getting on the end of Jackson’s teasing cross after 73 minutes.
Boro goalkeeper Joronen injured himself taking a goal kick and was replaced by Chris Day on 77 minutes, but the substitute stopper did not need to respond to two quick-fire headers from substitutes Ben Williamson and Jake Hessenthaler. However, Day did produce a great reaction save to deny Donnelly 10 minutes from time.
Gnanduillet shot wide in the final minute of normal time after the hosts broke from a quick throw, but completed the rout a minute later having gone through on goal with team-mate Tom Conlon.
Osadebe hit the bar in stoppage time and Day denied Jackson at the death, but by then the result was beyond doubt.
The Gills return to cup action on Tuesday night as they face Yeovil Town in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium. Tickets are on sale now for the 7.15 kick off.
Stevenage: Joronen (Day 78), Henry, Franks, Wells, Ogilvie, Schumacher (Conlon 75), Parrett, Whelpdale, Pett, Kennedy (Hughes 87), Gnanduillet
Unused subs: Okimo, Gordon, Williams, Marriott
Gillingham: Nelson, Jackson, Egan, Ehmer, Dickenson (Garmston 61) Houghton, Loft, A Morris, Osadebe, Houghton (Hessenthaler 61), McDonald (Williamson 67), Donnelly
Unused subs: G Morris, Davies, McGlashan, Oldaker
Attendance: 1, 619
Referee: Mr T Kettle