The Gills progress to the fourth round for the first time in 13 years
Gillingham progressed into the FA Youth Cup fourth round after goals from Jack Conway and Bradley Stevenson saw them beat Oxford City 2-0 at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium on Wednesday night.
Conway finished from close range shortly before the break following good work from striker Leroy Hlabi, before midfielder Stevenson fired home from 20 yards to seal the win on 89 minutes.
The Gills last progressed to round four of the competition in 2003, and full details of their opponents will follow once the draw is made on Friday.
Watched by several members of the club’s first-team squad and management, the Gills started brightly, with Hlabi and Ben Chapman both shooting wide in the opening 15 minutes.
The energetic Hlabi was unlucky not to open the scoring on 22 minutes, when his shot from the edge of the box crashed off the post, before Oxford’s Sami Khawaja missed an even better opportunity, as he fired straight at goalkeeper Will Sykes from 10 yards following a quick break. Chapman then volleyed just over as he raced to meet Stevenson’s deep cross on 28 minutes.
Conway opened the scoring six minutes before the break, in a move that started with a long Sykes kick. Hlabi controlled then flicked the ball over his man, and after his shot was blocked, the Gills midfielder fired home the rebound from 10 yards.
Kei Chamberlain should have levelled before the break, but shot over from six yards.
Jack Tucker’s header was tipped nervously onto the bar following Stevenson’s corner on 50 minutes, and Darren Oldaker’s attempt to replicate his brilliant strike against West Brom’s under-21s in the Checkatrade Trophy earlier this month ended with his curling effort from outside the box being blocked.
Tucker then headed inches wide from Finn O’Mara’s lofted cross into the back post, before Stevenson almost punished City’s poor defending, but his low, left-footed strike was saved by Jake Pritchard.
Oxford thought they had equalised on 64 minutes, but Horatio Hirst’s neat finish was ruled out for offside, much to the dismay of the numerous away fans inside the MEMS Priestfield Stadium.
Substitute striker Noel Mbo and Stevenson both tested Pritchard shortly after the hour mark, and Ryan Huckle headed inches over the bar following a good corner routine. Stevenson hit the bar from distance on 84 minutes and Mbo’s rebound forced the City goalkeeper into a smart save.
Nonetheless, the Gills doubled their lead when Mbo laid the ball off to attacking midfielder Stevenson, and his low, left-footed strike from distance found the bottom corner in sight of full-time.
Hlabi almost got a goal to reward his performance, but his long-range effort hit the bar in stoppage time, but the Gills had done enough by then to progress.
for more information. Click hereNext up at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium is the Gills’ Sky Bet League One fixture against MK Dons on Saturday, December 17 (3pm kick-off). Tickets start from £5 for this match, thanks to our Christmas Special promotion.
Sykes, O’Mara, Huckle, Tucker, Simpson [C], Stevenson (White 90), Oldaker, Chapman, Conway (Woods 75), Lawford (Mbo 61), HlabiGillingham:
Unused subs: Catherall [GK], Divine
Pritchard, Dobbins, Brown (Cooper 65), Kemp [C], Simms, Khawaja, Farah (Osofsky 58), Tutton, Bestley (Landers 73), Chamberlain, HirstOxford City:
Unused subs:Smith [GK], Hollick