Goalkeeper Will Sykes is the hero as the Gills progress through to FA Youth Cup round three
Gillingham progressed through to round three of the FA Youth Cup after a thrilling victory on penalties against Plymouth Argyle at Home Park on Tuesday night.
After the teams were tied a 2-2 after 120 minutes, goalkeeper Will Sykes saved two penalties before midfielder Brad Stevenson added to his late extra-time equaliser by converting the winning kick.
The Gills will play either Oxford City or Peterborough United in round three at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium in December.
Mark Patterson’s under-18s started strongly in front of a healthy crowd of 341 supporters, with Danny Divine headed inches wide from Jack Conway’s cross on two minutes, before Jack Tucker and captain Sam Lawford also saw close-range efforts go off-target.
However, Argyle took the lead on nine minutes, as striker Alex Fletcher fired past Sykes from 18 yards. The hosts were ahead for less than 180 seconds, as striker Noel Mbo headed home from close range. Ben Chapman’s cross was inadvertently knocked across goal by Argyle defender Harry Hodges, and Mbo finished confidently past Michael Cooper.
In an end-to-end game, Mbo, Stevenson and Conway all had chances to put the Gills ahead, before Argyle’s Alex Battle wasted the hosts’ best opportunity before the break. He cut in from the left, but scuffed his shot well wide.
The second half was somewhat quieter, although the Gills needed crucial last-ditch blocks from Divine and defender Finn O’Mara to prevent Argyle from winning the game in normal time.
Darren Oldaker twice came close for the Gills. First, he curled a low shot at Cooper following a surging run through the Argyle defence on 64 minutes, while a 25-yard effort sailed over following neat interplay by a number of his team-mates with time almost up.
Argyle went ahead again six minutes into extra-time, as Callum Rose’s powerful header from a corner gave Sykes no chance. However, Stevenson levelled within two minutes of the restart; following good link-up play with Henry Woods, he shot under Cooper from an acute angle.
After Fletcher and Woods had scored their first penalties for either side, Sykes made his first save, correctly diving to his right to deny Alex Battle.
Oldaker and Hlabi both scored to put the Gills 3-2 up, and after Josh Richards’s effort was also kept out by Sykes, Stevenson confidently stepped up and converted to send the Gills through to round three.
Cooper, Hodges, Sangster (Craske 112), Rose, Law, Bentley [C], McAuley (Ward 116), Richards, Battle, Fletcher, Rooney (Jephcott 114)Plymouth Argyle:
Unused subs: Childs, Crawford
Sykes, Divine (Huckle 110), O’Mara, Tucker, Simpson, Oldaker, Chapman, Lawford [C] (Hlabi 77), Stevenson, Conway (Woods 105), MboGills:
Unused subs: Catherall, White