GILLINGHAM 2-2 BRACKLEY TOWN: MATCH REPORT
Frank Nouble's first two goals since rejoining the Gillingham last month helped his side recover from a two-goal deficit against Brackley Town to stay in the Emirates FA Cup on Saturday afternoon in an end-to-end encounter at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium.
After a header from Alex Gudger and a 25-yard strike from James Armson looked like putting the National League North side through to round two of the competition, Nouble struck twice at the back post following crosses from Jay Emmanuel-Thomas. The replay will be held on the week commencing November 14, with full details to be confirmed in due course.
Manager Justin Edinburgh made one change from the team that started at Fleetwood Town last Saturday, as Emmanuel Osadebe replaced the injured Chris Herd at right-back. He also maintained the attacking 4-3-3 formation seen in recent weeks.
Gillingham started the game the better of the teams, with the front three of Nouble, Emmanuel-Thomas and Cody McDonald linking up well. The energetic Jake Hessenthaler blazed high and wide with an effort form 35 yards before captain Josh Wright was denied an opener thanks to a good save from Laurie Walker in the Brackley goal, who parried his volleyed effort from the top of the box to safety.
However, the non-league opposition grew into the game and took the lead after 12 minutes from a corner kick. The ball was swung into the danger area and Gudger nodded home from five yards off the underside of the bar.
The Gills immediately looked to get back on level terms and felt they should have had a penalty when Billy Knott went down following a trip, but referee Brendan Malone waved away the appeals.
Brackley went close to doubling their advantage following a rapid counter attack on 20 minutes. The ball was fed out to the right-wing but the cross from Ellis Myles was headed just wide of a stranded Stuart Nelson, before Armson dragged a shot well wide 60 seconds later
The visitors added a second after 26 minutes, as midfielder Armson picked up the ball before turning to curl a 25-yard shot in off the bar, giving Nelson no chance.
Gillingham were back in the game immediately, however. Emmanuel Thomas did brilliantly to beat two men down the right-wing and his cross-turned-shot was blasted into the empty net in at the far post by Nouble.
Diggin went close for Brackley soon after but his effort was excellently blocked by Max Ehmer after good work from Glenn Walker down the right.
By now, Gillingham were looking dangerous every time they went forward, with Emmanuel-Thomas going past his man with ease on numerous occasions. McDonald nearly equalised after 34 minutes, however just as he prepared to pull the trigger from five yards out, a Brackley defender managed to nip the ball away. The Gills came even closer seconds later. Emmanuel-Thomas found space in the area and curled a shot around the legs of his defender and onto the post, yet with Nouble waiting at the back-post, he was unable to tap in the rebound. The ball eventually fell to Hessenthaler, but his shot was blocked, and Knott thumped another effort just wide of the post.
Thankfully, seconds before the half entered stoppage time, Nouble got his second of the game. Emmanuel-Thomas again beat his man down the right-hand side before playing a great ball across the box that beat the keeper and gave his strike partner a simple tap in at the back post; a carbon copy of the first goal.
Walker had the first attempt of the second half for the visitors, but he blasted wide from 25 yards. Nelson was forced into a brilliant save straight after Nouble limped off injured with a slight knock, as Diggin connected sweetly with a cross into the box, but the Gills goalkeeper stuck out a fist to beat the ball away from goal. Had the shot have gone in, the offside flag would have come to the host's rescue.
Hessenthaler nearly gave the Gills the lead after 66 minutes, as he took the ball down and volleyed at Walker in the Town goal, and Konchesky was also unlucky not to put the Gills ahead with full-time approaching. Emmanuel-Thomas, once again, did brilliantly, beating two men and holding off a third before threading a ball through to the marauding left-back. He was put under extreme pressure from the covering Town right-back and his shot was wide of the goal.
The away team nearly stole the game in the 87th minute but Nelson pulled off a great save to deny Shane Byrne and keep the Gills in the tie. In added time, a long-ball over the top found David Moyo but a combination of Nelson, Konchesky and Deji Oshilaja denied the forward a shooting opportunity.
Gillingham remain in the hat for the second round of the Emirates FA Cup, which takes place on Monday evening. The Gills travel to The Hawthorns on Tuesday to play West Bromwich Albion in the Checkatrade Trophy, but return to MEMS Priestfield on Saturday to take on Northampton Town in Sky Bet League One action.
Gillingham: Nelson; Osadebe, Ehmer, Oshilaja, Konchesky; Wright, Hessenthaler, Knott; Nouble (List, 56), Emmanuel-Thomas; McDonald (Donnelly, 81)
Unused subs: Hadler, Pask, Dickenson, Oldaker, Byrne
Brackley Town: Walker; Myles, Gudger, Byrne, Graham; Dean, Walker, Armson, Walker; Ndlovu (Moore, 90), Diggin (Moyo, 78)
Unused Subs: Lowe, Cox, Farrell, Rankin, Noon
Attendance: 2,410 (148 away)
Referee: Brendan Malone