The Gills will face VCD Athletic in the second round of the Kent Senior Cup after Tom Hadler’s late heroics helped them beat Hythe Town 3-2 on Tuesday evening.
Schoolboys’ Academy Manager Bryan Bull took charge for the evening and started with a young Gills team, of whom only Hadler, Darren Oldaker and Mitch Dickenson have been in and around Justin Edinburgh’s first-team setup.
The Gills took the lead with only a couple of minutes played. Attacking midfielder Sam Lawford latched onto a loose ball and unleashed a shot from outside the box that flew into the bottom corner, beating Hythe ‘keeper Joe Mant.
Noel Mbo scored Gillingham’s second and third goals of the evening, putting the away side in control of the game within 35 minutes. The striker headed in from a cross for his first goal, after a well-worked move down the left-hand side of the pitch.
Mbo then showed great composure for the Gills’ third of the night, as he was first to react to a defensive error and made no mistake when one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
Hythe scored late into the first half, as Alfie May’s cross took a deflection off a Gills defender before cannoning into the net, to make it 3-1 at the break.
Gillingham’s defence had to deal with a lot of pressure from the home side in the second half, who were pumping lots of long balls into the box.
Hythe were awarded a penalty and a chance to close the deficit on 64 minutes, after defender Finn O’Mara was adjudged to have pulled a Hythe player’s shirt from a corner-kick. Frankie Sawyer stepped up and scored for the hosts to set up a tight finale.
However, the Gills’ defence stood strong until Hythe were awarded another penalty on the stroke of full time, as centre-half Ryan Huckle handled while blocking a shot.
This time, however, Hadler got the better of Sawyer and made a crucial save to make sure his team advanced through to the next stage of the competition.
Round two ties will take place in November, with the exact date subject to confirmation.