Elliott List and Brad Stevenson on target for Gills at Priestfield.
Gillingham bowed out of the Checkatrade Trophy with a win after coming from behind to beat Crawley Town 2-1 on Tuesday evening. Second-half goals from Elliott List and Bradley Stevenson helped the Gills seal an impressive comeback.
Crawley knew that a win could have taken them into the second round and they started well when Dominic Poleon fired them ahead. But second-half strikes meant that the visitors also exited the competition at the first stage.
Gillingham made ten changes to the side that drew to Hartlepool on Saturday afternoon, Connor Ogilvie the only man to keep his place. For Crawley, Romain Vincelot made his return to Priestfield whilst former Goalkeeper Glenn Morris was on the bench for the away side.
Following back-to-back defeats in the competition, Gillingham were already out of the competition whilst the visitors knew that only a win and a Tottenham loss would give them a chance of progressing in to the second round.
The first chance of the game went the way of the hosts, a Josh Rees header being saved by Mersin in the Crawley goal following good work from Bradley Garmston down the left flank. The visitors responded though, Poleon showing good feet before Alex Lacey intervened to turn the ball behind.
Elliott List’s pace was causing problems for the visitors and in the 12th minute he got in behind the Crawley defence, cut the ball back for Rees but the midfielder glanced his header wide of the post as the Gills went in search of an opener.
It was the visitors who opened the scoring at Priestfield in the 17th minute. Poleon latched on to a through ball from midfield before slotting past Tom Hadler in the Gills goal as Crawley went ahead in Kent.
Gills went in search of a way back in to the game though and almost responded immediately, Billy Bingham being denied by Mersin following a cross in from Dean Parrett.
List and Noel Mbo were threatening up top for Gills and after 25 minutes it was the former’s turn to threaten. List producing some good foot work to beat a couple of defenders before firing inches past the post, with the keeper stranded in the Crawley goal.
Crawley were looking a threat on the break and following a driving run from Poleon, Reece Grego-Cox lashed over from the edge of the box before Tarryn Allarakhia curled an effort the wrong side of the post.
Just before the interval Gills were in again but Nasseri fired wide from just inside the box. That was the final clear-cut chance of the half as Crawley went in to the break ahead.
The second started at a slower tempo, but Gills were soon on the front foot and following neat build up Navid Nasseri struck wide of the right hand post.
Just moments later though, List brought the Gills level. Dean Parrett delivered an early cross and following a headed clearance, the ball ballooned into the box and despite pressure from defenders List prodded home to bring the scores level.
Gills pace was causing the Crawley defence no end of problems, this time List spinning in behind but his cross just evaded Mbo in the box.
As both teams made changes the game begun to open up and the visitors started growing in confidence. Allarakhia did well to engineer a chance but saw his goal bound effort blocked by Ogilvie.
At the other end, Josh Rees timed a run in behind well, laid off the ball to Mbo, who released a fierce strike which somehow arrowed past the post. Moments later, Bradley Stevenson, who had replaced Elliott List drove down the right before seeing his cross tipped over.
With news coming through that Portsmouth were beating Spurs in the other group game, Crawley knew a winner would send them through and with ten minutes to play they had a huge opportunity to take the lead, George Francomb crossing to an unmarked Grego-Cox. But the midfielder somehow blazed over from underneath the bar.
Crawley were to rue that miss as with just five minutes to play Bradley Stevenson curled home a low effort to give the Gills the three points. Following good build-up down the left-hand side Bradley Garmston played the ball inside to Stevenson who showed composure to beat his man before firing beyond Mersin in the Crawley goal. 2-1.
Crawley were throwing everything at Gills and Conor Ogilvie had to be alert to block a David Sesay effort before Gills dealt with a couple of follow up corners as the pressure ramped up. But the Gills held firm to ensure they exited the competition on a positive note.
Gillingham: Tom Hadler, Bradley Garmston, Alex Lacey, Dean Parrett ©, Elliot List (Bradley Stevenson 64, Billy Bingham (Ben Chapman 74), Navid Nasseri (Henry Woods 78), Aaron Simpson, Josh Rees, Conor Ogilvie, Noel Mbo.
Unused Subs: Louis Catherall, Jack Tucker, Danny Divine, Roman Campbell.
Crawley: Yusuf Mersin, Josh Doherty, Joe McNerney, Reece Grego-Cox, Dominic Poleon (David Sesay 65), George Francomb, A Nathaniel George, Romain Vincelot, Dannie Bulman, Tarryn Allarkhia (Mark Randall 80), Bondz N’Gala.
Unused Subs: Glenn Morris, Joe Maguire, Brian Galach, Panutche Camara.
Referee: Mr Darren Drysdale