Gillingham 1-1 Coventry City (5-4) pens
Gillingham 1-1 Coventry City (5-4) pens

Gillingham are into the third round of the Carabao Cup courtesy of a come from behind penalty shoot-out win over last season’s League One Champions Coventry City.

It was left to loanee Trey Coyle to fire home the decisive spot kick, but full credit must be given to all the Gills penalty takers as all five found the back of the City net with some aplomb.

However, there was a serious looking injury to Stuart O’Keefe just before half time that saw the Gills midfielder stretchered away. Manager Steve Evans will be cursing his luck in a competition he admitted to not liking but was going to respect.

Substitute Max Biamou gave Coventry what was a deserved lead with a 58th minute header, before Vadaine Oliver was flattened trying to reach Ryan Jackson’s right wing cross and Jordan Graham duly drilled the ball into the City net to send the tie to penalties.

Connor Ogilvie, Graham, Scott Robertson and Jacob Mellis all slotted home and after City missed their fourth penalty – with the ball disappearing into the deserted Brain Moore Stand – Coyle held his nerve as he drove the ball into the top corner of the net to send the Gills through!

Coventry showed why the won the division last season and were nearly ahead inside two minutes as Will Bapaga fired a volley too high, and the home side were indebted to keeper Jack Tucker on fifteen minutes as Amadou Bakayoko broke clear, but the Gills stopper got just enough on the shot to deflect it past the post, before the home goal had a massive let off three minutes later – Tyler Walker beat the offside trap and Bonham but not the inside of the post!

The best chance the Gills did create in the opening period came from Graham’s free kick that was just too high but despite having more of the ball Gillingham hadn’t really tested keeper Tom Billson.

Three minutes from half time, O’Keefe went down under a challenge and it was soon clear to those at Priestfield that the nights skipper was in pain and after a couple of minutes under the supervision of the clubs medical team, O’Keefe was stretchered away and manager Evans will hope not for too long!

The second half began still with Coventry still making the clearer chances and they went close just before the hour when Fankaty Dabo’s cross was headed away by Chris Maghoma only for a drive to disappear wide of Bonham’s post as it was driven back in. 

Three minutes later, the visitors were in front courtesy of a Biamou header – he got in space to meet Brandon Mason’s cross and give Bonham no chance.

There was plenty of endeavour and commitment from the home side, but just as it looked like their Carabao Cup campaign was over, Oliver was flattened trying to reach Jackson’s cross and Roberts sent to tie to penalties which saw the Gills literally spot on!

So history repeats itself as 24 years after Neil Smith’s goal at Highfield Road sent a Ron Atkinson managed Coventry crashing out of the competition that was then called the Coca Cola Cup, this time the Gills are spot on and this particular Road to Wembley now diverts through either Stoke or Wolverhampton Wanderers in round three.

The Gills will be looking to build on this win as they head to relegated Wigan Athletic at the weekend, with manager Evans facing the prospect of being without both his skipper (Kyle Dempsey) or his deputy, the unlucky O’Keefe.

GILLINGHAM – Bonham, Jackson, Maghoma, Tucker, Ogilvie, Robertson, Willock (Coyle 72), O’Keefe (Mellis 45+1), MacDonald (McKenzie 62) Graham, Oliver

Subs – Medley, Walsh, Akinde, Woods

COVENTRY – Bilson, Rose, Drysdale, Thompson, Dabo (Burroughs 80), Eccles, Sheaf, Mason. Bapaga (Biamou 57), Walker, Bakayoko

Subs – Lafferty, Hillner, Kastaneer, Williams, Tyler

REFEREE – Craig Hicks