Gillingham 2 – 2 Newport County (1-4 pens)
Gillingham 2 – 2 Newport County (1-4 pens)

Gillingham were knocked out on penalties on the first round of the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night following a 2-2 draw with Newport County.

Brandon Hanlan had given the home side the lead with a spot-kick in a game that yielded four normal time penalties, however he missed another to allow Newport back into the game through Tristan Abrahams.

Mikael Ndjoli scored a penalty late on to give The Gills the lead once more, however he saw red in the process of Padraig Amond equalising with a Newport penalty of their own late on. When it came to the regulation spot-kicks, the away side prevailed.

Steve Evans, still watching on from the stands, made three changes from Gillingham’s weekend defeat to Burton Albion in a bid to turn around their home fortunes in a Cup game where his side would have been comfortable favourites.

The Gills, with Alfie Jones sporting more of a midfield role as opposed to his usual centre back duties, started the game on the front foot and had some joy out wide early on, however a couple of crosses could only find the arms of Nick Townsend in the Newport goal.

Their first chance of the game came in the opening five minutes when the Newport defence failed to deal with a Regan Charles-Cook free kick. The ball, after a bit of pinball in the box, fell to Mikael Ndjoli, but he slashed his volley wide.

Just minutes later Ndjoli had another chance to give his side the lead, but missed Charles-Cook’s corner by a matter of inches.

Newport’s first chance of the game came just after 12 minutes through young forward Tristan Abrahams. County broke and Abraham’s controlled the ball well in the box, but Connor Ogilvie, making his full re-debut for The Gills after joining permanently in the summer following two years at the club on loan, did well to block his effort.

The game slowed down after a fast start but a slip from a Newport full-back allowed Mikael Ndjoli to capitalise down the right. He ran free and squared the ball to Alex Jakubiak, but the Warford loanee couldn’t get the pass under control and Townsend gathered the ball. 

Charles-Cook came the closest either side had come so far on 25 minutes following neat play from Alex Jakubiak. ‘AJ’ carried the ball well on the left before playing a square pass to Charles-Cook, who struck a good effort against the far post. Mikael Ndjoli could only side-foot the rebound wide.

The home side’s pressure was rewarded a minute later when Charles-Cook received a push from Scott Bennett in the box. Trevor Kettle didn’t have to think twice and he pointed to the spot, where Brandon Hanlan would fire a powerful penalty past Townsend, who guessed the right way, but couldn’t keep the effort out.

As the first half wore on Steve Evans will have felt his side should have been further ahead. Lee Hodson showed impressive form on the right, squaring the ball to Jakubiak on the edge of the box, the forward forcing a nice save from Townsend high to his left.

Gillingham had conceded three times in the final five minutes of the first half in the first two games of the season, and that’s a stat Newport surely would’ve been aware of as they pushed on with Corey Whitley having a shot blocked by Lee Hodson and Scott Bennett forcing a save from Jack Bonham late on.

It was Gillingham, though, who should’ve scored as the half time whistle blew, when Charles-Cook found Brandon Hanlan alone in the box, but his powerful header was directed wide by Townsend.

Gillingham manager Steve Evans must have given his side a stern talking to at half time, and they almost scored early in the second half when Mark Byrne had a volley deflected over after good play from Regan Charles-Cook. Connor Ogilvie headed over from the resulting corner.

On 56 minutes the home side had a golden opportunity when Dan Leadbitter bought down Brandon Hanlan for the Gills’ second penalty of the game. The forward stepped up again, but, this time, Nick Townsend guessed the right way and kept the effort out.

Newport grew into the game as it progressed and Mark O’Brien and substitute Padraig Amond squandered good opportunities before Matty Dolan fired one of many free-kicks over the bar.

Gillingham were forced to play on the counter and almost put the game to bed when Brandon Hanlan broke and got away from his defender, but Mark Marshall’s square pass to Mikael Ndjoli was weak and the Newport defence swept up.

Another Matty Dolan free-kick was dealt with by Gillingham before Hanlan had perhaps the chance of the game when a long ball over the top found him in space. With every Newport player forward, Hanlan raced away to face Townsend one on one. Hanlan, though, was again denied by the Newport stopper who pulled of yet another brilliant stop, with the frontman putting the rebound over.

The Gills were, eventually, made to pay in the 84th minute when a Matty Dolan free-kick finally paid dividends. An inswinger from the right made it all the way through to young forward Tristan Abrahams, who poked home to square the game up.

With the match seemingly heading to penalties, a huge sigh of relief could be heard round Priestifeld when Trevor Kettle once again pointed to the spot in the final minute of normal time following a Kyle Howkins trip on Mark Byrne. With Hanlan off the pitch, Mikael Ndjoli was on hand to send Townsend the wrong way and give Gillingham a late lead.

It was, however, to be a lead that didn’t last long. Up the other end, almost seconds later, Ndjoli was giving away a foul himself after pulling down Dan Leadbitter, seeing a second yellow card and, ultimately, a red, in the process. Padraig Amond made no mistake in levelling up proceedings once again, and the game was to go to penalties.

Newport, in-front of the Rainham End, kicked off the shootout and took the lead through Josh Sheehan. Gillingham were immediately up against it when Townsend kept out Alfie Jones’ spot-kick, and the away side were soon 2-0 up when Padraig Amond powered past Bonham to double Newport’s lead.

Mikael Mandron gave Gillingham hope when he sent Townsend the wrong way to make it 2-1, however the game was all but gone when Mark Marshall missed following Mickey Demetriou scoring.

All Abrahams had to do was score, and score he did to give the League Two side the win, meaning Gillingham were knocked out in the first round of the Carabao Cup on penalties for the second year in a row.

Gillingham: Bonham, Hodson, Ehmer, Ogilvie, Fuller, Jones, Byrne, Ndjoli, Charles-Cook (Woods 90+2), Jakubiak (Marshall 70), Hanlan (85).

Subs not used: Walsh, Tucker, O’Keefe, List.

Goals: Hanlan 26 (pen), Ndjoli 90 (pen)

Newport: Townsend, Howkins, O’Brien (Demetriou 90+4), Stojsavljevic (Amond 29), Leadbitter, Bennett (Sheehan 80), Maloney, Nurse, Dolan, Abrahams, Whitley.

Subs not used: King, Haynes, McNamara, Ekpiteta.

Goals: Abrahams 84, Amond 90 +4 (pen)

Attendance: N/A

Referee: Mr T Kettle

Assistants: Mr D Cook and Mr P Lister

Fourth Official: Mr D Bonneywell

Picture supplied by Gillingham Football Club