Exeter City booked their spot in Monday’s Third Round draw after they caused an FA Cup upset when they cut apart League One Gillingham.

Having gone behind early to the higher division opponents when a Lewis Page error was pounced upon by the Gills, City hit back in style with three goals in a ten minute spell before the break.

First, Joel Randall set up Nicky Law and he drilled home from the edge of the box, before the roles were reversed as Law twice set up Randall to give the Grecians a two goal lead.

City retreated after the break and invited pressure from the hosts, and Dominic Samuel poked home from close range with 10 minutes to go to make it a nervy finish, but they held on for a 3-2 win.

 

The cup win made nine unbeaten on the road for City, is now just one defeat in 16, and for only the third time in 15 years, they will be in the hat for Monday’s third round draw.

Goal Celebrations for Joel Randall of Exeter City during the FA Cup 2nd Round match between Gillingham and Exeter City at the Priestfield Stadium, Gillingham, Kent on 28 Nov 2020. Photo: Micah Crook/PPAUK

The Gills, 13 in League One, came into Saturday clash off the back of a 2-1 win over Wimbledon and after five defeats in a row in October, and were unbeaten in five. Boss Steve Evans named a strong line-up with just the one change, with Christian Maghoma replacing Arsenal loanee Zech Medley in the heart of the defence.

Matt Taylor, with his Grecians facing away trips to Grimsby and Cheltenham Town this week, rang the changes as he indicated he would, making five from Tuesday’s 6-1 win over Colchester United. Out went Pierce Sweeney, Tom Parkes, Jack Sparkes, Jake Taylor and Matt Jay, with Rory McArdle, Alex Hartridge, Nicky Law, and returning from injury, Lewis Page and Nigel Atangana recalled.

And within the opening minute, City had the first half to take the lead, after a quickly taken throw-in found Law in the box, but his effort was blocked by a defender, before a nicely worked move down the right ended when Archie Collins blazed high and wide from 20 yards.

But 10 minutes in, the Gills should have taken the lead. After some pinball in the box from a corner, Jack Tucker kept the ball alive, and it landed at the feet of Dominic Samuel, unmarked six yards out, but somehow he fired over the bar.

Kyle Dempsey was next to test the City goal after Josh Key gave the ball away on the edge of the box, but Atangana got a vital touch in to deflect his shot wide for a corner, before 20 minutes in, City gifted the Gills the lead.

Page dawdled on the ball inside the box and was robbed by Jordan Graham, who squared the ball to Vadaine Oliver, who tapped into the empty net for his fifth goal of the season.

The ex-Charlton’s afternoon ended soon afterwards when he was replaced by Sparkes having looked to have picked up an injury, and when Bowman went down after a heavy challenge, things appeared to be going downhill.

But the striker recovered quickly and was instrumental in City’s equaliser shortly afterwards. He held off two defenders on the edge of the box and rolled the ball off to Joel Randall, who cut the ball back to Law, and the 32-year-old arrowed a low effort into the corner of the net.

Five minutes later, City took the lead, with it being their turn to capitalise on a defensive howler. Law intercepted a poor clearance from Jack Bonham and drove to the edge of the box. He had the chance to shoot, but instead pulled it back to Randall, who turned past a defender and smashed home from 12 yards.

A third could have come moments later but Randell Williams diverted a Sparkes cross over the bar, but the third goal did come and once again was down to the swift interplay between Law and Randall.

After Collins’ backheel set Law in down the right, he drilled a low cross in that found Randall at the far post, but rather than shooting first time, he had the composure to take a touch, switch it to his left foot, and fire home from close range for his eighth of the season.

Goal Celebrations for Joel Randall of Exeter City during the FA Cup 2nd Round match between Gillingham and Exeter City at the Priestfield Stadium, Gillingham, Kent on 28 Nov 2020. Photo: Micah Crook/PPAUK
Goal Celebrations for Joel Randall of Exeter City during the FA Cup 2nd Round match between Gillingham and Exeter City at the Priestfield Stadium, Gillingham, Kent on 28 Nov 2020. Photo: Micah Crook/PPAUK

Evans made two changes at the break, bringing on Declan Drysdale and Scott Robertson, but with City controlling the tempo of the game, restricted them to just an Oliver overhead kick than sailed well over the crossbar, while Randall, looking for his first career hat-trick, saw an effort from the angle of the box drift wide.

The Gills tried to press for a way back into the game, but created few clear cut chances, with a Samuel header that went wide and a Dempsey effort straight at Jokull Andresson as close as they came to scoring for most of the half.

Sweeney and Taylor were brought on to try and see out the game, but instantly found themselves just a one goal deficit to cling onto. A ball into the box wasn’t dealt with by the City defence, Oliver headed back across the box and Samuel swivelled and poked home from close range.

Goal Celebrations for Joel Randall of Exeter City during the FA Cup 2nd Round match between Gillingham and Exeter City at the Priestfield Stadium, Gillingham, Kent on 28 Nov 2020. Photo: Micah Crook/PPAUK
Goal Celebrations for Joel Randall of Exeter City during the FA Cup 2nd Round match between Gillingham and Exeter City at the Priestfield Stadium, Gillingham, Kent on 28 Nov 2020. Photo: Micah Crook/PPAUK

It made it a nervy last few minutes for the Grecians, that could have been eased had Randall’s long range effort not been kept out well by Bonham.

And the Gills keeper should have sent it to extra-time with the last kick of the game. A long Connor Ogilvie throw caused chaos in the box, the ball feel to the Irishman, but he blasted over from six yards.

It meant City hung on to cause the upset and book their spot in Monday’s third round draw, where they will be dreaming of taking on a Premier League giant

Gillingham (4-4-2) – Jack Bonham, Ryan Jackson (John Akinde, 84), Jack Tucker, Christian Maghoma (Declan Drysdale, HT), Connor Ogilvie, Jordan Graham, Robbie McKenzie, Kyle Dempsey, Alex MacDonald (Scott Robertson, HT), Dominic Samuel, Vadaine Oliver.

Subs: Joe Walsh, Matty Willock, Trae Coyle, Henry Woods,

Exeter City (4-4-2) – Jokull Andresson, Josh Key, Rory McArdle, Alex Hartridge, Lewis Page (Jack Sparkes, 25), Randell Williams (Pierce Sweeney, 79), Nigel Atangana (Jake Taylor, 79), Archie Collins, Joel Randall, Nicky Law, Ryan Bowman.

Subs: Harry Lee, , Matt Jay, Nicky Ajose, Alex Fisher.

Booking: Atangana, Sparkes





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