A first-half double knocked Gillingham out of the FA Cup at Preston on Saturday.
The Gills were two goals down at the break with Jeffrey Monakana and Stuart Beavon on target for the hosts.
Deon Burton missed a chance to bring the Gills right back into the match when he smashed a penalty against a post in the first minute of the second half - shortly after Beavon struck the upright at the other end.
Of the four changes to the starting XI made by manager Martin Allen, the one that surprised many was the inclusion of Adam Birchall, making his first start for the Gills.
But they found themselves defending early on in the game. With 12 minutes gone League 1 Preston claimed a deserved lead, as tricky winger Monakana placed a shot beyond keeper Tommy Forecast – in for suspended Stuart Nelson.
The Gills had been guilty of failing to clear their lines properly, which led to the opening goal, and towards the end of the half they were made to pay again for the same offence. Preston’s Lee Holmes put the pressure on and Forecast could only clear as far as Beavon, who stroked home the second.
In between the Gills had threatened themselves and just seconds before Preston’s second goal, Allen’s men could have been level. A low cross from Matt Fish eluded everyone, including Burton’s lunge at the far post, when a minimal touch would have sent it over the line.
Fish himself lashed a shot over the bar when well-placed but Preston took a two-goal advantage with them into the break.
Allen made a double substitution for the second half as Chris Whelpdale and Charlie Lee were introduced.
An action-packed start saw the Gills awarded a penalty in the opening minute but Burton was unable to convert, as his kick crashed off the post and was cleared to safety.
Immediately after that miss substitute Whelpdale got away with a shove on Monakana as he bombed forward, looking to make use of the extra space in the Gills backline.
Just moments later and Beavon turned inside the area and cracked a shot of his own against the woodwork. Back the Gills came and Burton had a shot well saved by Thorsten Stuckmann and the action continued with John Mousinho, on the stretch, prodding an effort narrowly wide.
With Joe Martin and Callum Davies off at the break, the Gills had Fish operating in central defence alongside Adam Barrett, with Myles Weston and Whelpdale taking on full-back duties. It was certainly an attack-minded set-up.
But despite their efforts the Gills were unable to get themselves back into the second round tie.
Gillingham: Forecast, Fish, Martin (Lee 46mins), Davies (Whelpdale 46mins), Barrett, Montrose, Vincelot, Allen, Weston, Birchall, Burton (Kedwell 68mins). Subs not used: Flitney, Strevens, Jackman, Frampton.
Preston: Stuckmann, Huntington, Robertson, Cansdell-Sherriff, Wroe (King 46mins), Holmes, Kane, Monakana, Welsh, Mousinho (Procter 75mins), Beavon. Subs not used: Trundle, Sodje, Byrom, Simonsen, Hayhurst.
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