Gillingham manager Steve Evans praised the young substitutes who helped turn Saturday’s FA Cup tie in their favour.
Gerald Sithole netted the equaliser against Cheltenham Town after coming off the bench at the break and fellow 18-year-old Bailey Akehurst nearly scored a stunning winner in stoppage-time. Harvey Lintott was another teen substitute thrown into in the cup match at Priestfield.
“I am proud of the kids,” said Evans, as his side came back from behind to draw 1-1. “They raised the senior players. Gerald gave us a spark, we brought Bailey on and he gave us a spark, two or three great runs down the left.”
All three were drafted in as Evans didn’t have enough senior players to fill his squad. Following a poor opening half, the second was much better.
“Maybe we had got the system wrong,” Evans admitted.
“We couldn’t get up the pitch and I think the wind was making it more difficult.
“The disappointing thing is that they score a goal that is not a goal [there was debate about whether Cheltenham’s opener crossed the line], unless I see something that shows me it is. It is a long way away to be making a decision from the assistant, the same assistant that gave Vadaine Oliver offside in the last few minutes when he was in his own half. That is a difficult thing to do!
“We didn’t play well enough in the first half, but we did enough in the second to comfortably win a cup tie, against a good side. When you can bring players on like Dan Crowley and I know how much he cost, we tried to sign him, we played him in a pre-season game at Norwich, set to sign! Shock, he went to Cheltenham. He told me why.
“They can bring on players like that off the bench and we have to accept it.”
Akehurst was nearly the hero with a shot that flew inches wide late on.
Evans said: “He should score and he has got the quality to score. He has the time, he is on the edge of the box and we see him in training bang them in. When it came to him we thought he would certainly hit the target but it has gone inches wide.
“He did really well when he came on the pitch and we have had to bring young Harvey on, I don’t know who was next, there was nobody, we didn’t have any more subs. We had Jamie Cumming (the substitute keeper) and there might have been a cause at one stage to play him outfield.”