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Steve Evans' reaction as Gillingham beat Crawley Town on penalties in the Carabao Cup

Gillingham boss Steve Evans was a proud man after seeing the young players he called upon delivering a performance at Crawley.

Gerald Sithole got his first goal for the Gills in the Carabao Cup first round tie - which finished 2-2 after normal time - and also scored from the penalty spot during the successful shootout. Fellow 18-year-old Harvey Lintott scored the winner while Bailey Akehurst, 17, and 20-year-old Dan Phillips also impressed.

Giving them minutes and another taste of professional football was more important than the win in the League Cup competition but Gillingham can now look forward to a second round tie.

“I am immensely proud of them,” Evans commented. “I said to Paul Raynor (the assistant manager) on Sunday morning the team I was going to pick and I think he was surprised, well he was gobsmacked when I said we were going with Harvey, Bailey, Gerald and Muzzy (Carayol) up top.

“It was not about progressing in the Carabao Cup or beating Crawley, it was about young men getting an opportunity to play and everyone did great.

“To be fair to the Crawley fans they got behind their team and created a good little atmosphere and those (Gillingham) kids will benefit from it enormously. Some would have wilted, Harvey didn’t, he showed composure late in the game with the penalty and young Bailey had nothing left so we had to take him off. He wanted to stay on. I have said for a while, young Sithole is a proper player.

“It is about giving the kids an opportunity, putting them in when you think it is right for them. These kids can’t believe it, they are pinching themselves. Harvey and Gerald were getting released in January so we stepped in as first team staff. You look at Jack Tucker and how far he has progressed. He was getting released too.

“Really if we had enough bodies they would be with the youth team on Saturday mornings wouldn’t they but they stepped up, they did great and there were some really good performances. Muzzy was very good in spells, Daniel Phillips is getting better, we put him in a more advanced position, when we brought Lloyd and Vadaine on you could see the class immediately increased.”

The Gills changed it up a bit from the off by going for pace up top, with Carayol and Sithole a new combination. Crawley’s defence were undone by the pair early on with Sithole getting one goal and almost scoring a second shortly after from a Carayol cross.

Evans admitted he knew what he was facing but wasn’t so sure his opposite number John Yems did, saying: “You could see the team they picked. He had the biggest guy in Britain (playing in defence) didn’t he? But he thought Vadaine was playing. He should do his homework more.

“I knew their team on Monday, it is amazing what you learn in the game, someone told me their team yesterday. They didn’t know our team. Only myself and Paul Raynor knew our team until we told the players.”

It was a team that held their nerve during the shootout, taking penalties second and with Crawley converting their first nine, the pressure was always on.

Ollie Lee, Oliver, Danny Lloyd, Phillips, Stuart O’Keefe, David Tutonda, Christian Maghoma, Sithole and Max Ehmer all converted before Lintott won it after Aaron Chapman had saved Crawley’s 10th kick in sudden-death.

Evans said: “I was so pleased, to see Harvey go up. One thing he has got is a real calmness.

“I have never met his family but the way he talks and conducts himself he must come from a really nice family, well brought up. Our supporters will have gone home thinking three academy kids have played and Jack Tucker was also on the bench, that could have been four.

“We will take the win, regardless of how it comes, and we managed to send the travelling fans home happy.”

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