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Gillingham assistant manager Paul Raynor delighted with performance against Steve Bould's Arsenal under-21s in EFL Trophy

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Gillingham are through to the next round of the EFL Trophy after a performance against Arsenal’s 'under-21 team' that delighted the management.

A 1-1 draw left the Gills sitting second in their group behind the Gunners, who earned themselves a bonus point by winning the penalty shoot-out at the end of 90 minutes.

There were nine changes to the Gills team from the weekend FA Cup game and the pre-match team-talk was about making an impression. Assistant boss Paul Raynor was delighted that so many did just that.

“I thought it was an excellent performance against an excellent Arsenal team,” he said.

“They have some excellent individual players but we were always in the game, we created opportunities and controlled their possession and they didn’t hurt us too much.

“It was a mistake for their goal, which I am sure we can do a lot better with, but it was two young players (defender Zech Medley and goalkeeper Joe Walsh) who will mature and learn from that mistake, but on the whole for 90 minutes I thought we were the better team, always a threat and just disappointed to lose in a penalty shoot-out.

Zech Medley attempts a shot at goal against his parent club Picture: Barry Goodwin
Zech Medley attempts a shot at goal against his parent club Picture: Barry Goodwin

“Our team-talk was to put some positive thoughts in the manager’s mind. We have not got a massive squad so everyone needs to be ready when they are called upon.

"They will all be called upon in the next few weeks and we said to the guys we would utilise the whole squad for the Woking game (at the weekend) and this one. Everyone that has been available has been involved in the two games.”

Gillingham might well have won it. Trae Coyle equalised after Catalin Cirjan opened the scoring for Arsenal but he could have had a second, putting the ball in the net only to be denied after being flagged for offside.

The Gills were then left baffled after referee Will Finnie only handed Arsenal’s William Saliba a caution despite fouling Dominic Samuel when he was clean through on goal.

Raynor said: “We have asked the referee twice and it was that Dominic wasn’t going in on goal, which he clearly was, that he was running away from goal and there was a covering defender. I am gobsmacked by that.

Trae Coyle in action against Arsenal Picture: Barry Goodwin
Trae Coyle in action against Arsenal Picture: Barry Goodwin

“That version of events certainly didn’t happen. He was through on goal, he got pushed from behind, it is debatable whether it was in the box, it looked just outside, but it was certainly a red card.

“Nobody wants to see red cards against players in these games but it was a definite one and if we had gone on and not got anything from the game it would have been a travesty because we wanted to get through in the competition. It was a poor decision but we are getting used to them in recent weeks.”

Gillingham’s progress in the competition rested on Ipswich’s result at Crawley. The Gills took second spot after Crawley won that match 2-0.

Read more: Gills 1 Arsenal 1 match report

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