A late Tom Nichols penalty sealed Gillingham’s place in round two of the FA Cup at the expense of non-league Hereford.
Jayden Clarke’s goal separated the sides in an opening half that Stephen Clemence’s Gillingham side deservedly led. Hereford battled back after the break but couldn’t find the moment of magic to unlock the defence and Nichols’ 88th minute penalty sealed it for the visitors.
Gillingham’s new head coach Clemence opted to stick with the same starting XI which had kicked off the previous week in the league, under then-interim boss Keith Millen.
The Gills had reached the third round in the competition last year, enjoying a live televised game against Leicester City in round three, and they took on National North Hereford with hopes of another memorable run.
League 2 Gills were up against a Hereford side mid-table in the division two levels below them and the Edgar Street crowd - a home sell-out - remembered their own FA Cup hero Ronnie Radford on the day, a year on from his death, with an applause on 11 minutes.
Wearing no.11, Radford’s superb goal helped non-league Hereford beat Newcastle in a third-round replay in 1972 - described by many as the FA Cup’s greatest goal.
In a slight tweak to the set-up, Gills lined up 4-5-1 / 4-3-3, with Jonny Williams playing wide and Connor Mahoney more central.
The Gills looked to be playing more patient football, with the new coach keen to build a possession-based style. It was a positive first 45 minutes in charge for Clemence.
Malone and Clarke both went wide with early efforts before the home keeper was forced into action. It was Malone again with a shot, hitting it low across goal, but Curtis Pond got a hand to it.
Williams looked to be playing with confidence and attempted a scissor-kicked volley that the Hereford goalie held.
It was Clarke who got the opener for the Gills, in the 23rd minute. He worked himself some space on the edge of the box before firing in a shot that deflected off defender Kyle Howkins and over Pond.
Connor Mahoney went close to a second from 15 yards, with a dink that beat the keeper but not the upright.
Gillingham were largely comfortable for the rest of the half, with Hereford putting a couple of half chances wide. For the Gills, Bonne diverted Clarke’s cross over the bar into the empty stand.
Hereford made a bright start to the second half, getting into the game more by pushing men further forward.
An angled shot from Yusifu Ceesay was held by Turner and a dangerous cross from the opposite flank drifted just wide of the far post.
The home side’s best chance came with an hour gone after Lassana Mendes slipped the ball through to Ethan Freemantle but he shot wide.
Turner needed to be alert to hold onto the ball after Scott Malone’s clearance cannoned goalwards off Freemantle and the same Hereford player went close again moments later with a shot that got deflected wide.
Gillingham’s first-half dominance seemed a long way off and captain Shaun Williams was introduced off the bench to try and restore order, while Tom Nichols replaced Bonne up top.
Hereford continued to threaten but the Gills got a second from the penalty spot. Max Clark’s diagonal ball forward fell to Nichols and as he raced onto the pass, keeper Pond took him out.
Cheye Alexander offered to take the kick, despite having missed his last penalty, but was big enough to hand responsibility over to Nichols and the striker buried the ball into the bottom corner.
Gillingham: Turner, Alexander, Malone (Clark 84mins), Masterson, Ogie, Jefferies, Colemam, J Williams (S Williams 65mins), Mahoney (Walker 95mins), Clarke (Dieng 84mins), Bonne (Nichols 65mins). Subs not used: Morris, Ehmer, Orji, Macarthur.
Hereford: Pond, Skinner (Cranston 88mins), Livingstone, Southern, Cameron, Howkins (Rooney 87mins), Teixeira, Babos (Stanley 57mins), Ceesay, Mendes, Fremantle (Cowley 70mins). Subs not used: Sterry, Tolley, Arthur.
Referee: Ollie Yates
Attendance: 4,436 (370 away)