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Report: Gillingham 1 Coventry City 1 (Gills win 5-4 on penalties)

Gillingham beat Coventry City on penalties in the Carabao Cup but victory was overshadowed by a bad injury to midfielder Stuart O’Keefe.

O’Keefe - captaining the side following Kyle Dempsey’s injury at the weekend - was stretchered off late in the opening half of Tuesday’s second round match at Priestfield.

Stuart O'Keefe is stretchered off after a suspected leg break Picture: Barry Goodwin
Stuart O'Keefe is stretchered off after a suspected leg break Picture: Barry Goodwin

A headed goal from City substitute Max Biamou put them ahead but Jordan Graham levelled with a stoppage-time penalty to take the game to a shootout and Trae Coyle scored the winning spot-kick.

Gillingham manager Steve Evans made six changes to his starting XI, more concerned by individual performances and growing partnerships than the result of a match in acompetition he has little interest in.

The visitors changed their entire eleven for the match and lined up with a 19-year-old keeper who was making his first senior start. They also included a 17-year-old playing behind their front two.

Reward for the winners is a trip to either Wolves or Stoke City in round three. Those two teams play on Thursday night.

Empty stands at Priestfield still due to the Covid pandemic Picture: Barry Goodwin
Empty stands at Priestfield still due to the Covid pandemic Picture: Barry Goodwin

City moved the ball well early on, lively teenager Will Bapaga seeing plenty of it in his role behind the visiting front two, and only poor finishing denied them from getting ahead.

Amadou Bakayoko missed a golden chance after being played in on goal, without a defender near him, but home keeper Jack Bonham got a touch on the shot to divert it wide.

Moments later and Tyler Walker found himself in on goal, as Bapaga’s defence splitting pass put the striker in, but his shot struck the post.

Gillingham gradually worked their way into the game but shortly before the break midfielder O’Keefe - the club’s recently appointed vice captain - came off worse with a challenge from Amadou Bakayoko. The Coventry man looked to have gone into the tackle late and was yellow carded while O’Keefe was stretchered off.

Vadaine Oliver gets up for the header Picture: Barry Goodwin
Vadaine Oliver gets up for the header Picture: Barry Goodwin

Robertson, who was busy all night, went close early in the second half for Gillingham after a driving run from midfield.

Bapaga’s promising evening ended early, walking off with a shoulder injury, but it was his replacement Biamou who headed the visitors infront, rising well to meet an excellent left-sided cross from Brandon Mason.

Robertson went close for the Gills on a couple of occasions while Walker did likewise for the visitors.

Gills were unhappy with a few tackles late on. Bakayoko - already on a yellow following the O’Keefe incident - got away with a late challenge on Connor Ogilvie and Mason went in hard on Jordan Graham, a challenge which did earn him a booking.

Josh Eccles is challenged by Alex MacDonald Picture: Barry Goodwin
Josh Eccles is challenged by Alex MacDonald Picture: Barry Goodwin

Gillingham were unable to work an opening in the latter stages, with Oliver blasting a shot over from outside the box.

But in the fourth of five minutes of added-on time Michael Rose fouled Oliver in the box and Graham smashed it home.

Gillingham went onto win the shootout with goals from Connor Ogilvie, Graham, Robertson, Mellis and Trae Coyle with the decisive strike to make it 5-4. Visiting captain Rose was the only one to miss for City.

Evans reaction: It was a horrendous challenge

Gillingham: Bonham, Jackson, Ogilvie, Tucker, Maghoma, O’Keefe (Mellis 45mins), Robertson, Willock (Coyle 72mins), MacDonald (McKenzie 62mins), Graham, Oliver. Subs not used: Walsh, Medley, Akinde, Woods.

Coventry: Billson, Mason, Dabo (Burroughs 79mins), Drysdale, Rose, Thompson, Eccles, Sheaf, Bapaga (Biamou 57mins), Bakayoko, Walker. Subs not used: Tyler, Hilssner, Kastaneer, Williams, Lafferty.

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