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Hartlepool United 3 Gillingham 4 - FA Cup first round replay

By Luke Cawdell

Gillingham came from two goals down to win a dramatic FA Cup replay at Hartlepool.

Goals from Carl Magnay and Paddy McLaughlin left the Gills two goals down at the break in the first round replay.

Max Ehmer pulled a goal back shortly after the restart and the Gills were seconds away from elimination before Tom Eaves’ stoppage-time penalty took the tie into extra-time.

Striker Tom Eaves scores from the penalty spot in stoppage time Picture: Ady Kerry
Striker Tom Eaves scores from the penalty spot in stoppage time Picture: Ady Kerry

Reaction: It was unbelievable says the Gills boss

Goals from Luke O’Neill and Elliott List put the Gills 4-2 infront before Hartlepool's Tyrone O'Neill struck with seven minutes left to ensure it was a tense finish.

The two sides knew victory would leave them in a strong position to make the third round of the competition and a potential money-spinning tie, with National League South side Slough awaiting the winners in the second round.

Hartlepool went into the match with poor form behind them, losing their last four in the league. Their only recent highlight was the goalless draw against the Gills at Priestfield when the sides met.

Pools hadn’t won a game since beating Kidsgrove Athletic in the fourth qualifying round on October 20, losing 4-0 to Bromley and 3-1 to Barnet either side of the initial meeting with Gillingham. On paper, there wasn’t much to suggest the northeast side could be giant killers.

Mark Byrne in the thick of the action Picture: Ady Kerry
Mark Byrne in the thick of the action Picture: Ady Kerry

In recent years the Gills have bounced from one embarrassing FA Cup defeat to another on the road, crashing out to lower league sides Carlisle, Brackley (twice) and Stevenage.

There was just one change in Steve Lovell’s starting XI from the weekend defeat at Oxford with Darren Oldaker back in as Elliott List dropped to the bench. Lovell had named a strong team for the long trip north.

His side started the game brightly enough and within 30 seconds home keeper Scott Loach was sent sprawling to save a shot from Tom Eaves.

Hartlepool soon made up for their slow start, however, and should have been ahead after 14 minutes when Donaldson was denied by Tomas Holy at the far post. It was a great save by the Gills keeper but he looked to be at fault for the opening goal.

The hosts took a 22nd minute lead through Magnay, this time sticking away a header at the far post after Holy had come for Liam Noble’s free-kick but not made it, allowing the Hartlepool man to open the scoring.

Gillingham's Regam Charles-Cook tries to win the ball back Picture: Ady Kerry
Gillingham's Regam Charles-Cook tries to win the ball back Picture: Ady Kerry

Gillingham had a good spell of possession after the goal but were unable to make anything of it and they soon found themselves two down. Holy could only parry a shot from Marcus Dinanga and McLaughlin was on hand to smash it home.

Lovell’s men struggled for the rest of the half to make a breakthrough and Elliott List was introduced at the break for Brandon Hanlan.

It was game on again five minutes after the restart when Mark Byrne lifted the ball over the Pools defence into the path of Ehmer, taking the ball down on his chest before firing home.

The Gills had further chances from Luke O’Neill and Regan Charles-Cook but neither could finish, the first effort going well over and the other comfortably held by Loach.

Holy was troubled at the other end from a Luke James shot, letting the shot spill through his hands before grabbing hold of the ball at the second attempt.

Barry Fuller puts everything into this challenge on Wednesday night Picture: Ady Kerry
Barry Fuller puts everything into this challenge on Wednesday night Picture: Ady Kerry

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It was end to end in the latter stages. Holy made a fine stop from Pools sub Tyrone O’Neill while the home keeper tipped Billy Bingham’s rising shot over the bar one-handed. Loach also stood up well to deny List after he got in on goal.

Just as the Gills thought their time was up, the referee awarded them a penalty for handball and Eaves kept his cool from the spot to smash home the equaliser. It was the last kick of normal time.

The Gills took the lead in the 102nd minute, capitalising from a free-kick some 30 yards out after lively sub List had been fouled. O’Neill’s expert finish put the visitors in charge for the first time and they added another goal early in the second half of extra-time. List found the bottom corner after being fed by Byrne.

Just as it looked to be all over, Hartlepool sub Tyrone O'Neill pulled a goal back as the Gills couldn't get the ball clear from the striker. It made for a nervy finale but the Gills hung on to win.

Hartlepool: Loach, Richardson, Davies (Anderson 38mins), Magnay, Kitching, Donaldson, Noble, Featherstone (Muir 96mins), McLaughlin, Dinanga (O’Neill 66mins), James (Newton 84mins). Subs not used: Catterick, Kioso, Hawkes.

Gillingham: Holy, O’Neill, Fuller (Garmston 72mins), Ehmer, Zakuani, Bingham, Byrne, Oldaker, Charles-Cook (Rees 64mins), Hanlan (List 46mins), Eaves (Lacey 118mins). Subs not used: Hadler, Parrett, Ogilvie.

Attendance: 1,873 (101 Gills).

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