Published: 21:30, 13 November 2018
| Updated: 00:23, 14 November 2018
Bradley Stevenson scored his first senior goal for Gillingham as they came from behind to beat Crawley Town on Tuesday night.
Dominic Poleon had given the visitors the advantage in the Checkatrade Trophy match, continuing his impressive scoring record against the Gills, putting his side ahead midway through the first half.
But Elliott List levelled the scores after the break and Stevenson fired home the winner with four minutes left.
Despite suggesting he wouldn’t shuffle the team much from the weekend, Gills boss Steve Lovell made wholesale changes for the match, making 10 to his starting eleven and naming a young bench, which included youth players Danny Divine and Roman Campbell.
The Gills had already suffered 4-0 defeats at Portsmouth and against Tottenham’s under-21s, meaning they were bottom of South Group A and unable to progress whatever the outcome of Tuesday night’s fixture.
Crawley, lining up with former Gills players Romain Vincelot and Bondz N’Gala in their starting eleven after making nine changes, still had hopes of a top-two spot but they were on the backfoot early on as Lovell’s men started at a good tempo.
Although the Gills had no hope of progressing in the Trophy, this game was still of importance to those named in the side, most of whom are on the fringes and looking to work their way into Lovell’s League 1 line-up.
Josh Rees had seen little action of late and he had a couple of early opportunities. Within a minute he sent a looping header goalwards, which was held by keeper Yusuf Mersin. A better chance later on came after a good move from the Gills and a cross from Elliott List, but Rees tried to find a team-mate rather than go for goal and the chance was gone.
Against the run of play Crawley took the lead, Poleon getting to the ball just ahead of advancing keeper Tom Hadler, after his run had been picked out by Reece Grego-Cox.
Poleon had now scored goals against the Gills in each of the past five seasons, including the winning goals for Bradford in both of their 1-0 victories during the previous campaign.
Billy Bingham was denied by the visiting keeper at the far post, as the Gills looked for an instant response, while Elliott List also dragged a shot wide.
Crawley’s Grego-Cox fired an effort wide and Tarryn Allarakhia did likewise, although his effort only just missed the post, with Hadler beaten. Navid Nasseri failed to find the target with a low drilled effort at the other end just before the interval.
Nasseri flashed a shot across goal in the second half but it was List who was on hand to level the scores, in the 57th minute, prodding the ball home with the back of his boot after keeper Mersin failed to clear a Dean Parrett free-kick from a crowded box.
Gills’ young forward Noel Mbo came inches away from finding the top corner with 15 minutes left but Grego-Cox had the chance of game for Crawley, a cross finding him just a few yards from goal, but he somehow lifted the ball over the bar.
With the game heading to a penalty shoot-out, Stevenson claimed the glory, hitting the net with a shot from 20 yards after being picked out on the edge of the box by Bradley Garmston.
Hadler made a great save at the death to ensure the Gills held on for the win, making himself big to deny Grego-Cox.
Gillingham: Hadler, Simpson, Garmston, Lacey, Ogilvie, Parrett, Rees, Bingham (Chapman 75mins), Nasseri (Woods 79mins), List (Stevenson 65mins), Mbo. Subs not used: Catherall, Stevenson, Tucker, Divine, Campbell.
Crawley: Mersin, Doherty, McNerney, Grego-Cox, N’Gala, Poleon (Sesay 66mins), Francomb, Nathaniel-George, Vincelot, Bulman, Allarakhia (Randall 80mins). Subs not used: Morris, Maguire, Galach, Camara.
Attendance: Not given.
More by this authorLuke Cawdell