Stevenage were eliminated from the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy after a narrow 1-0 defeat at home to Gillingham this evening.
A first half Luke Norris penalty proved enough for the Gills to progress, despite Boro having the better of the play and a man advantage for the final 27 minutes following Gavin Hoyte’s dismissal.
Graham Westley made three changes from the side which won at Wimbledon on Saturday with Chris Day, Connor Calcutt and Roarie Deacon all coming into the side. Sam Beasant dropped to the bench whilst Tom Pett and Andy Bond missed out.
This year’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy competition has seen the introduction of the famous vanishing spray used in the World Cup and Premier League and within a minute Mr Deadman was using it for a Gills free-kick, providing an early cheer for fans of both sides.
After a quiet start Charlie Lee, playing against his former side, had the first shot of the game but Morris was able to palm his shot up in the air before gathering the rebound.
Boro were looking bright and putting the visitors under immense pressure when in possession. Twice the ball was played back to Morris and on both occasions Lancaster and Calcutt forced the ‘keeper into rushed clearances.
However 16 minutes in and Gillingham scored what would prove to be the only goal. Cody McDonald, who found the back of the net here against Boro back in February, was played through by a superb ball over the top and sent sprawling inside the area by the outrushing Chris Day. The ‘keeper was perhaps fortunate to receive just a yellow but was helpless to prevent Luke Norris powering home the resulting spot-kick to put the visitors 1-0 up.
Boro responded and came mightily close to an equaliser six minutes later. Calcutt challenged well in the air and the ball fell to Lee, who twisted and turned on the edge of the box before poking agonisingly wide of Morris’ right post.
A goal down, Graham Westley’s men continued to play the better football but were unable to provide that clear-cut chance or find that killer ball through the Gills defence. Roarie Deacon saw 25th minute penalty claims waved away by the referee and Lee again went close with an acrobatic volley on the turn before Calcutt saw a shot deflected behind as Boro kept up the pressure without troubling the scoreboard.
The visitors made a double sub at the break and came out the stronger of the two teams, creating early chances to extend their lead. Day atoned for conceding the earlier penalty by denying Dickenson from close range before Norris reacted to the rebound but saw his diving header fly over.
Sub Aaron McKain powered a 53rd minute corner inches wide as the Gills again came close to extending their lead before Lancaster saw a shot blocked from close range at the other end, as the two teams traded chances.
Connor Calcutt then thought he’d equalised 10 minutes after the break when he netted from close range, but there was the linesman’s flag to deny the offside striker and frustrate the home faithful.
The goalmouth action continued. Day again thwarted Norris and Stevenage defenders flung themselves at the ball in the box to prevent the rebound finding the back of the net, before Boro were handed a huge boost when Mr Deadman showed Gavin Hoyte a straight red for a bad challenge on Deacon, giving the hosts a man advantage for the final.
Lancaster flashed a shot wide, Deacon saw a low effort kept out by Morris and Whelpdale fired over as Boro laid siege to Gillingham’s goal. Even when Graham Westley’s men found the target, Morris denied Lancaster from close range and Calcutt saw a rebound deflect over for a corner.
The introduction of Calvin Zola and Adam Marriott for the final 10 minutes saw Boro throw more firepower on but whatever they tried,Gillingham repelled. Charles volleyed wide and Zola couldn’t find the target as four minutes of added time came and went before Mr Deadman brought the game to a close.
Victory for Gillingham sees them progress to the next round of the competition whilst Stevenage are left to focus on preparations for this Saturday’s home league game against York City.
Stevenage: Day, Henry (Ashton 86), Wells, Charles, Okimo, Whelpdale, Lee, Walton, Deacon (Zola 79), Calcutt (Marriott 79), Lancaster
Subs not used: Beasant, Casey
Gillingham: Morris, Martin (McKain 46), Legge, Hessenthaler, McDonald (German 46), Pritchard, Norris, Davies, Dack, Dickenson, Hoyte
Subs not used: Hadler, Fish, Millbank