Stevenage made light work of League One highflyers Gillingham with a thumping 3-0 victory in the FA Cup first round at The Lamex Stadium.
First half goals from Steve Schumacher and Chris Whelpdale put Boro in a commanding position in the opening 45, with Armand Gnaduillet scoring a late third on the break as the Gills pushed in the second half but fell to a cup upset.
Teddy Sheringham made four changes to his starting XI with Dean Wells, Connor Ogilvie, Steve Schumacher and Ben Kennedy coming in for Mark Hughes, Jerome Okimo, Tom Conlon (all named as subs) and Jamie McCombe (suspended).
A bright start by Stevenage saw some encouraging signs for the hosts with Armand Gnanduillet making his presence felt and Ben Kennedy going close with a whipped effort from the edge of the box which was turned behind.
That pressure told as Boro took the lead on 12 minutes with a brilliantly worked set play. From a quickly taken corner Parrett and Kennedy exchanged passes with Dean finding Tom Pett on the outside of the box. He feigned to cross into the box but instead laid the ball back to Schumacher who blasted home from outside the box.
Moments later Boro carved the Gills open again when a delicate touch from Kennedy found Gnanduillet, but the big man’s touch let him down and the ball was scrambled away.
Visiting skipper Doug Loft saw a shot on the quarter hour charged down by a trademark Dean Wells block, as the visitors’ attacking threat seemed surprisingly blunt despite their loft League 1 position.
Stevenage continued to look the brighter side and indeed doubled their advantage on 28 minutes when Whelpdale ran on to a loose ball in the box and powered home a header, with Kennedy trying – but failing – to claim it as his own.
A minute later Gillingham missed a golden chance to halve the deficit immediately when Franks missed a low ball into the box, but there was Joronen to block McDonald’s shot and then pounce on the loose ball.
The remaining 15 minutes of the half saw the game continue as it had been, with Stevenage passing the ball around nicely and looking to probe the Gills backline and the visitors left with little to feed on.
Gillingham came out for the second half with renewed purpose, looking to get at Boro but Teddy Sheringham’s men did well to absorb the early Gills pressure with the home defence superb.
As the half went on the chances came and went for Boro with Parrett firing over and Whelpdale driving into the area but seeing his cut-back cleared.
Connor Ogilvie was enjoying a superb return to the Stevenage team, keeping the dangerous Ryan Jackson in his pocket for much of the game and on 57 minutes his early throw into Gnanduillet saw good close control by the Frenchman inside the box, but he fired just over.
Gillingham made a double sub on the hour but instead Boro went close to a third when Kennedy saw a close-range effort cleared off the line, with Gnanduillet blazing over again moments later.
Injuries to Jesse Joronen and Steve Schumacher saw both replaced in the latter stages of the game, with Chris Day and Tom Conlon coming on in their place.
Intense late pressure from Gillingham saw chances created but fortunately all went in Boro’s favour. Ben Williamson headed wide and Jake Hessenthaler headed over as both Gillingham subs went close with 10 minutes remaining. 90 seconds later Day superbly saved from Donnelly and Hessenthaler blazed over as it looked like a late comeback was off the cards.
Dean Parrett fired wide from 35 yards and a Gnanduillet shot somehow evaded both the far post and a sliding Chris Whelpdale, as Stevenage gave themselves opportunities to seal the win. However during six minutes of injury time Gnanduillet did find the back of the net – Parrett latched onto a Pett ball-through and ran towards goal, before unselfishly laying the ball on a plate for the Frenchman to fire home.
Even with three goals to their name, Stevenage fought hard for their clean sheet and Day had to be sharp to make a great low save to preserve the ‘0’ on the visiting side of the scoreboard.
A convincing win and a top performance sees Stevenage into the second round draw, which takes place at 7pm this Monday live on BBC2.
Joronen (Day 77), Henry, Franks, Wells, Ogilvie, Schumacher (Conlon 75), Parrett, Whelpdale, Pett, Kennedy (Hughes 87), GnanduilletStevenage:
Subs not used: Okimo, Gordon, Marriott, Williams
Nelson, Jackson, Egan, Ehmer, Houghton (Hessenthaler 60), Loft, McDonald (Williamson 67), Morris, Osadebe, Donnelly, Dickenson (Garmston 60)Gillingham:
Subs not used: Morris, McGlashen, Davis, Oldaker