Gillingham 0-1 Leicester: Brendan Rodgers’ side edge past League Two opposition thanks to a second half strike from Kelechi Iheanacho to progress to the FA Cup fourth round
- Leicester defeated Gillingham to progress to the fourth round of the FA Cup
- Neil Harris’ side defended well throughout the first half to deny the Foxes
- But Brendan Rodgers’ side would break the deadlock through Kelechi Iheanacho
‘WHAT can I tell you about Gillingham?’, asked comedian Joe Wilkinson in a fabulous sketch on BBC’s live coverage from Priestfield. ‘David Frost went to school here apparently, there’s a famous dockyard… oh, there’s a cracking skating rig near where my brother lives.’
And there’s a decent football club with a community feel but dedicated fan-base, the star of Taskmaster and 8 Out of 10 Cats should have said. Sadly, Gillingham are showing signs of decay after a decade and more of mismanagement at board level.
Neil Harris’s side prop up the Football League, 24th in League Two having scored just seven league goals all season. There’s been little to cheer about in these parts for some years but yesterday offered a chance of escapism and an opportunity to finally look upwards.
Neil Harris’ side gave a strong account of themselves despite failing to get on the scoresheet
Gills put in a good account of themselves on the pitch as they were narrowly edged out of the FA Cup third round in front of a sold-out Priestfield. Kelechi Iheanacho scored the game’s only goal in the second half for Brendan Rodgers’ under-pressure Foxes.
But more pleasing for these loyal fans is that 2023 has so far offered signs for optimism. New American owner Brad Galinson was paraded around the pitch before the match after he completed the takeover to end 27 years of turbulent stewardship under Paul Scally.
There have already been two wise appointments – Kenny Jackett as director of football and Andy Hessenthaler as head of recruitment – while the January transfer window promises to be prosperous, with striker Tom Nichols already joining from Crawley.
Leicester eventually broke the deadlock after challenging Gills keeper Jake Turner on several occasions
Harris’ side will leave this match feeling proud after making the match feel like a real cup tie. The League Two’s bottom club kept the 2021 winners at bay and Leicester barely had a sniff until the second half. Gills passed well without really threatening Daniel Iversen’s goal.
Jamie Vardy had an early chance – he was thwarted by goalkeeper Jake Turner being quick off his line – but aside from that, the Foxes rarely threatened.
At the other end, Dom Jefferies made a searing run from midfield having won the ball himself and took on a shot from the edge of the penalty area, which needed to be saved well by Iversen.
Kelechi Iheanacho put the visitors ahead with his goal after 56 minutes at Priestfield
Gills used the elements to their advantage and had a decent sight of goal after a long throw late in the first half, aided by the strong winds at Priestfield. Max Ehmer, who was imperious in defence, diverted a long throw goalwards but couldn’t generate the power needed.
Leicester started the second half with much more intent, finally giving the travelling Foxes fans – exposed to the wind and rain in a terrace with no roof – something to shout about. Turner made a decent save to deny Marc Albrighton’s speculative volley from the corner of the box.
But Jamie Vardy struggled to make an impact for the Foxes before being substituted
Harris’s side continued to attack, though, and Jefferies missed another half-chance. For their defending and midfield play, it was tough to see why Gillingham were bottom of League Two.
But their play in the final third was exactly what you’d expect from the Football League’s worst attack – they’ve scored just seven league goals all season.
Leicester finally breached Gills’ defence on 56 minutes, when Kelechi Iheanacho was first to a loose ball after Kasey McAteer’s deflected shot. The Nigerian fired into the roof of the net for his 16th FA Cup goal – more than any player since his debut in the competition.
Iheanacho and Vardy both came close to adding a second goal minutes later but Turner made two fine saves to keep Gills in the contest. Vardy has felt ageless at times in recent years but here, one wondered if he had lost that devastating extra yard of pace.
GILLINGHAM VS LEICESTER MATCH FACTS AND RATINGS
GILLINGHAM (4-4-2): Turner 8; Alexander 6.5 (Harriott 79), Wright 7, Ehmer 7.5, McKenzie 6.5; Jefferies 7.5 (O’Keefe 70, 6), Williams 6.5, MacDonald 7, Tutonda 6.5 (Mandron 85); Adelakun 6, Kashket 6
Subs not used: Holtam, Lee, Law
Manager: Neil Harris 7
LEICESTER (3-4-1-2): Iversen 7; Brunt 6.5, Vestergaard 7, Soyuncu 7; Albrighton 6.5, Tielemans 6.5, Mendy 7 (Ndidi 81), McAteer 7 (Thomas 85); Perez 6.5; Vardy 6.5 (Daka 81), Iheanacho 7
Subs not used: Smithies, Faes, Barnes, Amartey, Castagne, Braybrooke
Manager: Brendan Rodgers 6.5
Referee: Samuel Barrott 5.
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