06:15PM, Sunday 02 December 2018
Slough Town 0, Gillingham FC 1
Slough Town can count themselves extremely unfortunate not to be in the hat for the third round of the FA Cup tomorrow evening after dominant display in a match they lost to League 1 Gillingham FC.
The Gills won this second round encounter with a stunning strike from Darren Oldaker just minutes after the interval, but it fails to tell the full story of an afternoon of frustration, but also great pride, for the Rebels.
The result was unjust, but Gillingham won't give a damn about that. This should have been the FA Cup exit of the second round. Instead The Gills will be in tomorrow night's draw with the Premier League big boys. It's the eighth time Slough have made it to the second round, and the second consecutive year they've managed it, but they've never been beyond. They'll feel this should have been the year.
Some 68 league places separate The Gills from the Rebels in the football pyramid, but you wouldn't have known that on the basis of this display.
For much of the match it was Slough who looked like the league team as they carved out 22 attempts on goal to Gillingham's six. Afterwards, Gills' manager Steve Lovell admitted the Rebels had given his side their toughest match of the season, a huge compliment to how Neil Baker and Jon Underwood's side went about their business.
From the outset the non-league side attempted to stamp their authority on the match, and they were unlucky not to convert at least one of the 10 attempts they had on Tomas Holy's goal in the first half.
Matty Stevens was the first Rebels player to go close, the striker, acrobatically turning a cross onto the top of the net with Holy at full stretch. The impressive Scott Davies took aim a few minutes later, but went a whisker wide of the post with a powerful 15th minute drive. Lee Togwell's flicked header from James Dobson's free-kick was gathered in by Holy and Mark Nisbet saw another header from a corner scrambled off the line. The chances continued to come as Slough laid ambush to the Gillingham goal. George Wells stroked the ball narrowly wide from the edge of the area, while Warren Harris and Dobson both brushed the post with arrowing efforts.
Gillingham looked ready to throw in the towel at the interval, and would surely have gratefully grasped a replay had it been offered to them. But the frustration of their fans quickly turned to elation in the 48th minute when Oldaker took aim from all of 35 yards and sent a dipping shot over the diving Turner and into the net. Momentarily, Slough were thrown off their stride, and Turner had to be at his alert best to keep out Josh Parker in the box in the 56th minute. But soon after they took full control again. Dobson whipped a curling effort narrowly over before seeing his drilled half-volley pushed behind at the near post by Holy.
The hosts should really have levelled when two excellent chances fell their way in the 69th and 73rd minutes. From the first Lee Togwell's close range volley, from Harris' low cross, was kept out by Holy. While substitute Manny Williams got a great contact on Wells' left wing cross a few minutes later but his bullet header flashed just wide.
The Rebels kept fighting deep into injury-time but missed two more great opportunities to force what would have been a well deserved replay. When Holy spilled Davies' cross in stoppage-time, Williams wasn't quite able to pounce on the loose ball. Then, with the last kick of the game, Stevens steered a shot wide after the ball ran through to him in the middle of the penalty area.
Reflecting with pride but also disappointment on the Rebels' efforts, Underwood said: "We couldn't ask any more of our players today. I thought they were magnificent from start to finish. I don't quite know how we haven't scored. I keep seeing that shot count on the scoreboard, we had 22 to six. So we've got to be proud that we've been able to do that against a League 1 side, and we are, but it hurts that we're out because everyone dreams of that third round. This was such a good opportunity for us.
"We were the dominant side, we looked the more likely to score. I thought we were outstanding first half. They obviously get the goal out of the blue, not a lot we could do about it, a brilliant strike. Maybe it's that little bit of extra quality that we weren't able to find to score.
"To beat a League 1 side, you probably need at some stage a little bit of luck and luck deserted us today. The changing room is very quiet. They know they can be proud of their performance. At half-time we really felt this was going to be our day. That the big upset was going to be us. It's a big disappointment but they'll pick themselves up because they know they gave a really good account of themselves.
"It hurts because we all dream of those big games. I've been asked if I'll watch the draw tomorrow, I don't think I will because I won't get any pleasure from that whatsoever. The FA Cup makes you dream that you'll have those big occasions, maybe going to Old Trafford, Wembley, Anfield. Those are things you dream of and the reality is, if things had gone a little differently today, we could have had that opportunity."
Lee Togwell added: "Performance wise we still deserve to be in the hat for the next round. We did have some good chances. Stats don't mean very much but we created so many chances. It's disappointing. We put an amazing shift in and now we just need to move on to the league now. It's taken a wonder strike to beat us."
Slough Town: Turner, Jackman, Wells, S Togwell, Nisbet (c) (Dunn 79'), L Togwell, Dobson, Davies, Flood (Williams 68'), Stevens, Harris (Soares 86'). Subs not used: Smart, Fraser, Scott (GK).
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