Stoke City beat Gillingham 1-0 on Wednesday night to secure a place in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup.
Tyrese Campbell ensured the Championship side progressed on the night, and they will now face either Bristol City or Aston Villa in the next round.
Story of the match
It was Gillingham that started the better side, breaking early through Jordan Graham down the right, as they often have already this season. His early cross almost found John Akinde, but the big forward couldn’t get there ahead of a defender.
It didn’t take long for Stoke to settle. Wing backs Tommy Smith and James McClean began to enjoy the width of the pitch, the Gills having to swap some personnel early to nullify the threat, but Joe Walsh remained untested in the Gillingham goal for the first 20-or-so minutes.
The Gills continued with their physical approach as Akinde and Connor Olgivie saw half chances come and go, but Stoke’s first real chance came on 20 minutes through Tommy Smith. The wing backs linked up, McClean finding his captain with a cross, but Zech Medley was on hand to block the goal bound shot in front of Joe Walsh.
Akinde then thought he was through but to be out-muscled by Nathan Collins, and Stoke continued to dominate and almost took the lead just before the half hour mark through Harry Souttar.
A Chris Maghoma foul led to a home free kick, and the Gills failed the deal with the eventual cross from Smith. Souttar found the ball at his feet just a few yards out, but Joe Walsh was on hand to close the angle and block the defender’s effort.
Jordan Graham almost played in Akinde again on 35 minutes, but Stoke took the lead after 37 through forward Tyrese Campbell.
It was a tame goal for Gillingham to concede. Tommy Smith found himself with the ball deep in his own half, and a long, low, straight ball split the Gillingham centre halves. Campbell ran onto it and slotted nicely past Walsh.
Stoke smelt blood and Walsh had to save from Tashan Oakley-Boothe soon after the goal, and the visitors then lost Matty Willock to injury before the break, compiling a tough opening 45 for the visitors.
Stoke almost doubled their lead right at the start of the second half, Campbell flicking a cross from Josh Tymon across goal early on, and the half began to follow a similar pattern to the first period, with Stoke controlling proceedings.
Tommy Smith almost headed home and Souttar fired at Walsh as the game moved towards the hour mark, and more great play from the hosts resulted in Tymon hitting the bar from around 20 yards out.
Stoke found themselves camped in the Gillingham box going into the final 20 minutes. Substitute Steven Fletcher left pretty much an open goal gaping when he completely missed a header across the six yard box, before Oakley-Boothe had a cross blocked from a good position.
Oakley-Boothe poked in Thompson's late corner and thought he had secured the win, but referee David Webb saw a foul and ruled out the strike, ensuring the Gills maintained hope of a late equaliser.
Gillingham did push forward late on after taking the game deep, but couldn't create any real opportunities. Stoke ultimately were the comfortable winners, but Gillingham can be pretty pleased with their overall showing.
Takeaways from the match
Stoke have the depth
Stoke made eight changes for the game from their loss to Bristol City in the Championship on Sunday, and dispatched of Gillingham pretty easily.
The team was similar to that that saw off Premier League Wolverhampton Wanderers in the last round, too - there’s little doubt Michael O’Neill has plenty of positive options to chose from this season.
Walsh needs to play
Joe Walsh is just 18 years old, and has had to deputise for Jack Bonham through his year and a bit as a professional.
He is, though, incredibly talented, and has proved during the first team chances he has received that he is good enough to play, and did so again here.
He is unlikely to displace Bonham, so there’s little doubt that Walsh should really be going on loan this year.
The Stoke captain will be key for his side this season and clearly enjoys the freedom of the wing back role.
His experience is key, and he led well throughout the game, also creating a number of chances for his teammates and picking up and assist.
As aforementioned, Walsh is a young ‘keeper but he has bundles of talent. He has played at youth level for England and kept the score down here - he has a very bright future in the game.
Stoke: Davies, Collins, Souttar, Fox, Smith, Oakley-Boothe, Thompson, Tymon, Campbell (Fletcher 67), Gregory (Brown 78), McClean.
Gillingham: Walsh, McKenzie, Maghoma, Medley, Ogilvie, Willock (MacDonald 38), Woods, Robertson (Jackson 72), Graham, Akinde, Coyle (Oliver 70).