Gillingham progressed through to the second round of the FA Cup on Saturday, but they had to survive a scare from non-league Woking at Priestifeld Stadium.
Goals from Max Kretzchmar and Josh Davison had put Woking 2-0 up, but a Dominic Samuel brace and a Vadaine Oliver header earnt the Gills a comeback, and, eventually, the win.
Story of the match
The first real chance of the game came on four minutes thanks largely to Gills winger Jordan Graham. The wide-man, playing behind to two forwards on the day, turned his full-back inside out before putting in a brilliant cross. John Akinde, fresh from his goal in midweek, though, saw his header hit the top of the crossbar.
Gillingham could easily have had a penalty on around the 10-minute mark when Graham and Tyler Reid clashed in the Woking box. After a delay, Graham was shown a yellow card by referee Christopher Sarginson, and Reid, luckily, after being caught in the head, was okay to continue.
As could have been expected, Gillingham began to dominate the ball as the game settled down, but Woking were organised and ready to counter. Ben Dempsey and Josh Davison linked up well down the right after a Jack Tucker error, but the returning Jack Bonham was alert to save.
Jordan Graham put a free kick well over the bar after Connor Ogilvie was fouled, but it was Woking who took the lead on 24 minutes through a brilliant strike from Max Kretzschmar. After a set-piece, the ball found its way to the Woking number 10 on the edge of the box and he curled a beautiful left-footed strike past Bonham to give his side the lead.
Dominic Samuel should have drawn Gillingham level just moments later when he found himself with the ball at his feet in the box. On the turn, he fired low, but Craig Ross saved well to preserve his side’s lead.
Gillingham continues to control proceedings but Woking’s shape proved tough to break down. Bonham had to be alert to tip another Kretzschmar effort round the post, and the visitors perhaps then should have been two ahead. Akinde ‘cleared’ the resulting corner into the air before Tucker headed onto his own crossbar.
Going into the break, Woking would have been more than pleased with their first-half efforts. There was plenty for Gillingham and manager Steve Evans to ponder.
Steve Evans tweaked his side at the break – Vadaine Oliver replacing John Akinde up front – but the early stages proved to be more of the same, with Woking defending deep and trying to counter. Davison missed out on a good opportunity because of good tackle from Declan Drysdale in the area.
On 55 minutes, however, Woking did double their lead. It was a scrappy goal, but, judging by the celebrations from the away bench, they will not care one jot. After a lot of pinball in the box, the ball fell kindly to Josh Davison, and the forward fired home to put him team in dreamland.
The lead, however, was soon back to one. A Jordan Graham cross, something Gillingham have been accustomed to seeing this season, was met by Dominic Samuel in the box. Celebrations were so muted it was hard to tell if the goal had been ruled out, but it was not, and the goal left the hosts with half an hour to draw level.
After a period of sustained pressure, Gillingham drew level again through Samuel. A quick corner was headed against the bar by Drysdale, and, whether Samuel knew much about the rebound is up for debate, but the ball ended up in the back of the net off Samuel, and Gills were level.
And just like that, on 80 minutes, the Gills were ahead. Jordan Graham yet again produced a beauty of a cross from the right, and half-time substitute Vadaine Oliver headed home.
Woking never really threatened after the goal despite changes of personnel, and Jordan Graham had a chance to kill off the game that he didn't take.
Kyle Dempsey hit the bar from distance late on, and Woking had a go in added time, but, ultimately, Gillingham's quality pulled through and helped them progress.
Takeaways from the match
A poor period for Gillingham
Steve Evans will be fuming with a large part of Gillingham's performance. They fell to a frustrating 2-0 lead and Evans will not be happy with the two goals considering perhaps the strongest XI was fielded.
They did bounce back, though, and did well to get the win. That is now back-to-back wins for the Gills after five losses in a row.
Sides often need to be organised when facing higher-league opposition, as sustained pressure is expected. Gillingham provided that at times on Saturday, and Woking matched it.
They worked hard and defended like their lives depended on it. The will be disappointed to concede the goals, and they will be hoping they can take that into their league performances.
Word around Woking is that the midfielder has a keen eye for goal, and that was evident on Saturday, none more so than when he fired Woking into the lead in the first half.
He tested Bonham later in the first period too, and often provided a release for Woking when needed.
The forward hasn't found the net since his debut but a double here will give him a great feeling of confidence. He took his header brilliantly, and was in the right position to score his second.
Graham starting in a central role and struggled to get into the game, but produced two spot-on crosses to earn his side the win.
It is almost clear what he is going to do, but it is hard to stop it.
Gillingham: Bonham, Jackson, Drysdale, Tucker, Ogilvie, Graham, Dempsey, McKenzie, O’Connor (Coyle 59), Samuel, Akinde (Oliver 46).
Subs not used: Walsh, Maghoma, Medley, Eccles, Willock.
Woking: Ross, Cook, Casey, Cooper, Shotton, Ferdinand, Kretzschmar (Wareham 86), Spasov, Dempsey (Tarpey 83), Reid, Davison.
Subs not used: Gerring, Collier, Lofthouse, Leslie, Smith.