Cardiff stunned as Gillingham’s heroes claim a famous victory
A late goal from Elliott List inflicted the kind of FA Cup embarrassment Neil Warnock was hoping to avoid.
Two divisions may separate Gillingham and Cardiff City, but the difference in status was rendered meaningless when List scored the only goal of this FA Cup third-round tie with nine minutes remaining.
While Warnock’s Premier League side can point to a number of missed opportunities, they will know they were repeatedly troubled by a team fighting to avoid relegation into the fourth tier. For Gillingham, List’s match-winning goal capped an impressive display initially founded on periods of resolute defending, before a more expansive approach in the second half was rewarded.
For Steve Lovell, the manager of the League One side who went into the game just one point above the relegation places, the satisfaction of a game plan well executed only added to the pleasure of steering a club with whom he has an association stretching back to his time as a player to a first win against top-flight opposition in 15 years. “This means everything to the club,” he said.
“We were very disciplined in the first half. I know some people get frustrated at the way we play, but we had to give them respect. And we thoroughly deserve the win in the end. We haven’t got the results at times this year and haven’t had the breaks. But today we defended really well. They missed a few opportunities, but so did we.
“This is the first time I’ve played a Premier League club, so it is my best day as a manager. But next week we play Burton, so we have to switch on to that. Maybe a Cup run can help us in the league, you don’t know. It has hindered clubs in the past.”
Warnock had tried to make his players aware of the risk of an upset beforehand, but conceded his side had paid the price for failing to make more of their chances. He also claimed his side should have been awarded two penalties, complaining that Sean Morrison, the centre-back, was fouled in the build-up to List’s goal and that Danny Ward, the substitute, took a blow to the face late on. “We’ve had so many chances and if you get punished, good luck to them,” he said. “We should have had two penalties, the push on [Nathaniel ] Mendez-Laing was blatant. For the goal he has elbowed him in the throat. I hope they [Gillingham] get a good draw. It [losing] might be a blessing – I’ll tell you at the end of the season if we stay up.”
Initially, there seemed little chance the Premier League side would return to South Wales on the receiving end of a shock during the opening half when Cardiff dominated for long periods.
But they were guilty of failing to create enough clear scoring opportunities and when they unpicked the home defence, they found Tomas Holy, the goalkeeper, in obstinate form. Joe Bennett, the Cardiff left-back, was denied in the 15th minute by a good save and when the ball rolled free for Bobby Reid, Gillingham’s defenders had got back in numbers to stop his drive.
A second Holy save, this time to deny Morrison’s close-range shot, added to Cardiff ’s growing frustration while strengthening the belief among the home side. And after Bradley Garmston twice got forward to deliver telling crosses towards striker Tom Eaves before half-time, the home side went into the break knowing they were capable of unsettling the visitors.
Had Eaves not directed Garmston’s second cross over the bar, Gillingham would have reached the interval in front. It was the best chance of the first half and the home side wasted little time carving out another good opportunity 10 minutes after the break when Josh Parker somehow scooped the ball over from just six yards out.
Cardiff responded with MendezLaing striking the bar and Josh Murphy being denied by a superb clearance off the line by Gabriel Zakuani after he had stroked the ball past Cardiff keeper Alex Smithies.
List, though, was the one player who was able to maintain his composure when presented with a chance to settle the tie, placing his shot beyond Smithies from 12 yards out.
“Everyone is buzzing,” List said afterwards. “We won the game, which was the main thing, and it was the cherry on the cake to score the goal. When the ball came to my feet I thought about putting it in the far corner but as I went to put it there, I saw that the keeper stepped early so I just reversed it into the other side.
“It’s massive. It’s going to do the world of good for the dressing room. Everyone is going to be full of confidence and hopefully we can take this form into the league and really kick on.”
Over the moon: A grounded Elliott List (above) is mobbed by his Gillingham team-mates after scoring the late winner (left) to send their fans wild (right)
Well done: Neil Warnock shakes hands with winning Gillingham manager Steve Lovell