Tue 25 Aug 15
at 21:40 PM
Report: Blues 2 Gillingham 0
Wes Thomas marked his 50th Blues appearance with a brace to see off League One leaders Gillingham at St. Andrew’s.
The striker scored a goal in each half as Gary Rowett’s men comfortably negotiated what looked on paper to be a potentially tricky tie. Thomas produced two clinical finishes on 35 and 72 minutes to put Blues into this evening’s Capital One Cup third round draw.
The Blues side showed nine changes from the one that drew against Derby County on Friday, with only Jonathan Spector and Maikel Kieftenbeld keeping their spots. Adam Legzdins lined up between the posts for his home debut, while there were places on the bench for new signing Nicolai Brock-Madsen and teenagers Viv Solomon and Reece Brown.
Thomas produced the game’s first notable moment on six minutes as he flicked up Andy Shinnie’s cross and fired in a shot on the volley that flew only a few yards over the bar into the small but rowdy band of Gillingham supporters behind the Railway End goal.
A minute later the visitors enjoyed their most threatening moment of the first-half. Koby Arthur was dispossessed on the edge of his own box and the ball broke for Ben Williamson but the summer signing from Port Vale saw his shot turned over by the legs of Legzdins.
Justin Edinburgh’s side pressed again shortly afterwards when the onrushing Jermaine McGlashen was tripped on the edge of the box by Blues skipper Paul Robinson. Rory Donnelly’s resultant free-kick was deflected behind for a corner by Neal Eardley as the Blues wall did its job.
At the opposite end Jacques Maghoma created some space for himself on the edge of the Gills box but his 20-yard effort took a deflection and looped over Stuart Nelson’s crossbar.
Arthur was a lively attacking presence for Blues and the young Ghanaian winger won his side a free-kick in a dangerous position to the right of the area. Mitch Hancox, making his first appearance since January, curled in a ball that was met on the far post by Spector but the defender could only head the ball into the grateful arms of Nelson.
Shinnie was only inches away from giving his side the lead on 28 minutes. The Scot unleashed a powerful drive from 25 yards that fizzed only narrowly over Nelson’s bar.
Blues had started to boss possession and from an excellent free-flowing move Rowett’s side won a corner from which they opened the scoring. Maghoma’s cross was headed back across goal by Robinson and Thomas showed his predatory striker’s instinct to stick out a leg and divert the ball low past Nelson into the bottom corner.
From a rare Gills breakaway just before the interval, Jake Hessenthaler found some space just inside the Blues area but the young midfielder’s shot was blocked by a determined sliding tackle from Spector.
Blues continued to put their League One opponents under pressure as the game restarted and Thomas went close again. Kieftenbeld teed up the striker who swivelled on the edge of the box and curled in a shot that drifted only a couple of yards wide of the target.
Shinnie was next to try his luck but the Scot’s 25-yard effort never looked like troubling Nelson.
The visitors had their clearest chance of the evening on 56 minutes when Williamson found himself bearing down on goal on the right of the area but from a narrow angle the striker dragged his shot five yards wide of Legzdins’ far post.
It was a warning shot for Blues who looked to put the game to bed soon afterwards. From a dangerous break, the ball arrived at the feet of Thomas shot on the left side of the box but just as the Blues scorer prepared to pull the trigger, McGlashan dashed back to block and the ball rolled harmlessly into the arms of Nelson.
Just after the hour the visitors introduced their top scorer from last season, 18-goal Cody McDonald, for his first appearance of the season having been sidelined through injury.
Shinnie had a golden opportunity to double Blues’ lead when he charged into acres of space in the middle of the penalty area but his shot struck Josh Wright. The visitors immediately broke and Donnelly sent in a shot from wide of the left that Legzdins did well to turn around the post.
The two-goal cushion that Blues craved was finally chalked up with 18 minutes left. A corner was cleared as far as Kieftenbeld whose header put the ball back towards the danger area and a clever flick from Davis saw the ball roll through to Thomas. The striker showed great composure to slide his shot under Nelson. The Gills goalkeeper appealed in vain for offside but the goal correctly stood.
Blues fans were given their first sight of Brock-Madsen and Solomon as the hosts made a double change on 77 minutes, match winner Thomas and Arthur making way. Brown was also introduced soon afterwards as Rowett looked to give his youngsters a late chance to impress.
Solomon certainly caught the eye as he dropped his shoulder to cut inside a defender and tee up Brown but the England youth international’s shot crashed off a Gillingham head and over the bar. From the resultant corner Brock-Madsen, who showed some neat touches during his short time on the pitch, rose highest but his header drifted a few yards wide of the upright.
Blues now await the draw, which takes place tonight, to see who they’ll face in the last 32 of the competition.