Cody takes Canaries a step closer to Wembley
Chris Lakey Gillingham 0, Norwich City 1The goal glut may have eluded them, but City moved a step closer to Wembley last night.Cody McDonald, who was plying his trade up the road with non-league Dartford at the beginning of the year, scored the goal which earned the Canaries a place in the next round and lived up to manager Paul Lambert's assertion that “if you're in it you might as well try and win it”.
Gillingham 0, Norwich City 1
The goal glut may have eluded them, but City moved a step closer to Wembley last night.
Cody McDonald, who was plying his trade up the road with non-league Dartford at the beginning of the year, scored the goal which earned the Canaries a place in the next round and lived up to manager Paul Lambert's assertion that “if you're in it you might as well try and win it”.
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It wasn't the free-flowing stuff of recent games, but what do you expect with a whole bunch of changes and the blooding of yet more of City's young guns?
The Johnstone's Paint Trophy doesn't have the glamour of some of the other knockout competitions, but a trip to the final is a realistic aim - and if it helps bring on the likes of debutants George Francomb, David Stephens and Josh Dawkin the rewards could be greater than just one big day out at Wembley.
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The same applies to McDonald, a player whose only other goal this season was in the infamous opening day defeat by Colchester and who has been noticeable by his absence under Lambert.
All will benefit from the experience.
Lambert made eight changes to the starting line-up from the weekend's 5-1 home win over Bristol Rovers, with Fraser Forster replacing Declan Rudd - who is away on England Under-19s duty - and making his first appearance since being sent off at the same ground 10 days earlier.
Right-back Francomb, 18, replaced Michael Spillane (hamstring), while Grant Holt (leg) and Darel Russell (neck) were missing along with Adam Drury, Wes Hoolahan, Simon Lappin and Korey Smith.
Rhoys Wiggins - the other debutant on the night - made his first start since his summer move from Crystal Palace while there were recalls for Paul McVeigh, Tom Adeyemi, Stephen Hughes, Luke Daley and Jamie Cureton, with teenagers Stephens, Dawkin and Danny Kelly on a bench of just four due to the absence of keeper Michael Theoklitos.
Gillingham also made half a dozen changes to their starting XI from the weekend, with leading scorer Simeon Jackson still out injured.
Gillingham were first to show, in the sixth minute, Luke Rooney slipping around Wiggins far too easily and sliding a ball down the inside right position to Curtis Weston, whose cross-shot just evaded Andy Barcham at the far post. Had he got there the offside flag would have halted his celebrations.
Moments later Chris Martin saw a long-range effort go over by a yard, just a little reminder of City's threat on the break.
There was a healthy smattering of City fans, who delighted in singing “There's Only One Keano” on a night when fortunes in the league perhaps took precedence.
The chant changed when Adam Miller went into the book for a nasty-looking foul on Hughes, which left the City midfielder requiring treatment - fortunately he was able to carry on.
There were plenty of discussions going on between City players during a break for an injury to Curtis Weston as they tried to cope with the huge number of changes and the inevitable disruption to the style play.
McVeigh proved there was life in City when he orchestrated a good break on 23 minutes, skipping over Chris Palmer's nicks at his heels, before laying it off to Martin who cut in, but saw his shot blocked.
However, it was pretty dire stuff, the quality perhaps not helped by a swirling wind.
That was no excuse for Rooney's poor effort at a free-kick on 28 minutes when he curled one that just went wider and wider past Forster's left-hand post.
The quality came at the other end moments later, with a move that started in midfield where Hughes won possession. Martin couldn't find a way through from Cureton's header and Daley couldn't quite take possession, but Adeyemi nipped in, ran in a straight line to the right of the area and put in a low shot which went just inches wide of the far post.
It was just what the game needed and both sides decided it was best to try and take the initiative before half-time.
Rooney started it on 39 minutes when he saw a shot, partially blocked by Jens Berthel Askou, roll just past the right-hand post, before Adeyemi's whose low first time shot was saved by the legs of keeper Julian.
Askou then blocked a Weston shot at the other end before the see-saw swung in City's favour, Cureton miskicking a Hughes cut-back and Martin putting his shot wide.
Gary Doherty appeared to have undone the good work in injury time when he barged over Miller in the area, but referee Steven Cook waved play on.
Martin had time to head just over as the half came to a breathless end.
More of the same - but with goals - was needed for the second half.
Adeyemi had half a chance, but glanced a McVeigh free-kick well wide, but Andy Barcham should have put the Gills ahead on 53 minutes when he spooned a deep Luke Rooney cross over from the back post.
Martin saw a shot blocked after a McVeigh corner while Cureton lobbed the keeper - and the bar - when the ball came back.
The chances weren't exactly gilt-edged - but as each one passed so the spectre of penalties became more real.
Martin departed on 62 minutes, replaced by Cody McDonald.
And within four minutes he'd put City ahead, cutting in on the left-hand side of the area and firing high into the net, with the aid of a little nick off a defender's boot. It was a goal the former Dartford striker needed for his confidence, having failed to convince manager Lambert to give him a starting place since he arrived.
Cureton fired over soon afterwards as City went in search of a second. Gillingham's hopes weren't helped when substitute Stuart Lewis saw a shot blocked by his own player - Barcham, while Miller was close with a fine long-range effort - his final contribution of the night.
Weston and Palmer went close late on, but it's City who go through - what price a league and trophy double?
Some tough potential opponents lie in wait for the Canaries in the regionalised third round draw of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy.
Fellow relegated sides Charlton and Southampton both made it through last night along with three more League One outfits, Leyton Orient, MKDons and Swindon.
Only two southern teams remain from League Two - Northampton and Hereford.
The competition continues on a regionalised basis, with two legged finals deciding which southern and northern teams come face to face at Wembley.
The Canaries will have to win two more one-off ties to get that far.