Gillingham v Peterborough Utd 1st Rd 19 Nov 88
Venue: Priestfield Stadium, Gillingham
Score: Peterborough Utd 3 v Gillingham 3
Referee: Tony Ward.
Posh hat-trick hero David Longhurst returned home proudly clutching the match ball with which he booked Posh’s replay after plundering his first ever three goal strike in this dramatic tie at Gillingham.
But the £55,000 striker, who only played after a late fitness test, would gladly have swapped his traditional momento for a definite interest in the second round draw.
And while Posh’s cup dreams live on, there was an obvious air of resentment in the Posh camp that their third division hosts should still harbour those same dreams of glory.
For more than an hour, Posh played with a composure and skill factor well beyond their current status.
Indeed, manager Mick Jones had no doubt in his mind when stating that, for an hour at least, this was the best performance of any Posh side he has been involved with over the last two years.
Few among the sizeable travelling contingent would dispute that claim, and those who missed it can expect an equally pulsating re-match at London Road.
In truth, Keith Burkinshaw – a master of the replay after two such FA Cup final occasions with Spurs – could justify his interest in the second round draw in the light of a storming second half fight back.
But it was Posh who won the neutral vote for their skilled and entertaining contribution.
Sadly, Posh became a little too entertaining for their manager’s liking as Gillingham swung the game full-circle with time running out, only for Longhurst to save the day.
But that opening spell from Posh was one to savour. Craig Goldsmith was at his tantalising best, running fully eighty yards to lay on an early chance for Noel Luke.
Within a minute, the city born prospect earned his reward as a similar run with a more measured final pass, provided the on rushing Longhurst with his opening strike as the ball was drilled sweetly beyond keeper Kite.
Not to be outdone, Posh stopper Gerry McElhinney proved his worth with a goal line clearance to deny Williams after Lillis had rattled an upright.
Paul Crichton saved well to deny Lovell, while Goldsmith continued to revel in his duel with Scottish international George Burley.
Shortly after the break, Posh were further in front after skipper Mick Halsall superbly broke down a spell of concerted Gillingham pressure to feed Longhurst on the edge of the box.
The talented front runner duly obliged with his second clean strike and Posh appeared to be home and dry.
Gillingham, though, sensed an air of complacency about Posh and when they forced a series of goalmouth scrambles, it was little surprise that a goal should result.
Welsh international Lovell set the alarm bells ringing with his 68th minute drive through the melee, before the unthinkable happened as former Posh favourite Trevor Quow -a replacement for Jerry Williams at half time – snatched an equaliser in similar circumstances five minutes later.
There was no doubting that Gillingham were now favourites for the second round draw.
And when winger David Smith slipped away from Luke for the first time, he hit the jackpot with a finish that left Crichton helpless and Gillingham in front.
But the Gills celebrations were short lived as Longhurst struck again a minute later, after strike partner Nick Cusack had laid off an inch perfect pass.
It was a thrilling climax to a classic cup tie.
Only time will tell if it was Posh’s best chance of a cup triumph.
The Posh: Paul Crichton, Steve Collins, Bryn Gunn, Noel Luke, Gerry McElhinney, Keith Oakes, Gary Andrews, Mick Halsall, Nick Cusack, David Longhurst and Craig Goldsmith.
Unused subs: Carl Madrick and Ashley Carr.
Gillingham: Kite, Burley, Haylock, Peacock, Haines, Walker, Williams (sun Quow), Lillis (sub Cooper), Lovell, Docker and Smith.
Goal scorers: The Posh – David Longhurst (3) 6 mins, 53 mins & 87 mins. Gillingham – Lovell 68 mins, Quow 73 mins and Smith 86 mins.