Venue: London Road, Peterborough
Score: Peterborough Utd 1 v Gillingham 0
Referee: Tony Ward.
It was the late, late show at London Road as Posh booked their FA Cup passage via an upright and the involuntary contribution of Gillingham defender Ivan Haines.
Not that Posh leading scorer Nick Cusack would share that view of the last gap winner .
For while the record books will dictate that youngster Haines must carry the can foe his sides FA Cup exit, Cusack will claim, with some justification that he should be credited with the extra time decider.
The former Leicester man met Noel Luke’s deep cross in classic fashion at the far post and as the ball cannoned back off the upright, bungling Haines found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time as the ball bounced over the line off his back pedalling frame.
But Cusack himself must take second place in Posh’s roll of honour behind keeper Paul Crichton, who kept a clean sheet against all odds.
For as the 20 year old former Forest custodian fumbled his way through the opening stages, few among the London Road crowd were aware of his handicap.
A serious bout of bronchitis had confined Crichton to bed over the weekend and with disposed keeper Joe Neenan nursing a calf strain, the new keeper had to join striker David Longhurst in the queue for pre match painkilling injections.
And despite the occasional lapse, Crichton played his part in securing manager Mick Jones most treasured wish – a clean sheet.
That the tie, still deadlocked after 200 minutes of ‘cat and mouse’ football, should be decided in such dramatic circumstances was in keeping with the best traditions of the FA Cup.
A little less desirable, however, was Gillingham’s Welsh striker Steve Lovell.
Lovell’s 106 dismissal after striking referee Tony Ward with the match ball was a thoughtless antic which undoubtedly turned the tables in Posh’s favour.
For Lovell had proved the Gills most likely marksman after beating Crichton, but grazing the post, with a 61st minute drive.
Against the Gills ten men, however, Posh suddenly became the favourites, after weathering long spells of pressure from the mid Kent outfit.
The first half was a particularly lacklustre affair, with Goldsmith subdued by the dual presence of Scottish international George Burley and returning former Posh skipper, Trevor Quow.
Hat-trick hero David Longhurst also found the going a little tougher, despite maintaining his high level of work rate.
Bryn Gunn’s volley, from an intricately worked 42nd minute free kick, was the closest Posh came to a first half breakthrough, while Gillingham’s Mark Cooper,
David Smith and disgraced Lovell all forced Crichton into some unorthodox saves as the Posh keeper battled against his ailment.
The second half belonged to the Gills who kept up their bombardment of the Posh goal for fully half an hour, before surrendering the late initiative to the Posh.
Again it was the striking trio that tested the Posh rearguard on numerous occasions, although a timely intervention from Noel Luke kept out a near certain strike from George Shipley on the hour.
And Shipley, replacing injured midfield ace Gavin Peacock, squandered a second clear chance with the last kick of normal time as he failed to get on the end of Mark Cooper’s header from the far post.
Extra time brought few clear cut chances, but with Lovell despatched for his early bath, it always appeared likely that a bizarre ending with settle the outcome.
And after Haines inexperience of such pressures caught him trying a little too hard to keep the Gills goal intact, Posh were in front and Keith Burkenshaw’s men, for once, had nothing left to offer.
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, George Burley, Haylock, Shipley, Ivan Haines, Walker, Cooper, Trevor Quow, Steve Lovell, Docker and Smith.
Unused subs: Lillis and Williams.
Goal scorer: The Posh – Ivan Haines (own goal) 118 mins.
Bookings: Steve Lovell (Gillingham) 25 mins and 106 mins.
Sending off: Steve Lovell (Gillingham) 106 mins – second bookable offence.