Football: Hessenthaler takes Gills to brink of the unknown

Gillingham 1 Preston North End 0 Gillingham win 2-1 on agg

AFTER 106 years of lower division and non-League football, Gillingham moved within sight of uncharted heights last night after Andy Hessenthaler's 66-second goal earned them a narrow semi-final victory over Preston North End in the second leg of the Nationwide Third Division play-offs at Priestfield.

Gillingham must now beat Manchester City in the Wembley final on 30 May if they are to play in the top two divisions for the first time.

The Gills also began the match with the knowledge that they are one of only five clubs in the top three divisions never to have played at Wembley - the others being Barnsley, Walsall, Wrexham and the relegated Lincoln. Not that such a moderate history had stymied ambition. To judge from an investment brochure published by the club last week, a visit to the twin towers was intended to be just the start of a climb to the very top. "The Path to Premier League Football" noted that Gillingham's proximity to the Channel Tunnel made it "a prime location for a club to compete" in a putative European Super League.

First Preston, a club with a proud past as well as a hopeful future, had to be disposed of. The 1-1 draw at Deepdale in Sunday's first leg, the third such result between the teams this season, suggested the game would be tight but the explosive opening even outdid with the pre-match fireworks.

Preston kicked off but Gillingham quickly won possession, working the ball to Hessenthaler on the edge of the area. He played it in to Carl Asaba, burst unmarked into the box for the return, and drove the ball under the body of David Lucas.

The Preston goalkeeper, who was blamed for Bob Taylor's goal at Deepdale, was mortified but his team stayed calm, with Michael Jackson displaying their own goal threat as he headed over from David Eyres' corner.

Gillingham continued to press forward with Mark Patterson, Asaba and Taylor all winning corners with deflected shots and Taylor heading over from a good position. Lee Cartwright was booked as Preston sought to stem the tide but, while they did this, they were unable to test Vince Bartram seriously at the other end.

Preston were more dangerous in the opening 15 minutes of the second period with Ludden flashing a cross in front of goal, Jackson heading just over the bar after Gillingham had failed to clear a series of crosses, and John Macken stretching Bartram to his full length with a shot from 22 yards. However, they still introduced the barely fit 21-goal Kurt Nogan with 25 minutes left, forcing Gillingham further on the defensive.

Graham Alexander shot just over and Jason Harris fired wide as Preston continued to go forward. As the tension rose, with five frantic minutes of added time played largely in Gillingham's penalty area, a clutch of players were booked, but the Gills held on.

Gillingham (3-5-2): Bartram; Ashby, Pennock, Butters; Patterson, Hessenthaler, Smith, Galloway (Saunders, 54) Southall; Asaba (Hodge, 80), Taylor. Substitutes not used: Carr.

Preston North End (4-4-2): Lucas; Alexander, Jackson, Murdoch (Darby, 72), Ludden (Harris, 82); Cartwright, Gregan, Appleton, Eyres; Rankine (Nogan, 65), Macken.

Referee: M Halsey (Welwyn Garden City).

Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
Jonathan de Guzman of the Netherlands and Willian of Brazil compete for the ball
world cup 2014LIVE BLOG: Hosts Brazil take on the Netherlands in third-place play-off
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
life...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice