City ended a sequence of nine winless cup ties to ease through to the second round of the Capital One Cup at Gillingham.
Sam Baldock opened his account for the season on 21 minutes before Jordan Wynter struck with his first professional goal in the second half, but in truth it could easily have been three or four for Sean O’Driscoll’s side, with Jay Emmanuel-Thomas instrumental in victory.
The summer signing kept up his record of being involved in every City goal of the season, stylishly setting up Baldock for the first before his 65th minute shot fell kindly for the 19-year-old Wynter to pounce.
O’Driscoll handed a full debut to Marlon Pack in midfield, while Marvin Elliott took his place alongside him having recovered from a troublesome knee injury.
Scott Wagstaff and Joe Bryan dropped out of the starting line-up from the City team held by Bradford on the opening day of the Sky Bet League One campaign at the weekend.
City, fielding a very narrow-looking central quartet, soon began to control possession, with Jay Emmanuel-Thomas firing the first warning shot and forcing Gills stopper Stuart Nelson into a diving save low to his left.
Much of O’Driscoll’s pre-match thoughts had centred around the tendency of last season’s League Two champions to utilise long throws, but Chris Whelpdale caught City unawares with the short option, collecting the return pass before seeing his cross headed over the top by Adebayo Akinfenwa.
It was a similar story soon after, as everyone in red anticipated a regulation corner routine, only for Bradley Dack to pick out Whelpdale with a low cutback, but the winger’s first-time shot was lashed high into the temporary seating behind Frank Fielding’s goal.
As on Saturday, when he created and scored in a 2-2 draw, Emmanuel-Thomas was at it again with some slick footwork to evade the challenge of debutant Michael Harriman inside the Gillingham penalty area before cutting the ball back for Baldock to slide home his first goal since Easter Monday.
It was an opening goal justified by City’s dominance in possession, but their hosts almost drew level immediately as left-back Joe Martin surged down the flank and crossed from the byeline for Akinfenwa, but again the barrel-chested striker failed to keep his header down from ten yards.
It was becoming a recurring theme as, after another sustained spell of City possession, Akinfenwa was presented with another headed chance but this time planted it wide of Fielding’s left-hand post.
Gradually Gillingham were growing in confidence, having been smothered for so long by the Robins’ superior ball retention.
Akinfenwa left Liam Fontaine in his wake down the City left and lumbered into the box, eventually cutting the ball back for Callum Davies, whose guided shot towards the far corner was importantly cleared to safety by Aden Flint.
Whelpdale then brought three sides of Priestfield to its feet with an eye-catching volley after teeing himself up, but, for all the Gills’ attempts, Fielding remained untested in the City goal into the second half.
By the time the interval came and went, the visitors had regained the ascendancy, only to squander a wealth of chances at the start of the second period.
First Baldock troubled Nelson with a 20-yard daisy-cutter spilled by the keeper, who had to be helped out by his retreating defence, before Flint beat Nelson to Neil Kilkenny’s inswinging free kick but glanced his header wide of the far post.
City were turning the screw and a second goal looked inevitable, particularly when another piece of Emmanuel-Thomas magic helped set up a glorious double chance.
Slowing the play down to walking pace – literally – on the right-hand touchline, the maverick forward waited for the run of Brendan Moloney, who was rewarded for his willing burst with a teasing pass into his stride.
The Irishman fired a low ball across the goal begging to be finished by Baldock at the far post. Instead the striker contrived to hit the inside of the near post, before Nelson clawed the ball out from on the goal line only to Wynter, who headed the rebound on to the top of the crossbar from no more than six yards.
But the teenager’s moment would come. This time Emmanuel-Thomas drifted inside off the right flank and drove at the Gillingham defence, unleashing a left-footed shot from distance that was only half-blocked and fell perfectly for Wynter to tuck home the loose ball from ten yards.
The hosts predictably threw caution to the wind in the final quarter, bombarding the City box with crosses, but Flint was peerless in the air and Fielding never unduly troubled.