Benjani Ben Salem’s hat-trick helped Gillingham Town to their first victory of the season as they progressed to the FA Cup Preliminary Round.
The Gills’ 4-1 victory over Almondsbury UWE sets up a tie with Southern League side AFC Totton in the next round and a prize of £1,500.
It took Gillingham two minutes to open the scoring at Hardings Lane when Nick Hewlett flicked on Ryan Murray’s free kick and Ben Salem was waiting at the back post, forcing the ball home with his head.
The hosts continued to put the Almondsbury defence under pressure and the visitors failed to deal with Tom Pawley’s cross three minutes later, allowing Nick Thomson to double his side’s tally with a clever volley.
The Bristol side almost made an instant response, but the Gills were given a let off when Simon McElroy headed wide from close range. Moments later, the Gills had all but wrapped up victory when Murray’s ball into the box again caused problems and Ben Salem scored with a free header to put the Gills 3-0 up after nine minutes.
The home side should have added to their lead as they continued to put pressure on the visitors’ defence. Almondsbury goalkeeper made a superb save to stop Pawley finding the net from distance as the Gills were forced to settle for a three-goal advantage at the interval.
Gillingham continued their dominance on the hour mark when Ben Salem nodded home Kieran Davis’s corner. Steve Smith and Will Pike could have added to their side’s tally – but couldn’t find a way past Semple.
Almondsbury grabbed a consolation goal 12 minutes from time when McElroy was sent through on goal and he ushered the ball past debutant Gills goalkeeper Jordan Tewesbury.
The hosts almost added a spectacular goal in stoppage time when Macauley Biddle almost could Semple off-guard, but his attempt from close to the corner flag was tipped onto the crossbar by the Almondsbury stopper.
Gillingham will play Totton on Saturday 30th August for a place in the First Round Qualifying. The Gills will be searching for their first victory in the Western League Premier Division when they visit Bishop Sutton tonight.