An Oli McBurnie brace, along with a stunning Bersant Celina strike and Barrie McKay’s goal sent the Swans into the fifth-round draw, which takes place on Monday night.
A Josh Rees goal at the beginning of the second half proved to be in vain as Swansea ran out comfortable 4-1 winners in the Fourth Round of the Emirates FA Cup on Saturday afternoon.
Swansea went in to the break two ahead, thanks to a double from Oli McBurnie but an inspired start to the second half saw Rees head home to give the travelling fans hope of an upset, but despite a spell of pressure from Steve Lovell’s side after that, further goals from Bersant Celina and Barrie McKay added some gloss to the score line as it finished 4-1 in Wales.
Gillingham made three changes from the side that lost out to Walsall last week, Callum Reilly and Alex Lacey missing out through injury while Josh Parker dropped to the bench with Regan Charles-Cook, Tom Eaves and Max Ehmer all coming in to the starting XI, the latter featuring for the first time since picking up an injury at Scunthorpe last month.
The hosts controlled a lot of the ball in the opening exchanges and very nearly broke the deadlock with the first chance of the game. Mark Byrne was dispossessed by Barrie McKay, who took a couple of touches before firing low at Tomas Holy, the ball hit the inside of the post and rolled away, much to Gills’ relief before a McBurnie flick on from a corner bounced just wide of Holy’s goal as Gills held on.
The early pressure was to take its toll as Swansea took the lead after nine minutes. Leroy Fer found some space on the edge of the box; the midfielder then produced an exquisite through ball to McBurnie who made no mistake from inside the box to head Swansea in front.
Gillingham, roared on by over 1400 fans, went about finding an immediate response. Tom Eaves found some space after Rees had intercepted the ball in the middle of the park but with options either side Eaves decided to shoot, unfortunately for Gills his effort was claimed by Erwin Mulder in the Swansea goal.
McBurnie then showed good feet on the edge of the 18-yard box to find space for a shot but his low effort was blocked by Gabriel Zakuani before Courtney Baker-Richardson also saw an effort blocked by the Gills skipper, as Swansea continued to dominate at The Liberty.
Swansea doubled their lead in the 31st minute. After possession was exchanged in midfield, McBurnie drove at the Gills defence and with time to pick a corner, the forward slotted low past Tomas Holy as he added a second goal to his name. 2-0
As the game ebbed towards half-time, Gills went about keeping the Swans at bay, in a rare attack Bradley Garmston got in down the left-hand side but his floated cross to the back post was headed clear by The Swans defence.
Neither side made a change at the break as Gills went about finding a way in to the cup tie and whatever was said at half-time must have had an effect as Gillingham made a bright start to the second half. Josh Rees hit a diagonal to Luke O’Neill who in turn whipped in a cross for Tom Eaves. The forward rose highest, but his goal bound header was deflected wide for a corner.
Gills went one better just minutes later. After Elliott List was released down the left-hand side, the forward showed good determination to hold off a challenge before laying the ball off to Mark Byrne. With everyone looking at Eaves at the back post, Byrne picked out Josh Rees inside the penalty area who headed past Mulder to give the Gills fans something to cheer. 2-1
After looking comfortable in the opening period, Swansea were now rocked against a resurgent Gills side, roared on by the travelling fans. At one end, Swansea appeals for a penalty were waved by Darren England before Regan Charles-Cook blazed over from 30 yards.
Despite the setback Swansea were still a threat and efforts from Matt Grimes and Leroy Fer both came close, but it remained 2-1.
Not for long though, as in the 72nd minute Swansea restored their two-goal advantage. After more good football by the hosts, Bersant Celina unleashed a rocket in to the top corner to leave Tomas Holy with no chance. A sucker punch for Gills who were much improved after the break.
With the game becoming stretched at The Liberty, both sides were beginning to find space. For Gills, Rees and Ehmer both saw their efforts saved by Mulder in the Swans goal while Tomas Holy had to be alert deny McBurnie.
In the 83rd minute Swansea put the tie to bed. Substitute Daniel James had time to pick out Barrie McKay inside the six-yard box and he bundled home to ensure that it would be Swansea that progressed.
In the last-minute Gills thought they had pulled back a consolation but Tom Eaves’ rebound was adjudged to have been offside. That was the last just chance of note as Swansea progressed in to Round 5 and Gills exited the competition.
And John, making his seventh appearance of the season, was happy with both the performance and result as the Swans saw off their League One visitors.
“We’re very happy after that performance. We all played very well,” said the Wales international.
“We played some good stuff, particularly in the first half.
“We dropped the tempo a little in the second half but picked it up in the last 10 or 15 minutes particularly when Daniel James came on.
“We’re into the hat for the next round and we look forward to the draw on Monday.
“It would be great to get another home draw. We are enjoying our cup run – we’ve gained confidence from our results and performances and that has helped us in the league too.”
Celina’s strike was the highlight of a game played in tricky conditions at the Liberty.
The Kosovan struck a 30-yard effort into the top corner to put the Swans 3-1 up, with his effort a contender for the Swans’ goal of the season.
And John wasn’t surprised with the quality of the goal.
“I thought he was going to cross it when he took a touch inside – I didn’t think he was going to shoot,” said John. “It went right into the top corner, but we see him do that every day in training. He’s pure class.”
Swansea: Mulder, Van der Hoorn, Fer (Fulton 81), McBurnie (Byers), Carter-Vickers, McKay, Grimes , Celina, Roberts, Baker-Richardson (James 68), John
Unused subs: Harries, Nordfeldt, Dyer, Montero
Gillingham: Holy, O’Neill, (Fuller 81) Zakuani, Ehmer, Ogilvie (Parrett 81), Garmston, Byrne, Rees, Charles-Cook, List (Hanlan 70) Eaves.
Unused subs: Hadler, Simpson, Oldaker, Parker
Referee: Darren England