Stephen Clemence was proud of his Gillingham players despite going down 4-0 to the Premier League’s bottom side Sheffield United in the FA Cup.
Doubles from William Osula and James McAtee saw the Blades into the fourth round at the expense of their League Two opponents.
But the Gills gave as good as they got for large parts of the game and Clemence took heart from the performance.
“I’m proud of the boys, I’m proud of the way they applied themselves and proud of the way they tried to make an impact on the game,” said the Gillingham boss.
“At times we had to sit in and weather the storm, but when we did have the ball we tried to be positive. It’s very hard to work our patterns against a Premier League side, but on another day we’d have got a couple of goals.”
League Two’s least potent attack came close to opening the scoring when Conor Masterson beat his man and saw a goalbound shot blocked.
Oli Hawkins wasted a brilliant chance for the Gills when he miscued a first-half header and, at 2-0 down in the second half, skipper Max Ehmer’s effort struck the post.
“I never felt it was a 4-0, the boys are unlucky with that,” Clemence insisted. “If Max’s header goes in, the place would have erupted and it would have been a really interesting end to the game.
“But Premier League players don’t need many chances to score, and that’s one of the biggest differences playing against top teams. I’m disappointed with the goals we conceded – I wouldn’t want to concede them in a League Two game, I know that for sure.”
Osula’s opener came following a United break on 14 minutes, with his low effort going through the legs of Gills goalkeeper Jake Turner.
The Dane then capitalised on Turner’s poor parry from Femi Seriki’s shot to side-foot home for his second six minutes before half-time.
McAtee ended any doubts about the result on 83 minutes, as he beat the offside trap to meet Ollie Norwood’s pass and fire past the luckless Turner.
He completed the scoring with the best goal of the tie with three minutes remaining, blazing into the top corner from 20 yards after Gustavo Hamer’s short corner caught Gillingham napping.
The Blades, FA Cup semi-finalists last season, earned their first away win of the campaign in all competitions.
United manager Chris Wilder said: “We did a job, didn’t we? We knew they’d be spirited opponents and it was a great experience for our younger lads.
“Everybody in the world outside of Sheffield was expecting an upset today. We haven’t won a lot of games of football but this was a good afternoon’s work.
“Maybe it was a bit of kidology from me this week, but I always thought we’d do it. I know what these occasions are like; this is where you really get judged as a player. There weren’t any shortcuts in our approach to the game, and there weren’t any shortcuts on the pitch today.
“If we’d have let the crowd find their voice, we’d have felt their heat. But we never really allowed that, the way we kept the ball, the way we took our chances, and the way we defended when we had to.
“Winning is enjoyable for everybody today. I’m not going to be embarrassed about winning a game, I’m not going to be embarrassed for our reaction to it. We had to be good today and we were.”