Gillingham Ladies six-week reign at the top of the FA Southern Premier League continued as they stormed to victory after a rampant opening 45 minutes against Coventry Ladies.
The Gills squad travelled to Coventry on Saturday afternoon and clearly benefitted from the overnight stay as they set the tempo early on, dictating passing play and compressing Coventry’s set up enforcing mistakes from the home side in the opening exchanges.
As a result, it took the Gills just 5 minutes to net their first goal. Fliss Gibbons robbed Coventry of possession before exchanging passes with attacking partner Charlotte Gurr who managed to zip the ball through the two Coventry centre backs back to Gibbons.
The Gills Ladies loanee made no mistake with her finish, shrugging off her marker to cooly place the ball into the far corner to give the Gills a perfect start.
Gillingham almost crafted their own downfall as a Coventry attacker intercepted a ball thrown from the back. Faye Baker was able to deal with the consequent lob at goal to ensure Gills were not punished for the mistake.
Gillingham Ladies showed no signs of homesickness as the match progressed. The Ladies confidence on the ball and willingness to drive at Coventry caused the hosts a range of problems.
Charlotte Long proved to be an effective link in midfield spraying the ball across the park releasing Gibbons and Lauren Williams to make effective attacking runs.
Long’s pass to Gibbons sparked another strong run from the Gills goal scorer who skipped over a Coventry challenge to pull the ball back across goal for Gurr whose scuffed effort was comfortably gathered by the Sky Blue’s keeper.
Gillingham’s desire to get on the ball and fight for possession stunned Coventry who were unable to string together a series of passes without questions from the Gills outfield and Gills were rewarded for their efforts when Gibbons won her side a corner.
A clever set piece was delivered to Danielle Carlton who stylishly added to her season’s grand total with a stunning effort from 25 yards out. The Gills midfielder fizzed the ball into the top left corner with a devastatingly good finish.
Gillingham’s ruthless finishing silenced the home crowd in Coventry as Jade Keogh scored her third goal in three games and snatched Gills third of the fixture.
Keogh made the most of a loose ball in the box after Gurr stood firm to keep the ball in the danger area. Keogh’s sweet volley left the keeper with no chance and smashed the back of the net.
Coventry were reduced to chasing shadows for long periods of the first half as Gillingham were formidable, producing attack after attack. A lack of movement off the ball contrasted to Gillingham’s determined work rate made it a torrid opening 45 minutes.
Coventry almost had a chance as the bounce fell kindly into the path of their number nine. Gillingham’s skipper Jay Blackie did well to put pressure on the Coventry striker and enforced a scuffed shot to dribble wide leaving Baker untroubled.
All eleven Coventry players were rooted in their own half to try and put a stop to Gillingham’s fluid passing play. However, they came unstuck for a fourth time as the Gills patiently opened up their opposition’s defence.
The Gill’s midfield unit were rewarded for their patience on the ball and managed to unlock Coventry’s defence for Williams to put them four up.
Williams’ goal merited her performance down the right wing throughout the first half as she ran onto a Long pass in on goal. Williams kept her composure to exploit the time and space gifted to her as a result of Gills brilliant build up play, and blasted the ball into the back of the net.
After the break, Gillingham Ladies continued to press hard with Williams, Gibbons and Gurr working tirelessly to put pressure on the Coventry back line with Blackie, Long and Carlton sweeping up the loose passes.
Coventry began to pick themselves up to give Gillingham Ladies more of a test. Amy Taylor was penalized for a foul on the edge of the box giving Coventry the chance to launch an effort on goal. Baker lined up her wall effectively and managed to gather the ball easily to protect Gills clean sheet.
Coventry got a second free kick moments later and the Gills Ladies wall did its job as a barrier and the danger was averted.
Baker made a fantastic reaction save, diving low to her right to smother a header on goal. The Gills keeper continued to marshal her back line to ensure Coventry had no opportunity to exploit their possession on the ball. Taylor, Deanna Cooper and Rachel Ahern worked well collectively to react to Coventry’s attempt to infiltrate the Gills goal.
As the game wore on, Coventry attempted to lob the ball over the Gills defense to try and get a run on goal. The Gills defensive line maintained their concentration and utilized their pace to ensure every ball was snuffed out and converted into a counter attack.
Gillingham manager James Marrs brought on Lisa Fulgence, Lauren Phillips and Lauren Davis to inject some fresh legs to the Gills attack.
Fulgence ran the line extremely well for Gills and almost had an opportunity to put Gills five up as she defeated the offside trap to get on the end of a Gibbons cross but the Gillingham striker failed to make substantial contact to trouble the keeper.
Gurr delivered a dangerous set piece that Blackie rose highest to float on goal. The Coventry keeper made a finger tip save to push the ball over the crossbar.
Taylor managed to release Fulgence in on goal again curling the ball through the Coventry defence. Fulgence positioned herself well to turn her defender but the ball ran straight into the keeper’s path.
A lapse of concentration threatened to blot Gillingham’s clean sheet as a Coventry striker swept up a weak back pass. Baker reacted speedily to make a last ditch tackle to match the club’s record of clean sheets just six games into the season.
Gillingham Ladies win over Coventry saw them take a very deserved three points back to Kent and another clean sheet means the club has the best defensive record and goal difference in the division.
Gillingham Ladies: Faye Baker, Rachel Ahern, Deanna Cooper, Amy Taylor, Lauren Williams (Lauren Phillips), Charlotte Long (Lauren Davis), Jay Blackie©, Danielle Carlton, Jade Keogh (Lisa Fulgence), Charlotte Gurr, Fliss Gibbons