Gillingham Ladies continued their unbeaten season issuing a hammering of their own kind away at West Ham United on Sunday afternoon.
A polished and professional performance ensured Gills carried another valuable three points back to Kent as they returned to League action against The Hammers.
Gillingham set a strong tempo from the start, pressing West Ham and pinching every loose pass turning to attack. Gills’ sharpness almost granted them the lead as Danielle Carlton, returning from injury, picked up a weak pass to feed the run of Charlotte Gurr closing in on goal.
The Gills Ladies striker was denied the opportunity to test the keeper, who reacted well coming off her line to save the blushes of her defence.
West Ham sought to counter attack the Gills, launching ball after ball down the left hand flank, but the sororal duo Catherine and Deanna Cooper stood up to deny The Hammers any clear cut opportunities, whilst Amy Taylor ensured the defensive line stood strong to the physical threat West Ham looked to present.
Gurr and strike partner Lisa Fulgence provided a strong attacking outlet for Gillingham as their pace and spacial awareness exposed gaps in the West Ham defence and worked effectively on several occasions.
There was a strong penalty appeal from the visitors as a clever flick from Fulgence seemed to be blocked by a hand. The referee waved away the call however as Gills sought to get the game’s opening goal.
It didn’t take long for the league leaders to take the lead however as Fulgence exploited a defensive mix up to steal possession from the West Ham centre backs. Fulgence poked the ball to Gurr whose inch-perfect pass threaded through to Lauren Williams.
Williams took the ball in her stride, driving towards goal and unleashing a clinical effort which gave the Gills a deserved lead.
West Ham responded well, and captain Jay Blackie made an important block as The Hammers whipped in a ball from the right which was pinged towards goal on the volley.
Goalkeeper Faye Baker dealt well with West Ham’s next attack as they carried the ball down the left hand side and looked to sneak an opportunity towards the inside post. Baker had her angles well covered however and was able to collect the effort.
Baker almost turned provider with the resulting goal kick which caused West Ham problems and found Fulgence on the edge of the box. A testing kick for The Hammers to deal with but they were able to divert danger as Fulgence attempted to turn on goal.
Fulgence should have put Gills two up when a brilliant ball from Emma Tune found the Gills striker yards from goal, the West Ham keeper stepped up to make herself big and pulled off an excellent reaction save to palm the ball wide.
Carlton came closest for the Gills next with a set piece delivery from 25 yards out that managed to escape everyone bar the keeper who shuffled across goal to collect the ball.
Catherine Cooper and Williams exchanged a quick series of passes down the left hand side before feeding Gurr in on goal, the Gills striker galloped towards goal but could not direct the cut back to an unmarked Fulgence on the edge of the six-yard box.
The game was unexpectedly paused for a couple of minutes due to an injury to The Hammers keeper, but Gills refused to let the tempo suffer and upped the anti to try and extend upon their lead before half time.
Gurr managed to steal possession from a sleepy West Ham defender by the right hand corner and drove towards goal. Gurr’s initial attempt was blocked and neither she nor Tune could find their feet to get the clinical touch to punish the home side’s lax defending.
During a first half full of opportunities, it was just before half time that Gillingham Ladies orchestrated their best chance of the opening 45. Carlton demonstrated great skill to produce a brilliant inswinging cross that was screaming out to be poked into the back of the net, but frustratingly for Gills Fulgence’s brilliant run on goal was just short of putting the ball away.
Half time: 0-1
Gillingham continued the beginning of the second half much in the fashion of the first. Carlton produced a clever flick over the West Ham defence to Fulgence who escaped her marker to launch a shot on target, but West Ham’s keeper was equal to the effort with another good reactive save.
Next, Keogh made a dangerous run down the wing and cut the ball back towards Gurr who was agonisingly close to making contact with the goal at her mercy. The resulting clearance fell to Blackie who made sure she got to the second ball first, to launch a shot that fell wide.
Substitute Lauren Davis came on to support the Gills attack and exploited some sloppy passing to win possession back for the Gills down the right. The young Gills forward went onto skim her marker before driving down the flank and releasing Fulgence in on goal with a skilful pass. Fulgence used her strengh to shake off her defender before being bundled down by another – Gills unlucky not to be awarded a free kick in an advantageous position.
Gillingham were awarded a penalty minutes later as Carlton was fouled in the area. The referee pointed to the spot as it was left to Gurr to deliver the spot kick . Gills top goal scorer stepped up and cooly placed the ball into the left corner just beyond the out-streched glove of the West Ham keeper.
Gurr nearly grabbed a brace moments later, capitalising on a loose pass from The Hammers centre back to tee herself up for a shot from the edge of the box but the West Ham defence responded well to ensure the scoreline remained at 2-0.
Whilst West Ham fought hard to respond to the Gills, the visitor’s midfield provided bundles of energy and determination to break up play reducing The Hammers to long, hopeful balls over the top which the Gills defence of Cooper, Williams and Taylor were able to deal with with relative ease.
Keogh produced yet another testing cross for West Ham to deal with, only a diving header saved the home side and the resulting corner was fired out to Carlton who tried her luck from distance.
West Ham defended well as a collective unit but Fulgence was able to win the ball back for Gills, but with a sea of bodies blocking the goal, this Gills attack was eventually extinguished.
West Ham’s goalkeeper prevented the Gills only several more occasions and made an outstanding fingertip save from a curling Keogh effort that look destined for the top left hand corner.
The Hammers keeper could not respond to a Blackie bullet header from a sizzling corner from Gurr, the Gills skipper rewarded for a hard working performance (and a black eye from a head clash).
With three goals to the good, Gillingham sought to press until the final minute as Lauren Phillips worked hard down the right hand side to unlock the West Ham defence once more.
Phillips managed to find Tune well positioned in the area and the Gills midfielder showed quick feet and thinking to pass through to Davis. The Gills youngster made good connection with the ball from a tight angle but the effort blasted over the crossbar.
The game concluded with Gillingham Ladies worthy 3-0 winners. An accomplished team performance and a clean sheet for Baker and her defence to enjoy. Gills Ladies remain top of the league and their unbeaten season run continues.
Gillingham Ladies: Faye Baker, Lauren Williams, Amy Taylor, Deanna Cooper, Catherine Cooper (Lauren Davis), Danielle Carlton, Jay Blackie (c), Emma Tune, Jade Keogh (Lauren Phillips), Charlotte Gurr, Lisa Fulgence
Unused subs: Emma Wood
The Gills will be in action at home next weekend on Sunday 1st December as they play Brighton and Hove Albion Ladies in the League at Chatham Town FC, Kick Off 2pm. Tickets for adults £3, U16s free.