Gillingham Ladies showed great grit and determination to pull off a fantastic second half and extra time performance to beat QPR 2-1 in the FA Women’s Cup Second Round.
Gills Ladies entered their first 90 minutes for six weeks energetic and bright, pressing the home side from the off.
Danielle Carlton helped produce the game’s opening opportunity, whipping a ball into Lisa Fulgence from the far right.
The Gills Ladies striker used her strength to enforce a corner that Charlotte Gurr stepped up to take. Gurr’s inswinging cross found centre-back Deanna Cooper, whose glancing header gave QPR’s goalkeeper her first test of the game.
Gills attacked again through Nikitta Whinnett on the right hand side, the Gills winger enjoying a quick 1-2 with Lauren Williams; the move created space enabling Whinnett to get away a shot from 25 yards which glided wide.
At the back, Gills showed composure and patience keeping the ball well and enforcing QPR to chase shadows for considerable sequences.
But whilst the Gills dominated possession, it was QPR who produced the game’s best opportunity after a through ball left the away side’s defense exposed.
With the help of a bobbly pitch, Gills keeper Faye Baker was able to react, coming out her area to add pressure to the QPR attack, with Cooper covering the run.
Baker pulled off a great save minutes later; palming away a QPR striker’s goal bound effort, whilst the follow up from six yards was skied over the crossbar.
Gillingham soon created chances with a great ball threaded through to Fulgence, the Gills striker controlled the ball well but an extra touch gifted the QPR centre back the opportunity to clear her lines.
Fulgence threatened again showing great striker’s instinct to be in the right place at the right time for a teasing delivering across the area from Carlton.
Fulgence did well but the QPR keeper had her insider post covered and was able to smother the ball at the Gills’ striker’s feet.
Baker made another smart save for the Gills as she was called upon to palm an effort heading towards the inside post.
Gills nearly took the lead with a powerful strike from Carlton that looked to head into the back of the net, if it hadn’t been for a deflection from a QPR defender.
Half time: 0-0
The deadlock was soon broken after the re-start as QPR pulled ahead with a well-taken goal.
An inviting cross was delivered, escaping the Gills defence after an unfortunate slip, and the QPR striker took the ball down well before ruthlessly dispatching the effort.
The goal kick-started Gillingham, whose lackluster opening 45 made it difficult for them to break the deadlock.
The Gills almost gained an instant equalizer with Gurr curling an effort that whistled just off target.
Gills began to pass the ball round well, opening up space to thread together more considered and dangerous attacks, pressurizing the home side for considerable periods.
Whinnett was causing the home side all types of problems down the right hand side, drawing QPR players with her to help her teammates create more space to drive towards the box.
Gills applied pressure and forced QPR to clear the ball off the line following a goalmouth scramble, before the woodwork denied them an equalizer.
Fulgence was positioned perfectly to put the Gills back in the game from a cross ball, but the keeper managed to make the block before the re-bounded effort fell to Gurr, who missed the target from an advantageous position.
Gillingham continued to show great unity and resilience, persistently breaking down the home side with attacking move after attacking move.
Gills Captain Jay Blackie unlocked the QPR defence with a slick ball to Whinnett but the Gills winger could not quite find a teammate to finish the move when she cut the ball back.
Charlotte Long played a solid role in the centre of midfield, piecing together movements of play and successfully breaking up QPR when they looked to counter attack.
The Gills midfielder produced a great chip over the QPR back four to find the path of Fulgence who was close to converting.
Gills thought they had their equalizer when Carlton threatened again with a fierce shot that ricocheted off the crossbar.
Whilst the Gills spent long periods of the game attacking they also had to maintain concentration to defend against QPR’s counterattacking threat. Cooper and Rachel Ahern did admirably to cover every run towards goal.
Additionally, Baker pulled off a spectacular save to keep her side in the tie as she tipped the ball over after a lofted effort from close range looked destined for the roof of the net.
Gills players and fans alike were left dismayed after what appeared to be a shove on the lively Whinnett in the penalty area was left unpunished by the referee.
Fulgence’s pace exposed the QPR defence as she beat the offside trap to go one-on-one with the keeper, who to her credit, came off her line well to deny any shot on goal.
As the game was heading towards its final stages, Gills forced all QPR players into their own half and were rewarded after a handball was called on the edge of the area with five minutes left to play.
Carlton stepped up to deliver an outstanding free kick that blasted into the top right hand corner.
And Gills could have nicked the game within 90 minutes with Carlton coming close again from another set piece and Long launching an ambitious effort from distance
FT: 1-1 (Carlton)
The game lapsed into extra time and the Gills continued to build on their momentum from a dominant second half performance.
Rangers was forced to soak up more pressure when Blackie created space for herself in the area, switching feet quickly to get a shot away, which stuttered just wide.
Gills substitute Emma Tune gave her teammates fresh impetus and helped threaten the QPR goal. The midfielder’s smart lob found Fulgence, her effort touching the crossbar.
Tune then took on several QPR defenders before getting a shot away that went inches over the goal.
But Gills finally got their reward, as Tune found the target with her next attempt. The Gills midfielder found Gurr in the area, before picking the ball back to tuck the ball away.
Gills could have made it three with substitute Lauren Davis exposing the QPR defence, running on t an intelligent ball from Tune. QPR’s keeper managed to pull off one more heroic save to deny the Gills any more goals.
After a slow start, the Gills got 2014 off with a bang with an entertaining FA Cup tie, which exhibited why the FA Cup is so special and exhilarating.
AET 2:1 (Carlton, Tune)
Gillingham Ladies: Faye Baker, Rachel Ahern, Deanna Cooper, Lauren Williams, Danielle Carlton, Jay Blackie © , Charlotte Long, Jade Keogh (Emma Tune), Lisa Fulgence, Charlotte Gurr, Nikitta Whinnett (Lauren Davis)
Subs: Catherine Cooper, Emma Wood, Lauren Phillips
Photos courtesy of Girls On The Ball