Gillingham Ladies Club Captain, Vicky Ashton-Jones, praised her team-mates after a fantastic comeback against QPR saw the side progress to the third round of the FA Cup.
Goals from Danielle Carlton and Emma Tune sealed a 2-1 win for the Kent side who initially found it hard to find their feet for the first fixture of 2014.
After the game Vicky said: “The game took a little while to get going but once it did it was lively and with the girls going down 1-0 we had a good reaction in the second half.”
“We dominated possession, created good chances and hit the bar; there were lots of last minute tackles going in and Faye our keeper pulled off some good saves. It was very end to end, so for the neutral, it was a great game.”
Vicky revealed the girls needed a bit of a gee-up at half time to begin to press QPR properly after a slow opening 45 minutes: “It was the fact that Christmas has been a difficult period, having games postponed has meant we’ve not played for a while”
Vicky explained, “ The pitch was a contributing factor too, it took us a while to get used to that – it was horrendous to be honest – and it got worse as the game went on.”
“ The last game the girls played was in the Kent Cup against Meridian, which with all respect to them, was not a true test. Then we go back to the Lewes game, the first defeat of the season, so I think it’s been a case of getting that out their system and the first 45 minutes was the reason for that.”
Forcing the game into extra-time, the Gills superior fitness levels kicked in to make it a tough extra 30 minutes for the home side. Vicky said: “Being a league above, being as fit as we are at that level there’s almost an expectation that our quality should shine through in the extra half an hour that has to be played.”
“I think that we had faith in the girls and the girls had faith in themselves to get the result. The manager was confident going into extra time that we’d get the result.”
And some teams may struggle to turn a fixture around, Vicky believed the girls would always come through to pinch the right result: “The crux of it was there to go out there and get the result, there’s no point panicking in these situations. It goes to show how the manager has faith in the girls to go out there and do what they need to do.”
“We had a change-up of formation today and that may have taken some time to get used to. But at half time it was a case of sitting down with a few of the girls on a one-to-one basis, have some conversations to help them refocus and go out in the second half to do what they needed to do.”
Vicky added: “You look at Lewes, we went one down, then two and there wasn’t perhaps t hat desire on the day to get back into that game as much from an outsider’s perspective. But this game, we went 1-0 down and the reaction was superb.”
“We stepped up and it became a joy to watch, actually going 1-0 down made the game more joyful to watch than at 0-0! The girls knuckled down and got the result they deserved.”
Last season saw the Gills go on their longest run in the FA Cup and now all ambitions are set to try and emulate last year’s success: “We got on really well in the FA Cup last year, and it’s a great opportunity to start a good run.”
“Obviously, there’s the financial rewards which is a boost but it’s the FA Cup – it’s one of the best known competitions out there in all levels. It’s something to look forward to outside the league, it gives the girls something to focus on, allows us to try different things with more players too. To get far into the FA Cup, you’re looking for a Super League side too which is an exciting prospect.”
Gillingham Ladies have now been drawn away in the FA Cup Third Round to Nottingham Forest Ladies . With Forest ending the Gills record-breaking run in the competition, it’s set to be an entertaining re-match and another game to further credit one of the most prestigious competitions in English football.
Meanwhile, the Gills have the chance to book themselves a first cup final place, with the team travelling to play Hearne Bay on Tuesday in the Ryman League Cup Semi-Final. A game the team are really relishing: “Everyone’s excited for the semi-final” said Vicky, “We’re looking to continue to keep our momentum, it’s a final opportunity and you want to go out and you want to win games and trophies.”