Gills Ladies secure Kent final place with five star performance

FVHGillingham Ladies secured a space in the Kent Women’s Cup for a third year in a row courtesy of a five star performance away at Ebbsfleet United on Sunday afternoon.

The Gills made one change to the team that beat Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup the week before, with Amy Taylor making a return from injury to join the starting eleven.

Gillingham set the tempo from the off, attacking the Ebbsfleet goal and asking questions of the home side’s defence.

Danielle Carlton curled a fantastic ball into the area from a free kick, her tempting cross begging to be tapped into the back of the net but no Gills players could time their run to do so.

Whilst the Gills enjoyed the lion’s share of possession during the opening exchanges, it was the home side who could have gone ahead.

A loose pass from Taylor was intercepted leaving Gills Ladies goalkeeper Faye Baker exposed. Baker came off her line quickly to smother the ball at the attacker’s feet and averted any danger.

TEAMGillingham grasped control of the game, producing wave after wave of pressure on the Ebbsfleet goal. FA Cup hero Charlotte Gurr forced a smart save from former Gills keeper Ruth Jackson who palmed her former teammate’s shot to the left.

Nikita Whinnett made a mazy run through a sea of Fleet bodies, creating a pocket of space to get a powerful shot on goal. The winger’s effort blazing just over the goal.

Ebbsfleet continued to soak up pressure and Gills came agonisingly close to drawing ahead through their captain Jay Blackie.

The Gills skipper placed an effort on target, which fumbled by the Fleet keeper, fell into the path of Whinnett who followed up with a shot on target. Ebbsfleet then pulled off some fantastic last ditch defending to deny their opponents.

Another dangerous ball from the left, delivered by Carlton, asked further questions of the hosts. Blackie rose highest in the box to glance a header towards goal but the ball fell inches wide.

Gillingham dominated with attack after attack, next with Gurr picking up the ball from midfield and driving towards goal, before cutting inside and producing a fine left footed effort that narrowly missed the target.

Gills Ladies management team were forced into an early substitution when Whinnett hobbled off with an injury. Replaced by Jade Keogh, the Gills attacker illustrated the squad’s strength, depth and quality.

Keogh almost made an instant impact as her first touch was a speculative effort from 30 yards.

Jade Keogh celebrates after putting Gills one up with a stunning effort

Jade Keogh celebrates after putting Gills one up with a stunning effort

Moments later, Keogh was celebrating with her teammates. After some great persistence from midfielder Charlotte Long, Keogh was provided the ball and pulled off a stunning effort from distance that glazed into the top left corner, leaving Jackson with no chance.

HT Ebbsfleet 0 – Gillingham Ladies 1

Gillingham Ladies came out for the second half with a clear determination to make their dominant possession more reflective on the scoreline.

A good delivery from a corner early on found Deanna Cooper in the penalty area. The Gills centre back quickly took down the ball before switching feet to place a left footed effort that landed just wide.

Ebbsfleet almost had a chance on goal after Cooper missed an initial header, allowing the Fleet attacker to drive towards goal. Cooper demonstrated great skill and pace to react instantly and produce a brilliant tackle to atone.

Gills midfield were pulling the strings with Blackie, Long and Emma Tune providing the catalyst for most attacking movements whilst supplying considerable barriers for Ebbsfleet when they looked to break forward.

Tune exchanged a slick one two with Gills striker Fliss Gibbons, who sharply turned on goal leaving her marker behind before unleashing a shot that went just wide.

Gills made two substitutions, Lauren Williams and Lisa Fulgence coming on to offer fresh impetus to the Gills attacking force.

Fulgence had the chance to score straight away after some smart attacking play down the right from Cooper who fed a sqaure ball directly towards Fulgence, the touch proving too heavy to be converted into a goal.

Keogh drove forward for Gills next, this time down the left, passing to Gibbons who timed a cleaver run towards goal. The Fleet keeper came off her line to bravely deny Gills a chance to direct an effort on goal.

Eventually the pressure from Gillingham Ladies proved too great. Blackie picked out Williams on the right, who on the overlap produced a testing ball. From the resulting corner Blackie rose highest to deliver a bullet header into the back of the net.

Gurr EBThe Gills, determined to further extend their lead, pushed forward. Gurr presented an opportunity to Fulgence with a pinpoint cross, the Gills striker positioned herself well to head the ball but the effort went wide.

Some reactive goalkeeping denied Tune the chance to put Gills three up as her goal bound effort, heading towards an unguarded net, was blocked.

Gibbons continued to work tirelessly to work the spaces in the Ebbsfleet defence. After a galloping run the Gills attacker squared the ball to Keogh who struck the shot first time,  but the effort fell off target.

Gillingham eventually made it three after some great pressure from Fulgence. Exhausting the brave Ebbsfleet defence, Fulgence did enough to put off her marker and enforce an own goal.

The Gills showed their class and competitive edge in the final stages of the semi-final tie. Tune was denied by a great save from the Ebbsfleet goalkeeper who went down low to her left to push the midfielder’s shot wide.

Tune wouldn’t be denied a second time however as just moments later she dispatched an opportunity in the penalty area to put Gillingham four up.

It was a case of Kent Cup deja vu moments later, when a hooked cross from Gurr found Blackie at the back post, the captain’s header was powerful like her earlier goal, but just missed the target on this occasion.

Gillingham were denied another goal after an outstanding double save denied them.

eufc celebrationsYet the Gills couldn’t be denied after a classy goal from Gurr made it five. The Gills striker showing her class to take the ball down with a great first touch and sublime finish.

Gillingham Ladies put on a brilliant semi-final performance, illustrating why they are current Kent Women’s Cup title holders.

The Gills will now face Charlton Athletic Reserves in the Kent Cup final on Thursday 10th April at Maidstone’s Gallagher Stadium.

Gillingham Ladies: Faye Baker, Amy Taylor, Deanna Cooper, Lauren Davis (Lauren Williams), Danielle Carlton, Jay Blackie (c), Charlotte Long (Lisa Fulgence), Emma Tune, Nikita Whinnett ( Jade Keogh), Fliss Gibbons, Charlotte Gurr

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