Gills Ladies secured a place in the FA Cup 5th round, for the first time in club history, after beating Premier League North side Preston North End Ladies.
Gills had gone into the game on the back of the Ryman League Cup Semi Final win over Herne Bay. Manager James Marrs went with an unchanged side for the FA Cup game.
Gillingham started the game brightly, early opening pressure from Gillingham saw Danielle Carlton twice test the keeper in the Preston goal. With five minutes on the clock, set up by Jay Blackie, Carlton’s well driven shot was pushed wide by the keeper for a Gills corner. Carlton was to be involved again in the next Gills attack when with time and space on the edge of the box forced the Preston keeper into another fine save to keep scores level.
Just before the half hour mark, Gills again looked like they may take the lead. Jade Keogh found time and space on the right wing, bursting past the Preston defender. Lisa Fulgence, Charlotte Gurr, Emma Tune and Fliss Gibbons all awaiting in the penalty area for the cross. Keogh floated in the ball to the back post to Gibbons who squared it center to Gurr, but her shot was straight at the Preston keeper.
In a half that was fairly balanced in possession of play, Preston came close when on the left wing they were able to whip in a cross behind the Gills defensive line. It alluded the Preston forwards but took a deflection off a Gills defender for a corner. Preston continued to press, and Gills under pressure were nearly the undoing of themselves. Passing it across the Gills defence, Preston latched onto a lose back pass to the keeper. Baker did terrifically well to deny the shot on target, Deanna Cooper swooping in to clear the ball away from danger.
Gills had one more chance before the break, Blackie looped a pass over the top of the Preston defence to Tune, who cleverly headed it on to play in Fulgence to take a shot on goal. With the keeper out to close down the opportunity, Fulgence took the chance quickly, her shot found its way past the keeper but also past the post.
Half time: Gillingham Ladies 0 Preston North End 0
Gills started the second half well, pressing for an opening goal, Gills forced a succession of corners in the opening minutes of the second half. Blackie and Fulgence forcing a save and a block from the Preston keeper and defender.
Preston had chances to catch Gills out however, Amy Taylor was dispossessed of the ball and a through ball played in Preston on goal. D.Cooper recovered the pace and managed to block the ball before the Preston striker managed to get a shot away. Preston’s pressure soon also saw them close in on goal again, but this time Rachel Ahern was the Gills defender to close down the ball and force the Preston attack to a quick shot which flew high over the bar.
The deadlock was broken on the 75th minute, Nikita Whinnett was adjudged to have been tripped on the edge of the penalty box. Keogh steps up to take the free kick and her shot curls into the top corner past the goalkeepers fingertips.
With the Gills ahead, they weren’t resting on the narrow margin. Pressing again, Blackie crossed into Whinnett in the box. Whinnett turned the defender and fired in a shot, but it flies over the bar.
With the clock ticking down, Lauren Davis made a great run down the right wing, she cuts inside and into the box. Davis tries a cross but the Preston keeper gets to the ball first but was only able to push it away for a corner.
The final whistle blew and jubilation amongst the Gills players as they reach the FA Cup 5th round for the first time in the clubs history.
Gills Line Up: Baker, Taylor, Ahern, D.Cooper, Carlton, Keogh (Davis,84), Tune, Blackie (c), Gurr, Fulgence, Gibbons (Whinnett, 68)
Unused Sub: Williams