With a starting line up of just four Gillingham Ladies players who featured in the side’s final FA Women’s Premier League fixture against Coventry last season, a new-look Gills side travelled to Tottenham Hotspur ready to face the challenges of a new campaign.
New Gillingham Ladies manager Simon Ratcliffe handed first team debuts to five starters and introduced four new faces on the bench alongside welcoming back former Gills players Danni Farmer and Megan Carroll.
The Gills got off to a solid start, getting the ball down and looking to press the home side with some positive attacking movements.
Jade Keogh provided some initial headaches for the Spurs defence, creating mazy runs down the left before feeding Farmer with a great ball. The Gills striker was closed down quickly by the home side and unable to captilise.
Farmer proved to be a good outlet for Gills, the spearhead of their attacking work as they sought the game’s opener.
Lauren Phillips playing in a right back role for the Gills, supported her team-mates as they pushed forward, providing a inch perfect pass to split the Spurs defence open and allow Farmer the chance to test the keeper.
Subsequently, Gills enforced a number of corners but were unable to test the Spurs keeper too toughly.
Gillingham almost got the lead when Sophie Brown pressed forward and rattled the inside of the crossbar with an ambitious effort. The sting of the shot caused the keeper to fumble and Gills scrambled to get the vital touch to poke the ball home but were denied.
Spurs looked to deflate the pressure on their home goal and had moments to take the lead too but Gills defence marshalled by Emma Michelmore and Sokhara Goodhall organised themselves effectively to limit Tottenham Hotspur.
Gillingham’s next best opportunity arrived when Louise Lorton produced a fantastic delivery from the right, spotting the run of the ever-dangerous Farmer who managed to shrug off her markers to make contact with the effort going over.
Brown came close for Gills again after her hard work and persistence exposed some poor communications between the Spurs goalkeeper and centre back. Looking to exploit the home team’s error Brown helplessly chased the rebounded pass as it crept agonisingly wide.
It was the home side who took the lead. Despite a strong initial save from Shanly the ball fell perfectly for the Spurs attacker who comfortably slotted the rebound into the back of the net.
Brown and Keogh linked up well in midfield before Keogh cut in on the left hand side to test the keeper who streched out to ensure the ball curled over the cross bar.
Within the final 10 minutes of the first half, Gillingham Ladies began to come under more pressure as Spurs enjoyed their first period of sustained possession but Gills stood firm to deny their opponents the chance to extend their lead.
Half time: 1-0
Much to their disappointment, Gillingham Ladies conceded a poor goal within minutes of the re-start and it didn’t get much better as minutes later Spurs capitalised on poor passing play from their opposition to strike the ball past Shanly.
Gillingham Ladies defended valiantly refusing to let the poor start to the second half prevent them from trying to pass the ball around.
With the physicality and strengh the home side proudly demonstrated the Gills were given a tough opening encounter and in the end couldn’t break down Spurs to grab a deserved consolation to reflect their efforts.
Emma Tune fought tirelessly for the Gills in the centre of midfield and delivered a crisp free kick towards Goodhall who headed the ball through to Farmer, the Gills striker skilfully hooking the ball round her marker on to goal.
Shanly made a series of polished saves for the Gills and managed to prevent Spurs making it four when she got down low to gather the ball after after Spurs’ attacker unlocked the Gills defence to find time and space in the area.
Gills manager Ratcliffe made two introductions to the game with Rebecca Stroud and Centre of Excellence graduate Georgia Pilbeam coming on to make their debuts. Both injected some pace into the Gills attack as the visitors began to grasp a stronger hold on the game in the final 15 minutes.
A disappointing result for the Gills but one with plenty of positives for Ratcliffe, including a very impressive opening half for his team to take forward as the re-building work from a savage summer continues.
Gills line up: Courtney Shanly, Lauren Phillips, Lauren Williams(c), Emma Tune, Emma Michelmore, Sokhara Goodhall, Louise Lorton, Charlotte Long, Sophie Brown (Rebecca Stroud), Danni Farmer, Jade Keogh (Georgia Pilbeam)
Subs: Imogen Alabaster, Megan Carroll, Athena Yennaris