Gillingham Ladies Reserves progressed to the next round of the League Cup courtesy of a 4-1 victory over Bedford Ladies Reserves, with goals from Kayleigh Galvin, Ashleigh Loosemore, Megan Carroll and Charlotte Long.
The young Gills side made up of a host of Gillingham Centre of Excellence graduates mixed with first team players, controlled the game from the off, enjoying the majority of possession and limiting Bedford to few clear cut opportunities.
Gillingham looked to press Bedford in the game’s opening exchanges with Galvin causing problems for the visitor’s defence. The Gills youngster had a brilliant opportunity to put the team ahead getting on the end of a testing Cavengh ball. Galvin, positioned in the right place couldn’t get the right touch to poke the ball past the Bedford keeper.
Cavengh was orchestrating several of Gillingham Ladies attacking moves and put Galvin in on goal moments later with an inch perfect pass cutting the Bedford back line in two. Galvin got a strong right-footed effort away but failed to test the keeper.
The home side were tested themsevles minutes later as a ball over the top enforced the centre-back partnership of Bonnie Long and Megan Carroll into action. The pair, communicating well, ushered the ball out for a corner and an organised Gills saw off any resulting threat.
Long then pushed forward with a galloping run from defence, the Gills defender exchanging some slick passes with Galvin and Loosemore but the positive attacking move failed to result in a goal.
Gillingham boss Jason Wright changed his team’s formation, utilising a versatile starting eleven in search of the game’s opening goal. Louise Lorton and Ellie Manning were employed to press Bedford down the channels, resulting in several good opportunities.
Gills didn’t have to wait too long for a goal as Galvin deservedly got off the mark. The Gills striker showed great skill to skim and leave her markers in the dusk, demonstrating blistering pace to take the ball down, charge towards goal and finish with great composure.
Carroll launched a ball forward towards Lorton, who anticipating hesitation in the Bedford defence, picked up the ball and troubled the visitors with her pace and trickery.
Later in the half, Loosemore scored her second goal in as many games to extend Gills advantage. The 16-year old exhibited good skill to chest the ball down with poise, round the keeper and made no mistake with her finish.
And it could have been a brace moments later after Captain Emily Lyons picked up possession and found her team-mate making a driving run towards goal. The Gills goalscorer was denied however by a firm save.
The Bedford keeper made another fine save after Galvin flicked the ball over her marker to provide a square pass to Long who would have been celebrating had it not been for the visitor’s excellent reaction save.
Down the other end, Gillingham Ladies keeper Imogen Alabaster was a commanding presence and with very little to do, marshalled her defence to suppress any Bedford threat.
With Lyons and Long in the centre of midfield, Gillingham Ladies were able to hold their own in an increasingly more physical battle across the park.
Long and Lorton enjoyed a nice interchange of passes on the edge of the box before Long executed a curling effort but the Bedford keeper had her inside post covered and was able to palm the ball out for a corner.
Gills boss Jason Wright made two changes at the interval, bringing on Musmeci and Watermann in place of the hardworking Galvin and Lorton.
With Carroll pushed up front, her impact in her attacking role was instant as she made it three for Gills shortly after the break. The versatile Gills player managed to get between the two centre-backs to create some space to pick her spot and blast the ball into the back of the net.
Carroll was denied a brace when her right footed chip over the keeper was ruled out by the offside flag.
Bedford kept fighting throughout the game, demanding Gills to step up and battle for their victory. The young side stood firm and continued to enjoy the majority of possession.
Alabaster was kept on her toes however when an ambitious long distance shot looked set to creep into the back of the net. Alabaster saw it all the way and was able to nudge the ball out for a corner.
With a comfortable lead secured, Gillingham’s youngsters showed their professionalism pushing forward, retaining the ball impressively for certain spells.
Bedford proved to be tricky opponents and Gills were given a tough test, but the game was put beyond all doubt when an outstanding set-piece delivery from Loosemore escaped a sea of Bedford players to find the determined run of Long who followed up her historic goal at Priestfield Stadium with ease.
Bedford were able to snatch a consolation after a galloping run down the right gifted their attacker a fine solo goal. The Bedford player was given time to launch a shot which snuck past Gills substitute Sophie Ledger in goal.
A positive display from a young Gills side who showed plenty of promise in their committed, professional and accomplished Cup performance.
Gillingham Ladies: Alabaster (Ledger), Lorton(Musmeci), B.Long, Carroll, Manning, Lyons (c), C.Long, Cavengh, Loosemore, Reece, Galvin(Waterman)