Report by Victoria Polley
A goal in each half sealed Gillingham Ladies’ fate as they were knocked out of the FA Women’s Premier League Cup by Southern Premier League holders Coventry City Ladies. Katie Lowder and Marie Gauntlett both found the net for the Sky Blues to ensure Gills Ladies run came to an end in the second round of the competition. It was the first time the two sides had met since last year’s league title decider where Coventry took the plaudits.
The teams looked evenly matched in the first ten minutes as they looked to break the deadlock but after forcing Courtney Shanly in the Gills goal to save with her legs in the 12th minute, a through ball for Coventry’s Lowder to comfortably slot home put the visitors ahead just a minute later. Gills Ladies were not deterred and continued to press forward with Natalie Crinean and Ashlee Hincks leading the attack. It was Hincks who came closest to getting the Gills equaliser after Charlotte Long picked up possession in midfield and teed up Hincks who was unable to stretch the Sky Blues keeper into a save. Despite a great deal of possession and good build up play from Gills Ladies, an equaliser eluded them. Shanly was called into action again in the 30th minute when she palmed away a shot from Karen Clough. The Southern Division champions found the back of the net again five minutes later through Clough, only to have the goal ruled out by the assistant who deemed the ball to be out of play. Hincks looked a threat for the Gills in front of goal and had another chance to level the scores when Crinean captalised on a Coventry error laid off to Hincks for a shot from 25 yards out which went wide. Gills defended resolutely as they were faced with a succession of corners from the Sky Blues but a solid display from the back four prevented the visitors extending their lead before the break. At the start of the second half, it was Hincks again who looked dangerous in front of the Sky Blues goal, bursting forward and brushing off her defender before unloading a shot that was dealt with comfortably by Coventry. Gills Ladies kept the pressure up and continued to press forward. Good link up play between Crinean and Hincks, forced Sue Wood into a save and resulted in a corner for the home side. And Crinean went close again for Gills Ladies as she went on a driving run towards goal and was only prevented from leveling the score by some last ditch defending in the Sky Blues penalty area.
Despite looking like they might find a way back into the game, Gills Ladies were undone by the Coventry attack again in the 72nd minute as Marie Gauntlett got on the end of a corner to head home and ensure their place in the next round of the cup. Ellie Manning’s knock forward to the Gills attack almost provided the home side with a consolation goal but the chance went a miss, which seemed to be the story of the afternoon for Gills Ladies. The Sky Blues had the opportunity to extend their lead in the 88th minute after a loose back pass was intercepted but the Gills defence did enough to force the resulting chance wide. Gills Ladies will now look to focus on their match in the FA Women’s Premier League against Cardiff next week.
Gills Ladies: Courtney Shanly, Lauren Phillips, Lauren Williams(c), Emma Michelmore(Bonnie Long), Ellie Manning, Emma Tune, Charlotte Long, Louise Lorton, Danni Farmer(Sophie Brown), Ashlee Hincks, Natalie Crinean