Gillingham Ladies endured a disappointing afternoon away at Cardiff Ladies as they fell to a 6-2 defeat.
A torrid opening 45 minutes decided the game and despite two good goals from Natalie Crinean and Nikitta Whinnett, Cardiff were able to expose defensive frailties to stun Gills.
City took the lead with their first attacking move as the Cardiff attacker, granted time and space on the edge of the box, picked her spot in the top left hand corner.
The blustery conditions were hard to adapt to and it was Gills Ladies who had the wind knocked out of their sails when Cardiff doubled their lead with another long-range effort going beyond Gills keeper Courtney Shanly.
Gills looked to press Cardiff and enjoyed some positive attacking spells. Ellie Manning picked up possession on the left hand side before whipping a good delivery into the area. Crinean took her marker across goal, getting contact on the ball to provide Louise Lorton with an in on goal six yards out. Cardiff got bodies in the way to deny Gills an opening chance to test the home keeper.
Crinean used her strength to turn her defender and pass out wide to Lorton whose direct run opened sight on goal. The Gills attacker’s curling effort shook the side netting.
Ashlee Hincks triggered Gills next attacking move, picking up possession with a well-timed challenge. Hincks’ well executed pass set Crinean on a run that was only halted by a cynical challenge on the edge of the box. Hincks stepped up to fire the resulting free kick but her effort whistled wide.
Gills caused their own problems in defence, gifting possession in and around the area, thereby providing Cardiff with the platform to attack.
Gills should have been back in the game when Crinean pulled a great ball across goal to Hincks, who with the goal at her mercy, side footed wide.
Despite a good period looking to get back into the game, Gills became unstuck for a third time when a Cardiff attacker was able to gallop through the middle and finish to make it three.
Gills midfielder Emma Tune had an opportunity, teeing herself up for a right-footed shot on the edge of the box, but the Cardiff goalkeeper saw it all the way get two firm gloves behind the effort.
Shanly was forced into a good save from another long range shot, the Gills keeper getting down to her left to palm a ferocious effort wide and Gills managed to clear the following corner with ease.
Danni Farmer helped orchestrate Gills next attacking move with a drive down the left before being hauled by a mistimed challenge. The inswining set piece was gathered by the Cardiff keeper who quickly dispatched the ball with a throw out.
The throw was easily swept up by Charlotte Long whose perfectly weighted pass fed Crinean in on goal. Crinean showed great composure to take the ball round the keeper and then coolly roll into the back of an empty net.
Just as Gills Ladies ignited a response, Cardiff ruthlessly put it out going down the other end and restoring their three-goal advantage, Cardiff’s clinical finishing leaving Gills bamboozled.
Cardiff heaped further dismay upon their visitors as they made it five, Shanly rushing out from her area left the goal exposed and Cardiff slotted home.
A dismal opening 45 minutes for Gills who looked positive in attack but lacked bite to prevent Cardiff from putting the game to bed before half time.
Gillingham Ladies showed good character with a decent second half performance. The visitors opened the half brightly, enjoying the majority of possession but failing to cause Cardiff’s defence too many problems.
A Lauren Phillps ball in the box was the first occasion to cause confusion in the Cardiff box in the second half. Phillips’ cross into the area deceived everyone and almost fell perfectly for Hincks but the ball bounced too high for her to make contact.
Hincks dinked an effort from 30 yards which looked to be heading into the roof of the net but the home side’s keeper made a great save managing to palm the effort over.
Despite being six down, Gillingham Ladies refused to give up and a triple substitution by manager Simon Ratcliffe added fresh impetus and purpose. Whinnett, Sophie Brown and Emma Michelmore provided fresh legs for Gills in the final 20 minutes.
Gills were working hard high up the pitch but with loose passing could not break Cardiff down to present a better reflection on the game’s score line.
Michelmore made a great crunching tackle and followed up with a pass to Hincks who, squeezing between the two centre backs, forced the keeper out her area to clear.
A Brown cross caused difficulties for the Cardiff keeper whose clumsy collection was almost exploited by Lorton.
Whinnett got a deserved goal for her tenacious and hard working twenty minutes. Defeating her defenders for pace, Gills new signing grabbed a goal on her second debut for the club with a classy chip over the keeper.
The afternoon was made even more difficult for Gills on 84 minutes when Long was dismissed from the field of play for a second caution.
A difficult day for Gillingham Ladies, who despite a heart felt second half performance, were deflated by poor defending and loose passes gifting Cardiff a comfortable three points.
Gillingham Ladies: Courtney Shanly, Lauren Williams ©, Rachel Ahern, Lauren Phillips, Ellie Manning (Emma Michelmore), Emma Tune, Charlotte Long, Natalie Crinean ( Sophie Brown), Danni Farmer(Nikitta Whinnett), Ashlee Hincks, Louise Lorton