By Julian Hart
2014 has been quite a year for Gillingham Ladies Football Club. In twelve months of the clubs best cup runs, claiming the highest league position, record breaking statistics on the field. Off the field has seen the summer transition of the partnership with Gillingham mens club the Ladies have grown with a move to MEMS Priestfield Stadium.
We take a moment to look back across the 12 months of 2014, picking out some the moments and the photos which define one of the clubs best ever years.
12th January 2014 – QPR 1 Gillingham 2
The first game of 2014 saw Gills Ladies travel to Queens Park Rangers in the Second Round of what was to become the clubs record run in the FA Cup tournament.
A Danielle Carlton goal was to be the first of the new year, late on in the 87th minute would cancel out QPR’s lead from just after half time. In extra time it was Emma Tune, exchanging passes with Charlotte Gurr, found the net to seal the win for Gills in an exhilarating FA Cup match.
23rd February 2014 – Ebbsfleet 0 Gillingham 5
Gills qualified for the Kent Cup final for the third year running with victory over local rivals Ebbsfleet. Jade Keogh with the opening goal of the game, was followed by strikes by Jay Blackie, Emma Tune, Charlotte Gurr and an own goal wrapped up the victory.
16th March 2014 – Gillingham 1 Preston North End 0
Gills saw 5 games in March, and solid defensive performances with 4 clean sheets go on to win all five fixtures. Most importantly though, a free kick from Jade Keogh in a narrow 1-0 win over Preston North End at home saw Gills into the 5th Round of the FA Cup and set up a tie with WSL 1 side Arsenal Ladies.
10th April 2014 – Gillingham 3 Charlton 0 Kent Cup Final
Gills retained the Kent Cup for a third year on the bounce as the competition final was played at Maidstone’s 3G Gallagher Stadium for the first time. Two goals from Lisa Fulgence and a header from Lauren Phillips saw off Charlton ahead of the FA Cup clash with Arsenal.
13th April 2014 – Arsenal 2 Gillingham 0
Just three days on from lifting the Kent Cup, Gills made the trek to North London to play one of England’s most successful Ladies sides Arsenal in the FA Cup, in possibly the biggest tie in the clubs history.
A strong first half performance from Gills kept the score goalless at half time, but two goals from Kelly Smith in the second half saw the WSL side progress as they eventually went on to lift the trophy in the final held at Milton Keynes.
11th May 2014 – Brighton and Hove Albion 1 Gillingham 2
With the season into the tail end of fixtures, Gillingham travelled to Brighton for the last away game of the season. Despite an early goal in the first minute giving Brighton the lead, a resilient Gills turned the score around when Fliss Gibbons levelled just after half time. Gills went on to win it late on when Lisa Fulgence netted the winner to keep Gills top of the table.
However, a week later in Gills final game of the season. Coventry made the trip to Chatham and took a 3-0 victory over Gills. With a game in hand still to play, it left the league title in the hands of the West Midlands side, which they duly won and wrapped up the Southern Premiership. Gills finished the season Second in the table, two points behind Coventry.
It can only be described as Gills Ladies most successful season. A highest ever finish in the league pyramid, two cup final victories in the Kent Cup and Ryman League, a record run in the FA Cup peaking with a trip away to Arsenal. With various club records, such as most clean sheets in a season, broken along the way.
It was to be a big summer of change for the club, on and off the field. We will examine these in Part 2 of ‘Photos of 2014’ to follow shortly….