The magic of the FA Cup failed to cast a spell for Gillingham Ladies fans after they witnessed their side crash out of the tournament courtesy of a 5-0 defeat at the hands of Portsmouth Ladies.
The Gills welcomed their league rivals to Chatham Town on Sunday afternoon as they looked to kick start 2015 with a bang after the Christmas break.
There were no signs of any festive fatigue for the Gills who started the game brightly and with great intensity. The opening 15 minutes presented a good showcase for both the league and competition, as the two teams played at a high tempo, pressing and asking questions of each other’s defensive qualities early on.
Gillingham almost crafted an opportunity as youngster Sophie Brown looked to expose the Pompey goalkeeper after pressing from her team-mates provoked a loose pass from the visitors defence.
Portsmouth got the first shot on target as Charley Wilson escaped the attentions of Gills midfielder Charlotte Long to unleash a tame effort which was easily gathered by Courtney Shanley in goal.
Pompey issued a deflating blow when Ini Umatong shinned the ball past Shanley to put the visitors one up.
Gillingham looked for an instant response and could have created more when Emma Tune was upended 25 yards out from goal. Emma Michelmore took the resulting set piece, chipping the ball over the bodies of players and into the path of Brown who timed her run perfectly. Disappointingly for Gills, Brown’s first touch was heavy and she was unable to capitalise on the space she had created.
Long was next the make a galloping run to attack the Portmouth goal, beating several players she fed the ball out wide to Brown, but the next pass was lacking for Gills.
Portsmouth were beginning to enjoy the greater passing game of the two sides but their play was broken up by a brave and battling display from Gills. Bonnie Long and Ellie Manning threw themselves into full-bodied tackles and alongside Michelmore and captain Lauren Williams did well to protect Shanley over the first 45 minutes.
The visitors had a second goal correctly disallowed after a foul on Gillingham youngster Long, who was making her debut appearance in the FA Cup. Portsmouth had another golden opportunity later as a tricky ball was cooly squared across the six yard box. Luckily for the hosts, the onrushing Portsmouth attack were unable to make a touch to put the ball into the back of the net.
Wilson doubled Portsmouth’s lead before the break, swooping into the Gills penalty area to clinically dispatch the ball past the outstretched Shanley.
Gills could have grabbed a goal back as they enjoyed their best opportunity of the half. Manning, who’d been working tirelessly down the left flank, produced a great in-swinging ball into the box. Ashlee Hincks, well positioned showed quick feet to maneuver the ball around her markers to get a shot on goal from yards out. Portsmouth’s Sadie Blakely was on hand to deny Gills with a great reaction save, streching her right foot out to deflect the ball for a corner.
Half time: Gillingham Ladies 0 – Portsmouth Ladies 2
Gillingham Ladies came out determined to get back into their FA Cup fixture and almost did so within the first minute of the second half as Lauren Phillips picked up possession before charging towards goal and forcing a save from Blakely.
Portsmouth responded as Wilson skilfully escaped the Gills defence to threaten Shanley’s goal. The Gills keeper reacted well, coming off her line to smother the ball and Wilson’s chance of getting an attempt away on goal.
Gillingham’s positive start was undone by a dismal mis-communication between Shanley and her defence which saw Umatong easily pass the ball into the net, effectively putting the tie beyond the Gills.
Manning produced a fantastic defensive header to prevent Portsmouth from extending their lead. The visitors, full of confidence were enjoying their strongest period of the game, piling on the pressure. Gills marshaled by Williams, withheld the pressure resolutely.
Long also performed heroics, clearing a shot from close range off the line. Despite seemingly overcoming a difficult period in the game, Umatong completed her hat-trick despite suspicions of offside.
Gillingham produced their own chance when Tune expertly hooked the ball from midfield towards Hincks who had made a clever run between the two Portsmouth centre backs. Having got the better of her opposition counterparts, Hincks was denied by the onrushing Blakely whose powerful kick cleared the danger.
Gills boss Simon Ratcliffe made three changes, introducing Sokhara Goodhall, Rachel Ahern and Natalie Crinean in place of the injured Louise Lorton and Gills youngsters Sophie Brown and Emma Michelmore.
The changes helped Gills who were given a real physical and enduring test over the 90 minutes. Williams illustrated the grit and determination required to halt Portsmouth as she went shoulder to shoulder with Sarah Kempson, winning the battle and possession back for her side.
A shirt pull was the only way to stop Crinean who was in on goal for Gills, the referee did not seem to spot the offence however and Portsmouth’s effective organisation prevented Blakely from being asked too stern a questions in the second period.
Portsmouth won a succession of corners and grabbed their fifth when Nicolle Keen headed the ball perfectly for Kempson to send a shot in from distance which creeped agonizingly under Shanley.
Portsmouth enjoyed some brilliant build up play around the Gills Ladies area and their five star performance merited a place in the next round of the competition.
Gillingham Ladies: Courtney Shanley, Lauren Williams (c), Bonnie Long, Emma Michelmore (Sokhara Goodhall), Ellie Manning, Emma Tune, Charlotte Long, Ashlee Hincks, Sophie Brown (Rachel Ahern), Louise Lorton (Natalie Crinean), Lauren Phillips
Portsmouth Ladies: Sadie Blakely, Jess Frampton, Nadine Bazan, Shannon Sievwright, Leeta Rutherford, Eildh Currie, Sarah Kempson, Molly Clark, Ini Umatong, Charley Wilson, Lucy Quinn
Subs: Gemma Hillier, Ellie Bloomfield, Nicolle Keen
Gillingham Ladies are back in action at Chatham Town next Sunday as they welcome Herne Bay Ladies FC in the Kent Women’s Cup semi final. Kick off 2pm. Adults £3, U16s FREE.