Substitute Sharma Giordani scored a late winner as Gillingham Ladies Reserves were edged out 2-1 by Charlton Ladies Reserves in the Women’s Premier Reserve League at a freezing Chatham Town.
Gills striker Georgia Pilbeam had levelled an early Francesca Tye goal but Giordani struck for Charlton to take all three points back to South London.
Gills manager Jason Wright was looking for a similar performance that had seen his side win 2-1 away to Charlton in November. He gave a debut to new recruit Charlotte Thorston, who was handed the number seventeen after returning from a four year spell in the United States.
Gillingham started on the back foot on a bobbly pitch, and were pressed from the front by a hardworking Addicks side, who didn’t give the Gills an inch in the majority of the first half. Olivia Cole and Francesca Tye both had shots on goal before the pressure told just six minutes in. Cole played in Tye with a low left-footed pass and she fired a low drive towards the near post and into the net via a touch off Gills keeper Imogen Alabaster.
Charlton began to dominate possession, and Gills’ Georgia Pilbeam was becoming isolated as the lone striker. The home side could not deal with the pressure from the Addicks, who time and again forced the Gills into a mistake. Charlton’s Sophie Blower had a shot which dipped just wide of Alabaster’s right-hand post, while Emma Harrison slid a shot just wide of the same post moments later.
Charlton’s Clare Rodgers then forced Alabaster into a good save from a free kick, while a passing move involving Gills’ Kayleigh Galvin, Pilbeam and Ashleigh Loosemore fizzled out, while an attack again involving Pilbeam and Hollie Musmeci had the same result.
Addicks keeper Alex Baker grabbed the ball at the feet of Charlotte Long as the Gills began to get in the game more, and could have equalised if Kayleigh Galvin’s cross to Pilbeam wasn’t as heavy after she pounced on a loose ball.
Gillingham were nearly level as the half-time whistle approached as a free kick into the box caused an almighty scramble and a shot by Keira Daulby was tipped around the post by Baker.
The second half began with a great piece of defending by the Gills, as a pass from Charlton’s Hope Nash sent in Olivia Cole, but she was denied by a brilliant block from Hollie Musmeci.
Gillingham had been more competitive in the second half, and finally did level in the 57th minute through Georgia Pilbeam. Charlotte Long played a great pass out to Kiera Daulby on the left wing, and her cross was controlled by the unmarked Pilbeam and driven low into the net to the left of keeper Alex Baker.
Gills had upped their intensity but this resulted in a booking for Charlotte Long for a foul on Leigh Houlihan. Moments later, a passing exchange between Charlton’s Sophie Blower and Emma Harrison saw Blower fire over from the edge of the box. Clare Rodgers then saw a free kick bounce off Alabaster’s crossbar and behind.
A lengthy stoppage occurred when a challenge from Gills’ Georgia Reece on substitute Sharma Giordani meant she required the physio’s attention, while moments later Gillingham’s Emily Lyons played in Pilbeam and she forced a good save out of Alex Baker.
The game looked to be heading for deadlock, but in the 85th minute the winner finally came – but not for the Gills. Clare Rodgers cross was controlled by Giordani and she emphatically dispatched a half volley low into the bottom left corner to earn the win for Charlton.
Gillingham XI: Imogen Alabaster, Bonnie Long, Hollie Musemeci, Charlotte Thorston, Georgia Reece, Emily Lyons (c), Charlotte Long, Kayleigh Galvin, Ashleigh Loosemore, Keira Daulby, Georgia Pilbeam
Subs: Sophie Ledger, Annie Morrison, Lucie Heath, Nicole Gilham
Charlton XI: Alexandra Baker, Hope Nash, Jordan Butler, Leigh Houlihan, Olivia Cole, Clare Rodgers, Daisy Monaghan, Sophie Blower, Georgia Richards (c), Francesca Tye, Emma Harrison
Subs: Keegan Russell, Sharma Giordani, Victoria Campbell