A mixture of first team and reserve team players travelled to Ware FC on Thursday evening to face FA WPL rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the semi final of the Ryman League Cup.
As current Cup holders, the Gills were set a firm task to overcome as a strong Spurs side started the game with great intensity, looking to test Reserve Team goalkeeper Imogen Alabaster from the off.
Number 10 Martin pulled the strings for the home side and looked to test Alabaster as a ball hooked over the top of the defence was headed towards the far corner. Alabaster, positioned well, was able to watch the ball the whole way and gather easily.
Spurs were pressing Gills high up the pitch, adding pressure onto the Gills back four which consisted of a combination of youth and experience with Ellie Manning and Sokhara Goodhall providing leadership to support youngsters Bonnie Long and Georgia Reece.
A poor clearance exposed Alabaster but luckily for Gills their keeper made a brave block before Long cleared the follow up attempt at goal off the line.
Goodhall and Manning combined well minutes later as the hosts drilled a long ball over the top. Faced with a 2v2 scenario, the pair communicated well and dealt with the threat comfortably.
Gillingham began to grow into the game, managing the physicality of a well drilled Tottenham Hotspur team who were hungry to get the game’s first goal.
Poor clearances and passes gave Tottenham the opportunity to enjoy a long period of attacking pressure. Gillingham were well organised to minimalise the threat of the home team but as the half went on, it was the hosts who looked most likely to take the lead.
Playing in front of skipper Manning, Charlie Thurston hassled hard down the right as Gills looked to create opportunities of their own. Gillingham Ladies’ latest recruit was sharp to pick up possession and play in Chloe Cavengh who had made a clever run between two Spurs defenders. The Gills striker’s touch was too heavy however and Spurs cleared for a throw in.
Georgia Pilbeam worked tirelessly up front for the visitors and enjoyed a good interchange with Emma Tune who released the Gills striker in on goal with a pinpoint pass. The Gills youngster looked set to provide the Spurs keeper with her first real test of the tie but the assistant referee’s flag intervened.
Gillingham had the offside flag to thank twice before the half was concluded. The Gills defence, disciplined in their positioning, were successfully able to frustrate their opponents.
Tottenham Hotspur secured a lead after a loose pass by Gills was ruthlessly picked up and dispatched. A clinical strike separated the two teams at the break.
Half time: Tottenham Hotspur 1 – Gillingham Ladies 0
Gills Ladies came out for the second half with a gritter approach to containing Spurs and as a result enjoyed longer, more sustained periods of possession.
The continued battle in midfield dictated the number of opportunities either side were able to create and Tune and Long broke up play and triggered Gills attacking rest-bite.
It took a while for either side to carve a clear chance in the second period and it was the hosts who came close with a floated delivery from the right almost being glanced into the net.
Pilbeam picked up the ball in midfield as Gills looked to catch Spurs on the counter attacker, holding the ball up well the Gills striker was able to win a free kick as the visitors searched for an equaliser.
Alabaster, who enjoyed a commanding game in goal, made a brave parry to a Spurs corner before brilliantly saving a powerful follow up shot from the edge of the area.
Substitute Lauren Phillips added physical presence upfront for Gills and won the ball off Spurs to present a great ball to Pilbeam whose quick change of feet meant she retained the ball despite the close attention of the Tottenham Centre backs. Pilbeam got a deflected shot away but the keeper was able to collect.
Spurs doubled their lead when an in swinging corner was headed home by O’Leary, sealing her brace for the evening.
Alabaster’s evening was prematurely ended after a collision with Martin and whilst Gills recovered and caused Spurs a nervy couple of minutes, the hosts confirmed their place in the final with a fluid counter attack.
The home side broke down the right hand side and a well taken shot was drilled into the bottom corner past Gills substitute keeper Sophie Ledger.
Tune looked to be in on goal to get Gills a consolation, sandwiched between two defenders, it looked like the Gills midfielder could have been fouled but the referee adjudged otherwise and Spurs were able to sweep clear.
The whistle blew for full time as Spurs grabbed their place in the final to face Charlton Athletic. A much improved second half performance for Gillingham Ladies who bow out of the Ryman League Cup at the semi final stage.
Gillingham Ladies: Imogen Alabaster (Sophie Ledger), Ellie Manning(c), Sokhara Goodhall, Bonnie Long, Georgia Reece, Charlie Thurston (Louise Lorton), Charlotte Long, Emma Tune, Sophie Brown, Chloe Cavengh (Lauren Phillips), Georgia Pilbeam