Congratulations to Gillingham’s Girls U17s COE Squad who have knocked out reigning champions Liverpool to reach the semi finals of the FA Youth Cup
Saturday saw our Girls Centre of Excellence U17s make history by reaching the semi-finals of ‘The FA Girls’ U17s Centres of Excellence Youth Cup’ by knocking out current holders Liverpool at the quarter-final stage.
It was an extremely wet and windy day which made for challenging conditions for both teams but with the game being played on a 3G pitch, the surface at least was of a good standard. Coming into the game Liverpool had had a fairly successful season, sitting second in their league and aiming to retain their Youth Cup title after beating Everton in last year’s final.
Their players looked in confident mood as they walked from their team bus in full Liverpool attire, to their changing room.
The game started at a high tempo with both sets of players trying to get a foothold in the game and to get forward where possible. There was a mixture of good quality play and some high pressure defending from both sides and the first real chance fell to Gillingham as Lydia Wills was set free behind the Liverpool back four.
With the ball bouncing away from her she managed to keep a volley on target and forced the Liverpool goalkeeper into a fine save to deny her the opener. The game continued to swing from end to end with the Gills girls carving out another couple of decent chances from some good counter attacking and midfield play.
Unfortunately the ball didn’t find its way past the resolute Liverpool goalkeeper. Mia Hyland, Tamsin de Bunsen and Evie Kenna dominated the midfield battle and saw some good possession, starting most of the Gills attacks from central areas.
Liverpool carried a threat, particularly down their right hand side and Gillingham had to be extremely cautious in their defensive third. Notable tackles from Tamsin and Millie Waud kept the visitors out and a couple of decent saves from Katie Startup in the Gills’ goal made sure that the game remained 0-0 at half-time.
With the weather not letting up, the second half started in the same vein as both teams tried to gain the upper hand. Liverpool had the wind at their backs and managed to apply considerable pressure to the Gillingham girls who stayed strong and worked together well.
Jade Tinsley, Hannah Bartholomew and Millie stuck to their task in a back 3 and didn’t give the strikers a chance to get hold of the ball. Seren Bentley and Fiona Constable were both excellent in nullifying any real threat out wide and when Seren came off injured Martha Kent deputised superbly.
Madison North, Megan Maslak and Evie were seeing more and more of the ball and after a good interception in midfield, Lydia Wills was set free with another piercing ball down the Liverpool left. Lydia outpaced one defender and as the goalkeeper and a second defender came for the ball she managed to edge past them both.
From a relatively tight angle on the left hand side of the penalty area Lydia coolie rolled the ball into the empty goal with her left foot to send the Gills 1-0 up! Notably, while the outfield players were celebrating with each other, goalkeeper Katie stayed put in her area and prepared to issue instructions to the girls before the restart.
As the game progressed Liverpool spent more time in the Gillingham half, spurred on by the gale force wind behind them and at times the Gills found it hard to get out of their half. On the occasions that they did they still carried a threat and had a couple of very near misses through Madison and Lydia but it was a combination of the Liverpool keeper and the crossbar which stopped the game becoming 2-0.
The game became extremely tense for everyone watching and the rest of the Gillingham squad, Jess King, Jaimee-Ann Heyes, Laurel Collins, Emma Wilkinson and Michaela Hill kicked every ball with the girls on the pitch and played their part in the team.
Towards the latter end of the game Liverpool were going all out to get the equaliser and missed two guilt-edged chances with a header from a corner and a shot from the edge of the box and you wouldn’t have blamed them for thinking it just wasn’t their day. And that is how it proved as the Gills girls held out to record a memorable victory over such a big club.
The Gillingham girls had worked so hard for the win and didn’t slow down until the final whistle. They were unsurprisingly elated but it was the other side of the pitch were the friends, families and supporters stood that the loudest cheers came from!
So onto the semi-finals for the girls and a game against Aston Villa with the prize being a spot in this year’s FA Girls Youth Cup.
A huge thank you to Liverpool whose players and staff were a pleasure to play against and we wish them the best of luck for the rest of the season and the future.
After the game Pete said: “I couldn’t be more proud of such an amazing group of players. We’ve had some difficult times this season but they have all worked so hard recently and today they’ve got a huge reward for their efforts. We had worked on a game plan and all I can do as a coach is trust that they will stick to it and they did.”
“Aston Villa in the semi-final will be another unknown quantity to us as we’ve never faced each other but that’s fine with me. We’ll make sure that we stay positive and maintain the self-belief which has seen us get to where we are today. One thing for sure is that the girls are looking forward to it and you just never know where it could take us.”