Gillingham Ladies were dealt a devastating blow in their crunch clash with QPR Ladies as an injury-time goal from Gemma Rudman consigned them to a 1-0 home defeat.
Rangers centre half Rudman shot low through a crowd of bodies to nick all three points after a tight and edgy affair at Chatham Town.
Both teams started by attempting long balls from the back on a dry and bobbly pitch, and both played harmless crosses into the box as the game began quietly.
Gills’ forays forward were mostly coming through runs from striker Charlotte Thurston, while fellow striker Ashlee Hincks was given offside when put through by Charlotte Long. Thurston then passed to winger Louise Lorton who would have been in a decent goal scoring position if not for a poor touch.
QPR were starting to grow into the game. Striker Nat Adams, a livewire all afternoon, was through on goal but was given offside, and midfielder Laura Cooper tested Gills keeper Courtney Shanley with a drive that bounced up into her arms.
R’s Ellie Maggs then accused Gills’ Ellie Manning of simulation which the referee didn’t agree with, while the referee confused the home crowd by deciding to play a drop ball when Emma Tune was felled in the box.
Rangers’ Sophie Fogarty was showing some neat pieces of close control on the wing, and her right-wing corner almost led to the opening goal. Her first was cleared away after it caused panic for keeper Courtney Shanley, while her second was nodded onto the woodwork by Gemma Rudman.
The away side then had the ball in the net but Fogarty’s effort was ruled out for a push, and Nat Adams was close to latching onto a ball from striker Lauren May but Shanley just got there ahead.
Gillingham were finding it hard to get behind the line of QPR defenders, but when striker Sophie Brown did she crossed straight into the hands of keeper Sophie Cheadle.
R’s defender Jeta Bytyqi was booked for kicking the ball away, while Gills’ midfielder Charlotte Long had a shot at the keeper after defender Lauren Gage failed to clear.
Gillingham started the second half better as striker Ashlee Hincks had two crosses blocked and Charlotte Thurston blazed over after a corner from Louise Lorton.
QPR then had a great chance to score when Nat Adams played in Lauren May and she rounded keeper Courtney Shanley but blazed over the bar from a narrow angle. Down the other end, substitute keeper Trippoli Witney’s kick cannoned off Ashlee Hincks and behind.
Sophie Fogarty then went close as her sliding effort went inches past the post, while Gills’ Louise Lorton went close to a spectacular goal after firing just over on the turn from a Charlotte Long pass.
Charlotte Thurston then blasted over a loose ball and Louise Lorton headed wide and clashed with the keeper as Gillingham improved massively. Lauren Williams had a half volley saved and Ashlee Hincks fired wide and then over as the game was drawing to an end.
Fogarty sent a free kick from just outside the box into the arms of Courtney Shanley, and sub Fern Colepio had a shot brilliantly saved by Shanley as QPR looked for a late winner.
That winner came soon after as a corner from the left was not cleared by the Gills and Gemma Rudman hit a low shot across the box which rolled into the corner with virtually the last kick of the game.
Gillingham XI: Courtney Shanley, Lauren Williams (c), Ellie Manning, Emma Tune, Emma Michaelmore, Bonnie Long, Charlotte Long, Sophie Brown, Ashlee Hincks, Charlotte Thurston.
Subs: Ashleigh Loosemore
QPR XI: Sophie Cheadle, Jeta Bytyqi, Kasha Petit, Laura Cooper, Laura Gage, Gemma Rudman, Ellie Maggs (c), Carrie-Anne Layton, Nat Adams, Lauren May, Sophie Fogarty.
Subs: Trippoli Witney, Fern Colepio, Vanessa Nicholson