Gillingham Ladies recovered from an early setback to beat West Ham United Ladies 3-2 in an enthralling encounter at a blustery Chatham Town.
The Gills showed their intent to continue the winning feeling after their Kent Women’s Cup victory on Wednesday, and Louise Lorton flicked a header at keeper Nikki Duncan in a bright start.
But the breakthrough came out of nowhere for West Ham as a clearance from the Gillingham defence ricocheted into the path of striker Lily Mellors, who placed a shot into the bottom left corner via a touch from keeper Courtney Shanley.
West Ham’s Kerry Stimpson then couldn’t make the most of a free header from a corner, while the equaliser nearly arrived for the Gills when Duncan turned a shot from Louise Lorton around the post.
The home side were launching balls into the box from the right in search of the equaliser but it came in a completely different fashion. Striker Lauren Phillips controlled a pass forward and fed Ashlee Hincks, who fired a brilliant shot in off the bar from outside the box with the keeper stranded.
Hincks then sent a low left-footed shot wide of the post, while West Ham then nearly went ahead as striker Emma Sherwood curled a low free kick towards goal which Courtney Shanley spilled, and Kerry Stimpson flicked a shot wide from a corner.
Both teams were putting their all into the game, and both benches were unhappy with the referee as the half time whistle edged close.
West Ham nearly took a bizarre lead when a long ball forward from midfield bounced over Shanley and narrowly wide, while their goalscorer Lily Mellors required treatment after being crunched in a challenge with Charlotte Long.
Gillingham then took the lead after a corner from the right was headed and then smashed off the bar in quick succession by Ellie Manning, but Lauren Phillips was on hand to hook the ball into the corner.
HT Gillingham Ladies 2-1 West Ham United Ladies
The second half started with the Hammers on the front foot, as Lily Mellor’s right-wing cross was almost turned in for an own goal, while midfielder Kelley Blanchflower’s free kick nearly dropped into the corner of Courtney Shanley’s net.
Gillingham midfielder Charlotte Thurston was working hard for her team and constantly won the ball back; her cross-shot after robbing Danica Revell curled wide.
West Ham should have levelled when a cross from the right was headed onto Lily Mellors by Lauren Williams and she smashed her shot off the underside of the bar with only the keeper to beat.
Louise Lorton then had a shot easily saved as the Gills looked to add to their lead, but it could have disappeared had Shanley not made an excellent save to deny Emma Sherwood after she robbed Ellie Manning.
Their lead did then disappear, as defender Katie Bottom fed midfielder April Bowers, who smashed a shot past the keeper and into the top corner.
Gillingham then mustered an immediate response as they won a corner which was cleared, but Charlotte Thurston again won the ball back and passed to Ashlee Hincks whose brilliant right-wing cross was bundled in at the back post by Ellie Manning.
There was some handbags between Ashlee Hincks and Kerry Stimpson after a strong challenge, while Louise Lorton’s shot was deflected wide as the final whistle drew closer.
The expected relentless push for an equaliser from West Ham failed to materialise as the Gills won almost every challenge and kept calm in possession.
Passing between West Ham’s April Bowers and substitute Kayleigh Xidhas came to nothing as the final whistle signalled the end of an absorbing game.
The spirit and effort shown by the team will surely have encouraged everyone at Gillingham that they can edge away from the lower end of the table before the end of the season.
FT – Gillingham Ladies 3-2 West Ham United Ladies
Gillingham XI: Courtney Shanley, Lauren Williams (c), Ellie Manning, Emma Tune, Emma Michaelmore, Charlotte Thurston, Louise Lorton, Charlotte Long, Lauren Phillips, Ashlee Hincks, Sophie Brown
Subs: Emily Lyons, Bonnie Long
West Ham XI: Nikki Duncan, Vicki King, Danica Revell, Katie Bottom, April Bowers, Stacey Little (c), Kelley Blanchflower, Vicky Kingsman, Emma Sherwood, Lily Mellors, Kerry Stimpson
Subs: Jade Smith, Kayleigh Xidhas