Two goals from half time substitute Kallie Balfour was enough for Gills to progress past Milton Keynes Dons LFC and secure a place in the 3rd Round of the FA Women’s Premier League Cup.
Manager Jack Wheeler made notable changes to his starting line up from last weeks top of the table clash with League leaders AFC Wimbledon, Katie Startup was given the nod between the sticks for her first appearance since the opening round of the competition against Southampton. Vicky Ashton-Jones, Ellie Manning, Katie Hardaker and Harriett Chapman where also amongst the changes to the starting XI made by Wheeler.
Gillingham started the game with quick tempo, Fliss Gibbons causing panic amongst the Milton Keynes Dons defence with a turn off pace, drawing a free kick in a central position. April Bowers stepped up to take the kick and her effort from 25 yards was over the crossbar.
Gibbons was again the key to Gillingham’s next attack, a clever pass and move between the forward, Katie Hardaker and Grace Seely on the wing, saw a cross floated into the edge of the 6 yard box for Gibbons to guide a header on target. But the Milton Keynes Dons keeper Emma Kirby was in the right position to comfortably deal with the direct header that Gibbons managed.
Milton Keynes Dons Ladies would see the better chances in what remained of the first half. It was a free kick to Milton Keynes in the middle of the Gills half that was lofted into the box, Hannah Barrett broke free of her marker to head an effort on goal. Startup pulling out a brilliant save but only managing to push it back towards the crowd of players on the edge of the six yard box. With the loose ball falling to Milton Keynes’ Rebecca Vass and open target, it looked certain to put the visitors into the lead, but Gills were fortunate that Vass’ follow up header crashed back off the underside of the bar and Ellie Manning cleared the danger.
Vass was again going to test the Gillingham defence, a through ball from Leah Cudone found Vass with space to run into, Vicky Ashton-Jones did well to force the forward into an early shot from distance and Gills keeper Startup was able to scoop the shot out the air with relative ease. Cudone would try her own luck the next Milton Keynes attack, skipping past two Gills defenders to try a shot from distance. The effort was wide of the left hand post. Milton Keynes continued the pressure into the break but Gills held resilient to keep the score goal less at the break.
HALF TIME: Gillingham Ladies 0 Milton Keynes Dons Ladies 0
Gills quickly found a footing in the game courtesy of half time substitute Kallie Balfour, within six minutes of the restart the forward had found the net. Gibbons continued her tireless work to feed a through ball for Balfour to collect on the edge of the box, Balfour hit the effort first time left footed across the keeper and into the far bottom corner. 1-0
Nine minutes later, Balfour netted her second of the game. Bowers and Balfour exchanged passes in the middle before Balfour found herself on the edge of the box with a good sight of goal. Under pressure from the MK Dons defenders Balfour took a tame shot before the space closed, unluckily for the keeper it took a fumble through Kirby’s grasp and rolled into the back of the net. 2-0
As the clock ticked on, both sides had chances to convert but saw the scoreline remain as it was. Milton Keynes with a corner ball Charley Clark rose highest to glance an effort goal wards, but once again for the visitors the crossbar was to be Gills saviour as it bounced off and over the woodwork.
Gillingham were denied a third by a save by Kirby. Gibbons’ with a silky turn skipped through the middle of three Milton Keynes defender to complete a one-two past with Balfour. Set up on the penalty spot for the effort, Gibbons’ space was closed down by Kirby and the shot came off the MK keeper’s leg.
FULL TIME: Gillingham Ladies 2 Milton Keynes Dons Ladies 0
The result secured Gillingham Ladies a place in Round 3 of the FA Women’s Premier League Cup, which on Monday afternoon saw them drawn away to Tottenham Hotspur Ladies, the fixture is set to take place on November 6th.
Gillingham Ladies: Katie Startup, Rachel Ahern (Bethany Nugent 71′), Charlie Thurston, Vicky Ashton-Jones, Ellie Manning, Grace Seely, Katie Hardaker (Kallie Balfour 45′), Jade Keogh, April Bowers, Fliss Gibbons, Harriett Chapman
Subs: Courtney Shanly, Bethany Nugent, Kallie Balfour
Milton Keynes Dons Ladies: Emma Kirby, Kara Howells, Sammy Gillings, Charley Clark, Leanna Doyle, Vicky Holland, Heather McDonnell, Charley Wright, Hannah Barrett, Rebecca Vass, Leah Cudone
Subs: Anna Loftus, Louise Naylor
Referee: Matthew Grist
Assistants: Chris Spalding, Josh Smith