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No rain on Gills' parade as they fight back to retain the Kent FA Cup 10 Apr, 2013

A dominant cup run and a well deserved win means the Gills Ladies have secured silverware for a consecutive year. Gillingham Ladies came back from a goal down to defeat rivals Charlton Athletic 2-1 to retain the FA Kent Cup and be crownedKent’s best for another season. Coming just four days after the men sealed promotion to League One, the Gills really are the pride of Medway,

A closely fought contest, there was little to separate the teams over the whole 90 minutes. Charlton enjoyed more possession in the early stages but both teams looked to get the ball down and press play in very difficult conditions.

Charlton nearly got an opening early in the game after a ball was placed over the top for striker Jenny Newman to chase. Gills centre-back Rachel Ahern reacted quickly chasing her opponent down before making a very well timed tackle to avert the danger.

Former Gill Katie Hardaker worked tirelessly to link up play for the Addicks and had their first shot on target after manoeuvring some space around the Gills penalty area. Her shot on goal was dealt with admirably byGillinghamkeeper Charlotte Stephens.

Within seconds Gills Ladies had an opportunity to test Charlton. Amy Taylor made a strong run on goal before unleashing a shot off balance. Her strike rippled the side net but gave the first glimpse ofGillingham’s sharp pace on the attack.

If it hadn’t been for some good Charlton defending,Taylorcould have been on target again for Gills having defeated the offside trap to chase a skillful ball into the box, delivered by Jay Blackie. Charlton’s centre back pairing adjusted well and snuffled the danger.

Danielle Carlton’s set piece delivery caused Charlton headaches throughout the match. Another sterling delivery reached the path ofTaylorbut the Gills striker headed over the crossbar.

Charlton interspersedGillingham’s passing play with some good runs and movement of their own. The centre-back pairing of Ahern and Vicky Ashton-Jones, who have solidified a phenomenal partnership since the start of the year, supported by full backs Emma Wood and Lauren Williams ensured that Charlton’s danger, although significant, never materialised into clear cut chances.

The contest in midfield between the two teams was a spectacle for fans to observe. Supremely competitive and hard fought,Gillinghammanaged play particularly  well in this area. Emma Tune put in a very hard shift chasing down the opposition and stealing possession at potent times, leading to bothGillinghamgoals.

Tune pinched the ball from Charlton before threading through a great pass into the path of Captain Natalie Crinean. Her right footed shot went wide of the far post.

As conditions worsened, Charlton took the lead after 30 minutes from wonder goal by Harley Bennett. The central midfielder picked up a loose ball from 30 yards before striking a sweet half volley into the roof of the net, drifting over the outstretched fingers of Stephens.

Charlton’s Kylie Manketelow was causing problems for Gills down the right hand side and picked out Hardaker with a pinpoint cross. Stephens positioned herself well to collect the effort comfortably.

Heads not dropping, Gillingham Ladies fought back, pressing for an equaliser and were . rewarded on the stroke of half time.

Crinean used her strength to hold up the ball and draw a rash tackle yards outside of the Charlton penalty area, providing Gills with a free kick in a very dangerous location.

Danielle Carlton whipped a fierce delivery into the box that escaped all Charlton players before findingTaylor.Taylorshunned the physical challenge of her marker to poke the ball past Addicks keeper Kelly Cooper. Game on!

HT: 1-1

The battle to be crowned Kent’s best women’s team continued where it left off as both teams fought hard in difficult conditions and the crowd, nearly 400 strong,  continued to enjoy a competitive display of women’s football by two well drilled, skilful teams.

Bennett executed a tricky ball into theGillinghambox, Newman attempted a clever flick but the Gills reacted quickly and cleared their lines efficiently.

In the end, it took a sublime strike from former Addick Jade Keogh to decide the tie. The left-sided winger picked up the ball after a slick pass from Tune, to unleash a wonderful effort. Her shot sailed into the top right hand corner leaving the Charlton keeper helpless and Gills fans celebrating.

With 30 minutes still left, there was plenty to play for. Charlton could have come back the with two outstanding opportunities moments after the Gills took the lead.

Stephens made a super save from a long range effort. A powerful shot from 30 yards out, the keeper saw it all the way and nudged it over for a corner. In the follow up corner Charlton were yards away from tucking the ball around Stephens, but instead a scuffed effort drifted off target.

A sharp exchange of passes between Hardaker and Manketon could have unnerved Gillingham but the assured, confident positioning and team work of the Gills back four unit ensured the Addicks struggled for clear cut chances.

Carlton’s deliveries continued to unsettle Charlton. A fantastic header under pressure from Attennwa Yennaris protected Charlton from falling further behind.

Charlton threw everything at the Gills, adjusting their formation to a 4-4-3 in an attempt to take the Kent Cup home. Wood made a vital challenge after substitute Gemma Shepherd looked to have thread a ball on goal for a teammate to dispatch.

Manager James Marrs made a number of tactical substitutions to seal the game. Making an early return from injury, Deanna Cooper gave Gillingham a massive boost with her energy and pace, helping Gillingham win free kicks and corners, ticking the time down.

The match entered its final minutes with Gillingham demonstrating great maturity and skill to maintain concentration and ensure they can call themselvesKent’s best for another season..


FT: 2-1

Gillingham: Charlotte Stephens, Lauren Williams, Emma Wood, Jay Blackie, Rachel Ahern, Vicky Ashton-Jones, Natalie Crinean(c) (Deanna Cooper), Emma Tune, Amy Taylor (Nicole Pepper), Danielle Carlton, Jade Keogh

Unused Subs: Danielle Farmer, Kallie Balfour, Ruth Jackson

Charlton: Kelly Cooper, Louise Duffy, Stef Simmons, Alice Singyard, Attena Yennaris (c), Harley Bennet, Katie Hardaker (Gemma Shepherd), Liz Ejupi, Kylie Manktelow, Annabel Prior (Megan Chandler), Jenny Neman

Unused Subs: Courtney Shanly, Emily Symonds, Gemma Hyland

Player of the match: Jade Keogh



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