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Gillingham were unfortunate to go out of the F.A.Women's Cup on Sunday to Barnet but the 4-1 scoreline does not reflect just how close the game was between the two sides.
The hosts set about taking the game to their higher ranking opponents from the off but they could not find an opening. Then against the run of play, Katie O'Leary put the visitors one up in what turned out to be a devastating 15 minutes from Barnet.
With half time approaching, the game was effectively sealed when Gemma Rudman stepped up and scored a penalty before a minute later O'Leary added her second of the game.
Once again in the second half the Gills took the game to their opponents who were pinned back in their own half for much of the game. Yet Barnet scored a fourth when Rudman again scored a penalty before an own goal from Reidy after an Ashlee Hincks free kick gave the Gills the goal that their play deserved.
Manager Ian Varley was forced into one change with Jodie Mugford coming in for the experienced Laura East who was missing for the game.
The Gills were up for the game from the off and the home sided looked to stamp their authority on the game.
Barnet were being pinned back in their own half and in just the fifth minute Ashlee Hincks swung in a corner which was cleared by the Bees defence. The loose ball found its way to Deanna Cooper; she steadied herself and had a shot low and along the floor which the keeper gathered comfortably.
Gills captain Becky Lyon missed a sliding tackle in the twelfth minute when Barnet striker Stacey Sowden evaded it and had the Bees first attempt on goal, which was easily saved by Katie Duffy in the Gills goal.
Four minutes later and a clearance by the Gills skipper picked out Ashlee Hincks in the middle of the park and she went on a mazy run. She eventually found the space to get a shot away, which the keeper made a mess of but managed to gather at the second attempt.
Against the run of play, Barnet took the lead on the half hour mark. Les Kay missed a long ball over the top and Katie O'Leary latched onto the ball and chipped the ball over Katie Duffy, going in off the far post.
Just five minutes later and Barnet were appealing for a penalty after Les Kay got in a block on a shot from Barnet captain Claire Thomas. The referee waved away the Bees appeals following a scramble in the box that saw Thomas have a shot that Kay did well to dive in with a despairing block, with her arms slightly raised and divert the ball away for a corner.
The Gills nearly got a well deserved equaliser in the 37th minute when Ashlee Hincks picked the ball up in the centre circle broke forward and hit a shot that cannoned back off the bar with the keeper well beaten.
Had the shot gone in the game and scoreline could have been very different but what ensued in the next five minutes was totally against the run of play.
As half time approached a long ball over the top saw the impressive Sowden bearing down on goal, the Gills captain went with her and just as the ball looked to be going nowhere the striker went down after minimal contact from Lyon and the ref pointed to the spot. Rudman stepped up from 12 yards and slotted home to make it 2-0 despite Katie Duffy getting a strong hand to the ball.
Just one minute later and the game was effectively dead and buried as Sowden made a run down the right wing and hit a dangerous cross into the Gills area, O' Leary rose highest and headed home from close range.
In the 52nd minute, Ashlee Hincks swung in a free kick that Becky Lyon was right underneath but the keeper came out and punched just as the centre half rose to head the ball goalwards. Hincks took the resulting corner and the ball eventually found Danni Farmer who saw her shot blocked and eventually cleared by the Bees back line.
Three minutes later and Hincks once again swung in another dangerous looking dead ball, which looked as if it was going straight in. Yet somehow the keeper managed to get her fists to the ball and punch it out for another corner despite looking as though it might have been from behind the goal line.
The game was put beyond any doubt in the 75th minute when Kelly Herrett slipped and took out the onrushing O'Leary leaving the referee to point to the spot for the second time in the game. Once again Rudman stepped up and once again Katie Duffy guessed right and got a hand to the spot kick but couldn't stop the ball finding the back of the net to make it 4-0.
The Gills maintain their record of scoring in every game so far this season when they pulled a goal back in the 78th minute. Once again it was Ashlee Hincks who swung in the free kick, it crashed back off the near post and with Natalie Crinean lurking, it went in off of Leanne Reidy for an unfortunate own goal.
Speaking after the final whistle, Gillingham manager Ian Varley said: "I thought everyone was outstanding! I thought the midfield the forwards and the defence and keeper all proved that they can do a job at this level.
"It is not often that the defence and the goalie get much to do but I thought they did it really well today. I am proud of them all and I am sure we will now go on from here and win the three trophies that we are still left in.
Gillingham: Duffy, Judd, Herrett, Lyon (c), Kay, Cooper (Broad 75mins), Mugford, Farmer, Ashton-Jones, Hincks, Crinean. Subs not used: Abbott, Russ, Ahern, Halfpenny.
Barnet: Rowlands, Lance (Davies 82mins), Smith, Holmes, Reidy, Rudman, Sandow (Hipgrave 82mins), Browne (Read 77mins), Sowden, Thomas, O'Leary.
(Report by Chris Dicketts)
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