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Gillingham Res pulled off the most remarkable comeback on Sunday to win the South East Counties Division One East title.
With twenty minutes to go in their match with a numerically disadvantaged Deal Town side, the Gills were 2-0 down and looking dead and buried.
What happened in that final twenty minutes or so can barely be put into words, but those that were there will never forget the incredible comeback that happened.
The game itself started under a cloud with the rain pouring down and Deal only able to field ten players, along with just the one linesman to make it that bit more interesting. The Gills' numerical advantage meant they had the lion share of possession and ultimately the best of the chances as the game got underway.
Kylie Overton had a few half chances as the Gills went in search of the vital three points they needed to win the league and midfielder Amy Russ tried her luck from distance on a couple of occasions as the home side were restricted to taking pot shots from long range.
If things hadn't been bad enough for Deal starting the game with ten players, it got worse on twenty
minutes when goalkeeper Breeze Handley couldn't continue and striker Jenna Kirkham had to replace her between the posts, leaving just eight outfield players.
Despite being two players short now, Deal gave a good account of themselves and restricted a frustrated Gills side to half chances. All too often the Gills were limited to having shots from outside the box or when they did get into the box they couldn't find the target.
Just after the half hour mark it looked as though Deal may lose yet another keeper when Kirkham was caught in the face by Kylie Overton as she slid in trying to get on the end of a Terri Reynolds through ball.
As the half drew to a close it was becoming increasingly difficult to get the ball from A to B as puddles started forming on the pitch. In first half stoppage time Gillingham thought they had finally taken the lead through Overton, but the referee gave it offside - a decision that infuriated the Gills considering the ref was about fifteen yards behind play.
The half time interval saw Gills Director of Football Martin Andrews out on the pitch with his broom and at one stage a piece of board to try and remove as many puddles off the pitch as possible. His efforts weren't in vain as he also managed to persuade the referee to keep the game on when many in the stands thought it was only a matter of time before the game was abandoned.
Both sides came back out into the pouring rain wishing they had probably stayed in the changing rooms and Deal somehow has found an extra player and were back up to ten for the second half.
Yet again it was Gillingham that dominated the early exchanges of the second half, but to the surprise of everyone in attendance the visitors took the lead on 56 minutes when Natalie Farbrace dinked the ball over the head of Gills keeper Jess Nunn.
Ten minutes later and it got even worse for the Gills as they went 2-0 down. Laura Kendall charged down Sammy Lester's attempted clearance and instead of picking the ball up, Nunn tried to kick the ball clear but was dispossessed by Kendall who gratefully ran the ball around her and into an empty net.
At that point it looked as though The Gills had blown their chance to win the league and all seemed lost. The girls' heads started to drop and their mood seemed as bad as the weather. What happened in the next twenty minutes or so though can only be described as sublime.
On 72 minutes, the Gills' luck finally changed and for once an attempt on goal finally bore fruit. It seemed that their luck wasn't in though at first when Kim Bolden's ball through to Lauren
Harris was in turn played through to Megan Cavell and her first time shot came back of the post.
When the ball was cleared by the Deal defence it came out to Bolden 25 yards out and without thinking she just hit it and it looped into the back of the net for 2-1. Cue scenes of pure delight.
With belief now in them, Gillingham went hunting for an equaliser and manager Sean Edwards' subs began to make a difference with renewed energy on a sapping pitch. Chloe Jamieson had a couple of half chances as the Gills pressed high up the pitch and Amy Russ tried her luck from distance yet again, but again without success.
Russ wasn't to be denied though and on 77 minutes she decided to let rip with a fierce shot that hit the back of the net before the stand-in Deal keeper had got chance to get down to cover it.
Edwards elected to throw the dice one last time on 82 minutes bringing on Chloe Phillips for a rare substitute appearance in place of Kerrie Scott. As the clock wore down and the fans nails got shorter and shorter the Gills forced a succession of corners that Leanne Stevens threw into the box hoping someone would get on the end of.
Time after time the Deal defence stood tall clearing their lines that was until the 95th minute of the game. With the fans urging Gillingham on, Stevens put the ball into the box for one last time. Again Deal managed to half clear, but this time it fell to the feet of Megan Cavell who fired goalwards and before anyone else could react, it came off Chloe Phillips and nestled into the back of the net for 3-2.
There was barely enough time for Deal to restart the game before the ref blew up for full time, which shows how close the Gills came to drawing a game they richly deserved to win.
Gillingham Res: Nunn, Bolden (c), Scott (Phillips 82), Stevens, Foster, Lester, Goodall (Cavell 63), Russ, Overton, Reynolds (Harris 58), Jamieson.
Deal Town: Handley, Richards, Hollett, Pettman, Bradburn, Pawley, Kendall, Farbrace, Forrest-Holden, Kirkham.
(Report by Steve Wolfe)
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