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Gillingham have just finished the most successful season in the club's history after achieving promotion to the Southern Division of the Premier League.
They finished ten points clear of Enfield at the top of the South East Combination and beat Millwall Lionesses in the Kent Cup Final. It is a remarkable achievement given that they were battling relegation the season before.
Over the summer manager Ian Varley and Director of Football Martin Andrews worked tirelessly to attract new players of a higher standard to add to the talented group of players that they already had. It showed from the off as the togetherness and team spirit of the side has been amazing, indeed they hit the ground running in August with victories over Cambridge, Spurs, Welwyn, and Dagenham. Their first League defeat came at home to Lewes in September before an amazing run saw them go unbeaten until mid-November.
November saw the Gills take a break from the League as they embarked on an FA Women's Cup run which saw them make the Third Round for the first time in the club's history. Victory over Oxford City and Enfield Town set up a mouthwatering third round against Barnet, and although they lost 4-1, the scoreline was not a fair reflection on the Gills on the day.
Postponements and Cup duties meant that the Gills hardly played a league match in the next few months but a vital 1-0 win over Enfield in March kept them on course. Although they were beaten 2-0 by Tottenham Hotspur the week before, they picked up the point they needed to seal the title when drawing 2-2 with Norwich City. They were unable to land a third trophy when losing to Norwich in the League Cup Final but this could not detract from the Gills' best ever season.
Ashlee Hincks played a starring role with a tally of 41 goals, supported by strike partner Natalie Crinean who netted 25 times. Deanna Cooper is a key member in midfield and has represented England at both football and cricket and captain Becky Lyon, who fittingly scored the winner in the Kent County Cup Final, has been at the club since 1998 and is Gillingham through and through and her performances on the pitch represent her commitment to the club
"It's a great feeling and something everyone at the club fully deserves," says manager Ian Varley. "That was our aim at the start of the season and I am very proud to be a part of what we've achieved. The players deserve all the credit as it is the players who performed week in week out and to finish ten points clear was a fair reflection of our dominance over the season.
"It's quite an achievement because this club has only won about six games at this level over the past few seasons and now were in the Premier League. I always felt at the start of the season if we could add a few players and a few match winners to the squad we could win it and thankfully the girls have shared my belief and we've gone on and become the most successful team in the club's history.
"I am not the kind of person to just settle in that League and I truly believe if we can add a few players and stay clear of injuries then we can win it. Barnet were far and away the most outstanding team in that League but with the other teams there is nothing to fear. If we can get a good start to the season we'll win it."
"It means a lot to me to be playing in the Premiership next year," added Becky Lyon ."I have been with the Gills since 1998 and I never thought that I would get to play at this level - this is a dream come true for me.
"I have really enjoyed this season and to win the League by ten points is just immense and something I could only dream of just two seasons ago. The girls have worked really hard this season and deserve this. This is not just for the team now and what it is but for the club as a whole those who play now and those who have played for the club before."
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