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Brighton & Hove Albion 3 Gillingham 2
Brighton & Hove Albion took a vital three points in their bid to reach the knockout stages of the Premier League Cup with a 3-2 victory over Gillingham.
The downpour which caused the other game in the group to be postponed had not affected the surface at the Withdean Stadium and an exciting match was played out in bright sunshine. Brighton were ahead three times but were forced to hang on by a spirited Gills outfit which did everything but equalise in a frantic last ten minutes.
Brighton started well and created great chances in the opening ten minutes, Gills keeper Ruth Jackson denying Catherine O'Hagan with a fine diving save in the seventh minute and handling well from number of other long range efforts. O'Hagan was not to be denied, however, and when a corner was cleared to the edge of the area, she drove the ball low past the keeper for a 13th minute opener.
Lily Agg continued the Seagulls domination with two more long range efforts but gradually Gills started to find their feet with Jade Keogh impressing down the right. On the half hour, Rachel Ahern went close with a header from a corner, then Keogh sent a ball through the six yard area without any Gills player finding the vital touch. At the other end, Jackson was quick off her line to deny Kim Stenning after O'Hagan had released her on the break.
The visitors were level within two minutes of the restart when a long ball from the right found Keogh free at the far post and she scored after Lucy Mangan had saved her first effort.
Kirsty Barton restored Albion's lead within three minutes when she measured a superb 25-yard effort over Jackson from wide left. Gills went close when a Keogh cross drifted over everyone and narrowly wide of the far post. Brighton looked to extend their lead in an end-to-end encounter and Lauren Cheshire carried the ball 60 yards from her area before exchanging passes and firing wide.
The third Albion goal came in similar fashion, this time from a headed clearance of a Gills corner which O'Hagan then delivered perfectly into the path of Faye Rabson who beat the advancing Jackson on 70 minutes.
A Gills reshuffle saw the versatile Deanna Cooper moved into attack and it paid immediate dividends when she run across the area before guiding a low effort in off the far post to reduce the arrears on 72 minutes. Brighton were pegged back for most of the rest of the match and, although Stenning had one good effort just over, it was the visitors who pressed for an equaliser.
Brighton were forced into some last ditch defending as crosses and shots rained in. The final seconds of added time led to a lengthy scramble in the six yard box, with a penalty claim, a good save by Mangan and at least one goal line clearance before the final whistle confirmed Brighton's win and sealed Gillingham's fate in the competition.
Gills can take heart despite their League Cup elimination with a competitive showing which they will need to match in the upcoming League battles. Brighton look to have an exciting range of attacking ideas and they face an immediate test of their abilitiy with the league visit of leaders Reading next week before seeking progress in the League Cup in three weeks time.
Brighton & Hove Albion: Lucy Mangan, Lauren Cheshire, Sara Hinton, Kirsty Barton, Darcey James, Jodie Jacobs, Catherine O'Hagan, Lily Agg, Tammy Waine, Kim Stenning, Faye Rabson. Subs: Charlotte Carter, Chantelle Strudwick, Paige Adams, Lucy Somes, Briony Parks.
Gillingham: Ruth Jackson, Rachel Ahern, Danielle Carlton, Emma Tune, Deanna Cooper, Vicky Ashton-Jones, Jade Keogh, Nicole Pepper, Kallie Balfour, Charlotte Gurr, Bryony Smith. Subs: Charlotte Stephens, Jay Blackie, Lauren Phillips, Lauren Williams.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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