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Swindon Town 0 Gillingham 1 (after extra time)
Gillingham progressed to the Fourth Round of the FA Women's Cup for the first time after an extra time Danielle Carlton goal gave them victory over Swindon Town at Fairford.
A very tight contest seemed to be heading for a penalty shootout when Carlton struck to eliminate the South West Combination hosts who were competing at this stage of the compettion for only the second time.
Defences dominated a cagey opening period with only a couple of long range efforts from each side to show for the opening 40 minutes. Charlotte Stephens in the Gills goal was the first to make a difficult save when a wicked deflection from a Michelle Rich shot forced her react quickly to palm the ball away from danger via the post four minutes from the break.
Gillingham returned with attacking intent, chiefly through the pace of Kallie Balfour on the left wing and Robyn Levett did well to save Nicole Pepper's low drive after Balfour's cross had been helped on by Natalie Crinean. The home team went close twice from distance with shots by Ellie Maynard and Amy Baker. Catherine Reid had another effort on goal as Swindon sought the opener but the teams exchanged much clearer chances around the eighty minute mark.
Stephens made an excellent recovery after her clearance had left Swindon's Michelle Rich with a sight of goal on 78 minutes. The retreating keeper timed her dive to perfection to tip away to safety the goalbound effort. Crinean then burst clear of the Swindon defence but put her shot wide under pressure from the advancing keeper. Crinean nearly settled the tie with the last touch of normal time but her header from Pepper's corner flew wide.
Inevitably after both sets of players had played so little in the last two months, extra time was littered with stoppages for cramp and Balfour and substitute Jade Keogh were able to give Gills the width to stretch the Swindon rearguard it was the visitors who carried the
Rachael Ahern put a header over then Kim Reeves who, along with central defensive partner Alison Witts had an outstanding match for the Robins, bravely blocked a goalbound effort.
Reeves had to leave the action with five minutes left and Gills found the vital winner two minutes later. Pepper's corner was flicked on at the near post and in a crowded six yard box, Carlton was able to drive the ball past Levett for the winner.
Swindon gave the Premier League team some nervy moments in the final minutes but Giils were closest to scoring, Carlton crashing a 25-yard effort against the angle of post and bar.
Swindon had matched their higher ranked opponents really well, even in the absence of suspended leading scorer Abby Picton, but Gills had created the better chances as the game reached its final stages. Carlton's late strike avoided the penalty lottery but was a bitter outcome for a worthy home team.
Swindon Town: Robyn Levett, Kelly Nightingale, Lisa Coe, Amy Baker, Alison Witts, Kim Reeves, Catherine Reid, Michelle Rich, Kirsty Shell, Chynna Collings, Ellie Maynard. Subs: Laura Morgan, Cara Stacey, Chantell Lovell, Laura Stallard, Sarah Wood.
Gillingham: Charlotte Stephens, Emma Wood, Danielle Carlton, Lauren Williams, Rachael Ahern, Vicky Ashton-Jones, Bryony Smith, Jay Blackie, Natalie Crinean, Nicole Pepper, Kallie Balfour. Subs: Jade Keogh, Ruth Jackson, Amy Taylor.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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