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Gillingham 1 Preston North End 0
Gillingham moved into the last sixteen of the FA Women's Cup for the first time in their history with a hard fought victory over Preston North End at Chatham Town FC.
A Jade Keogh free kick with fifteen minutes remaining settled the issue for the Gills in a closely fought battle between teams going well in their respective FA Women's Premier Leagues.
Both teams had several chances in an even first half but the hosts kept pressing forward and edged the second period in terms of opportunities. However, it took a top quality 25-yard strike to finally get the better of North End keeper Danielle Brown, who had a fine match.
Preston started the better and even had the ball in the net after two minutes, but Katie Anderton was ruled offside. Gills soon found their rhythm and were testing the North End defence with crosses from Keogh and Fliss Gibbons. Charlotte Gurr drove in a powerful effort from a left wing cross but Brown tipped the ball over. At the other end Melissa Ball was sent clear 15 yards out, but her shot was wide. In a lively opening ten minutes, Danielle Carlton's corner was flicked goalwards by Gibbons, but Brown saved with her legs.
Brown made an excellent save to deny Carlton who seemed certain to score from ten yards, diverting a powerful drive round the post. Gurr went close from the subsequent corner but soon Preston were right back in the contest. Keeleigh Savage had a good chance when clean through but lofted the ball over the bar under pressure from Gills keeper Faye Baker on 26 minutes. Gills were then caught in possession just outside their own area and Anderton took the ball round Baker but was crowded out by fine defending by Deanna Cooper on 38 minutes. Lisa Fulgence made a lovely turn in the area when set up by Emma Tune and slid the ball past Brown but just wide on 43 minutes to end a half of quality moves and near misses at both ends.
Brown was soon in action again, turning away a close range Jay Blackie effort on 53 minutes after a scramble following a corner. North End sub Becky Grocott looked threatening on 56 minutes after a powerful run into the area, but was denied in the act of shooting by a perfectly timed Cooper challenge. An underhit back pass put Gills in danger again, but Baker was out quckly to save bravely under the challenge of Paige Forster on 70 minutes.
Nikita Whinnett came on for Gills and was adjudged to have been fouled wide on the left, 25 yards from goal. Keogh struck a well hit curling shot over the wall towards the near post which Brown got to but could only help into net for the winner. Gills raised their game and defended their advantage with great tenacity. North End pressed for a late comeback and Alison Taberner was always a threat with her excellently directed long throws but the hosts were able to use their ability to move the ball effectively through midfield to find an outlet to relieve the pressure.
In the end, Gills saw out the match with few real alarms. Brown had been the busier keeper but Preston were always threatening during a well contested encounter. Gillingham were brave on the ball when under pressure and used possession creatively to carve out goal threats and both sides worked extremely hard in a fine advert for their respective leagues.
Gillingham: Faye Baker, Jade Keogh, Fliss Gibbons, Deanna Cooper, Amy Taylor, Rachel Ahern, Jay Blackie, Emma Tune, Lisa Fulgence, Charlotte Gurr, Danielle Carlton. Subs: Nikita Whinnett, Lauren Williams, Lauren Davis.
Preston North End: Danielle Brown, Carley Bayley, Sophie Jones, Alison Taberner, Melissa Ball, Jenna Carroll, Alice Forshaw, Gemma Watson, Keeleigh Savage, Katie Anderton. Subs: Becky Grocott, Paige Forster, Natalie Charlesworth.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Jade Keogh gets in a cross past Gemma Watson
(middle) Lisa Fulgence bursts into the area pursued by Jenna Carroll, Alice Forshaw and Keeleigh Savage
(bottom) Fliss Gibbons shoots past Alison Taberner
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