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Gillingham 4 Cardiff City Ladies 2
Gillingham moved a step closer to the FAWPL Southern Division title with a 4-2 win over fellow candidates for honours Cardiff City Ladies.
In an intense battle, goals either side of the break gave Gills an advantage which proved decisive, despite a spirited display by the Welsh team which never allowed the home team room to relax totally. In the end, finishing ability and fluid passing all over the pitch gave Gills the edge but they were made to work hard for a vital three points.
Cardiff started well, disrupting Gillingham's attempts to pass the ball out from the back with pressing from their front players. The Bluebirds had the ball in the net on five minutes but the referee had stopped the game for an injury to Deanna Cooper. Lisa Fulgence was played in by Charlotte Gurr on seven minutes but Cardiff keeper Sophie Dando saved well. The opening goal came after 27 minutes when Gills' Jade Keogh delivered a free kick into the area and skipper Jay Blackie rose well to divert the ball past Dando.
Kelly Aldridge was very lively down the Cardiff right, twice being halted by heavy challenges. Michelle Green got in a dangerous cross and only an brave block by Amy Taylor stopped a Cardiff goal attempt ten yards out. Gills keeper Faye Baker was at full stretch when a Nicola Cousins shot from 25 yards flew inches over as Cardiff looked dangerous around the 35 minute mark.
Emma Tune played a delightful early ball for Gurr to shoot over from the edge of the area before Gurr netted the second from the spot after Fulgence was brought down by Dando when through on goal seconds before the break.
Fulgence added to the lead with two minutes of the restart with a looping header from a Jade Keogh cross but Cardiff replied almost immediately, Michelle Green winning a challenge in midfield and driving to the right of goal before crossing for Bethan Lloyd to finish well after controlling at the near post.
Lauren Townsend fired in an excellent free kick for the Bluebirds but Baker leapt to tip the ball over. From the corner Cousins headed over the bar on 62 minutes. Gillingham responded well in an end to end encounter. A short corner from Gurr saw Tune cross and Blackie head just wide. Nikita Whinnett had come on as a half time substitute and was having a lively battle with Townsend down the Gills right.
Gurr played in Fulgence again with a measured pass but Dando was quickly out to save well on 68 minutes. One minute later, good work from Whinnett and Gurr gave Fulgence another run on goal and this time she slipped the ball past Dando with the outside of her right foot.
The Gills striker was very close to her hat-trick a minute later but sub Hannah Daley cleared off the line with her first touch of the ball. Gills were by now in dominant mood as Danielle Carlton lofted a cross which bounced away off the bar on 72 minutes. Keogh also hit the woodwork with a free kick on 86 minutes but the visitors had the final word with arguably the best goal of the game. A break on the right saw the ball played square to Townsend who blasted a 20-yard effort first time beyond Baker's dive on 88 minutes.
Cardiff pressed hard to further reduce the arrears but Gills were in no mood to let their lead slip seeing out the match comfortably for a hard earned victory which takes them well ahead of Cardiff and leaves Coventry City as their most realistic challengers for the title ahead of a possible showdown at Chatham on May 18th. Both teams have other challenges to meet before that date however with Cardiff, Charlton and Portsmouth all waiting for any possible slip ups.
Gillingham: Faye Baker, Lauren Davis, Deanna Cooper, Amy Taylor, Fliss Gibbons, Jay Blackie, Emma Tune, Lisa Fulgence, Charlotte Gurr, Danielle Carlton. Subs: Charlotte Long, Lauren Phillips, Nikita Whinnett, Lauren Williams, Rachel Ahern.
Cardiff City Ladies: Sophie Dando, Nicola Cousins, Lauren Townsend, Cori Williams, Louise Hutton, Kayleigh Green, Kelly Aldridge, Michelle Green, Bethan Lloyd, Kelly Isaac, Naomi Clipston. Subs: Gwennan Harries, Hannah Daley, Hannah Mills, Steph Williams.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Lauren Townsend fires a free kick over the Gillingham wall of Nikita Whinnett, Danielle Carlton, Emma Tune and Jade Keogh
(middle) Nicola Cousins battles with Fliss Gibbons
(bottom) Gwennan Harries takes on Jade Keogh
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