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Gillingham 1 Lewes 3
Lewes bagged their second successive away win with a 3-1 victory over Gillingham at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium.
Two first half goals from Catherine O'Hagan and another from Ashleigh Goddard had the Rookettes in full control by the break and Gills were limited to a late consolation effort from Lauren Phillips. Lewes deserved their win with a strong team performance but the hosts played a full part in an entertaining and committed encounter.
The kick off was delayed for fifteen minutes due to transport problems for the visitors but they made a strong start, testing the young Gills defence with early balls to turn the back line. Debutant Gills goalkeeper Imogen Alabaster made a fine early save from an O'Hagan cross but was powerless to stop the same player from opening the scoring on seven minutes. Michelle Beazley found Goddard's head with a clearance and a clever flick released O'Hagan to finish high to the keeper's right.
Danni Farmer went very close to equalising on nine minutes but placed her shot wide of the far post. O'Hagan had a long range effort held as did Lauren Phillips at the other end, whilst Alabaster made a fine low save to deny O'Hagan in a one-on-one on 12 minutes. Katie McIntyre clipped the bar from 35 yards on fourteen minutes as Lewes continued to threaten.
Gills' best move of the half saw Emma Tune win a header for Ashlee Hincks to release Phillips but her shot from close range produced a good save from Beazley on 22 minutes and the hosts dominated without finding the finishing touch, though Farmer went very close with an inswinging corner from the left.
The Rookettes keeper produced her second assist of the day on 27 minutes, her perfectly weighted 60-yard delivery freeing O'Hagan again for an emphatic finish at the near post. The third Lewes goal came when a low right wing cross evaded the defenders for a Goddard tap in at the far post on 39 minutes.
The visitors nearly added a fourth before the break, O'Hagan again proving elusive before firing just wide, then Yasmin Poole, who had a fine match, produced a volley which was well held by Alabaster.
Needing some finish to match their good build up play to get a foothold in the match, Gillingham continued to press forward on the restart with Hincks, Phillips and Farmer trying to pressure the Lewes defence but finding few openings. However, they were indebted to a fine tackle by Emma Michelmore on 58 minutes who won the ball to stop Cherelle Khassal as she closed in on goal.
Gills made a triple substitution and Natalie Crinean made an immediate impact with a great run through the middle, only to be blocked in the act of shooting by a perfect tackle by Lewes sub Freddie Baker.
Another Lewes sub, Kelly McCullock also made an instant impact, rattling the Gills bar with her first touch. Gills sub Sophie Brown was denied by Beazley after good work by Michelmore and Phillips, whilst Hincks rose high but was off target with a header for Gillingham as both sides continued to trade chances.
Finally, Gills got the goal their efforts deserved as Tune played in Phillips for a cool ten-yard finish on 86 minutes. Hard as they tried, the hosts were unable to further test a very solid Lewes defence where Rebecca Thompson, Rachel Palmer, Chloe Howe and later on Baker with the support of skipper Kelly Newton were resolute throughout.
Gillingham have had a tough season with the departure of numerous players but the excellent facilities and high quality matchday experience have encouraged a loyal and supportive crowd, swelled on this occasion by a good number of travelling Rookette fans who were able to celebrate the victory with their team at the end. The promising young Gills players, supported by a core of more experienced colleagues, will surely continue to develop as the season progresses.
Gillingham: Imogen Alabaster, Ellie Manning, Emma Michelmore, Georgia Reece, Rachel Ahern, Emma Tune, Lauren Williams, Louise Lorton, Lauren Phillips, Ashlee Hincks, Danni Farmer. Subs: Natalie Crinean, Courtney Shanly, Chloe Cavenagh, Sophie Brown.
Lewes: Michelle Beazley, Chloe Howe, Rebecca Thompson, Rachel Palmer, Kelly Newton, Katie McIntyre, Cherelle Khassal, Sian Heather, Catherine O'Hagan, Ashleigh Goddard, Yasmin Poole. Subs: Freddie Baker, Kelly McCullock, Allison Cowling.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Chloe Howe tries to hold off Danni Farmer
(middle) A chase between Lauren Phillips and Rebecca Thompson
(bottom) Emma Michelmore slides in to tackle Cherelle Khassal
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