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Gillingham 3 Herne Bay 0
Gillingham will defend the Kent FA Cup in the Final after a very solid performance to defeat their semi final opponents, Herne Bay by three goals at Chatham Town.
Despite a brave performance from the South East Counties League team, the gap in the pyramid was evident throughout as Gills dominated from start to finish and will probably feel that they could have added to their winning margin. A very different Gillingham squad to that which beat Charlton Reserves in last year's final will seek to match that achievement against either Aylesford or London Corinthians.
Herne Bay are having a great season in the league but were soon defending desperately as the hosts moved the ball fluently through midfield and used the wings effectively. Ashlee Hincks set up Louise Lorton with a long pass but she shot over the bar under pressure from the advancing Bay keeper Sarah Cooper. Herne Bay defended very well for much of the half, with Gills taking shots from distance which Cooper dealt with very comfortably. Ellie Manning created the best moment in this part of the match, her fine run and pass giving Lorton a headed chance which was just wide.
The Gills defence was keeping the free scoring Bay attack under close guard and there was little to trouble keeper Courtney Shanley. Finally, the Premier League team found the key to unlock the Bay defence. Good work by Emma Michelmore gave Hincks the space to thread a beautifully weighted through ball for Lorton who did well to take the ball past Cooper and finish on 25 minutes. Emma Tune then had an effort held by Cooper who also made a fine save from Chloe Cavenagh after a run through the defence.
If Herne Bay were happy the reach the break only a goal behind, it only took a minute for Gills to double their lead, again through Lorton. This time, the right side attacker fired in a rising drive which beat Cooper at her near post. Lauren Phillips nearly added a third after another fine Cavenagh run and pass, but the shot was wide. Cooper was quick off her line to foil Phillips before Gills added their third on 63 minutes. Lorton was tripped by the otherwise excellent Bay defender Beth Nugent and Hincks crashed home a penalty which Cooper did well to reach but could not keep out.
Gillingham were able to give game time to debuting substitutes Madison North and Lydia Wells and they continued to dominate much of the game with Wells very close to a goal after a superb cross from Sokhara Goodall. However Herne Bay started to create chances of their own as the game entered the final 20 minutes. Shanley made a smart save to deny Isabella Tulett then held a powerful shot from Harriet Chapman.
Right at the end, Bay nearly grabbed a consolation when Chapman tricked her way through the Gills defence and crossed for Carly Farrow to shoot narrowly wide under pressure.
Having had a difficult Premier League season after multiple departures from the club, Gillingham will have another Kent Cup Final to look forward to. Herne Bay, holders of the Kent Plate and with games in hand in the League, have promotion to aim for over the coming months.
Gillingham: Courtney Shanly, Lauren Williams, Ellie Manning, Emma Tune, Emma Michelmore, Sokhara Goodall, Louise Lorton, Chloe Cavenagh, Lauren Phillips, Ashlee Hincks, Sophie Brown. Subs: Madison North, Lydia Wills.
Herne Bay: Sarah Cooper, Emma Brown, Debbie Blackmore, Beth Nugent, Rachel Tracy, Kate Foster, Kayleigh Mount, Carly Farrow, Isabella Tulett, Vicky Holness, Harriet Chapman. Subs: Emily Brown, Nicola Harris, Jemma Roberts, Bella Smith, Ashley Bantages.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Ashlee Hincks closes down Harriet Chapman
(middle) Louise Lorton is tackled by Debbie Blackmore
(bottom) Emma Tune takes on Beth Nugent
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