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London Corinthians 3 Gillingham 4 (aet)
Gillingham battled their way into the second round of the SSE Women's FA Cup with an extra time win over London & South East League opponents London Corinthians.
A hugely entertaining encounter saw London twice peg their higher ranked opposition back before Paige Baker-Carroll's 113th minute winner.
The visitors could not have asked for a better start than Kallie Balfour's perfect 25-yard strike in the second minute and, for a while, it looked as if Gills were going to dominate. London keeper Katherine Long saved well from Balfour and Katie Hardaker as the visitors repeatedly cut through the defence. It was fully 20 minutes before London threatened, Hannah Tichener sending a long range effort over the bar.
Long made another good save from a Madison North free kick, turning the ball over the bar under pressure on 28 minutes but as the break approached, London started to push Gillingham back with good use of the wings and by winning the ball in defensive challenges.
They nearly equalised right on the break when awarded a free kick 20 yards out. Skipper Adele Keech's free kick deflected off the wall and flew just wide of Courtney Shanly's post.
Balfour was again denied by a Long save just after the restart but London were the better side for much of the next half hour. Shots from Tichener, Holly Ryde and Emily Hunt all flew narrowly wide of Shanly's goal and it was no surprise when Tichener again broke free and drove a 20-yard effort low into the left corner for a 64th minute equaliser.
Balfour's pace and willingness to shoot were a constant threat for Gills and having put one effort just wide, she was thwarted by a superb reaction save from the London keeper to turn away a point blank effort on 80 minutes. Lizzie Adams shot just wide for London and Hunt nearly had a late winner when a long bouncing ball went beyond keeper Shanly but extra time would be needed to separate the teams.
A dramatic half hour saw five goals. Gills seemed to have made the decisive break with two in as many minutes; Balfour was brought down and North converted the resulting penalty, then Baker-Carroll finished well when played in on the right of goal. Undeterred, London reduced the arrears before the break when Danielle Harrison react quickly to turn home a bouncing ball after a corner on 102 minutes.
The dramatic comeback was complete on 109 minutes when Ryde scored from the spot but Gills found a winner four minutes later. A loose defensive pass across the London penalty area was crashed home first time by a powerful shot from Baker-Carroll. Despite the best efforts of the home team, Gillingham were able to see the match out for an extremely hard fought victory.
This was the third meeting in less than nine months between the clubs, after two County Cup encounters had yielded a win apiece, 5-3 to Gills in last season's final and a 1-0 victory to London Corinthians in this year's competition and was again keenly contested throughout and a credit to both sets of players and management.
London Corinthians: Katherine Long, Alex Fagan, Kristi Nunnick, Danielle Brown, Megan Mansfield, Hannah Tichener, Lizzie Adams, Adele Keech, Emily Hart, Holly Ryde, Danielle Harrison. Subs: Hannah Riddoch, Hayley Mansfield, Becky Gregory, Laura Susarta.
Gillingham: Courtney Shanly, Lauren Williams, Rachel Ahern, Ashleigh Loosemore, Madison North, Emma Tune, Katie Hardaker, April Bowers, Kallie Balfour, Paige Baker-Carroll, April Bowers. Subs: Jade Keogh, Vanisha Patel, Lydia Wills.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Emma Tune battles for the ball with Hannah Titchener
(middle) Megan Mansfield tries to stop Paige Baker-Carroll
(bottom) Emma Tune is challenged by Lizzie Adams
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