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Gillingham 0 Newcastle Utd 3
Newcastle United moved into the last four of the FAWPL Plate with a fine performance in a 3-0 away win at South East Division One opponents Gillingham.
Three goals in seven minutes early in the second half settled the tie the Lady Mags' favour and they could well have added to their tally in a strong display after a tight first half in which Gillingham competed well against their higher tier opponents.
Jess Havelock had Newcastle's first chance, firing wide of Courtney Shanly's near post whilst Kallie Balfour was a consistent threat for the hosts, twice getting clear on the right in the opening minutes. From the second cross, April Bowers sent a first time effort wide of the far post on 13 minutes.
Newcastle were always threatening from corners. Kate Brooks fired a sweet volley just over from one corner, then Jess Round sent in a towering header from another which crashed against the underside of the bar before bouncing clear on 19 minutes. Jessica Foster had a shot deflected just wide with Shanly beaten but Gills also created moments of danger in the latter stages of the half.
Balfour fired in a powerful effort well held by Newcastle keeper Allison Cowling on 39 minutes and the same pairing were in action on 44 minutes, Balfour just unable to force home a header from a well flighted far post free kick as Cowling moved quickly to close the angle.
An even opening half was without goals, but Gills went very close within 30 seconds of the restart with Cowling quick off her line to meet Balfour who had again outpaced the defence but could not find the angle to turn the ball home.
Newcastle took the lead on 49 minutes when a Foster cross was met by a looping Emma Hewitt header which hit the far post before being forced home by Ellen Turnbull.
The lead was doubled on 52 minutes when another Foster run and right wing cross was well converted by Hewitt with a first time finish.
Emma Tune nearly halved the deficit straight away from 15 yards but was foiled by a fine acrobatic save from Cowling. Within a minute, Shanly made an equally good save to deny Round after a storming run through the centre of the home defence.
However, the third was not long delayed, Ellie Dobson nodding in a Beth Gardner inswinging cross on 56 minutes.
An amazing scramble from another corner nearly led to a fourth Newcastle goal. A first effort by Hewitt was cleared off the line, a second by Turnbull hit the post then Gardner fired inches wide from the rebound on 61 minutes.
Gills briefly threatened, with Balfour again denied by an alert block by Cowling on the edge of her area but the visitors were in no mood to give the advantage away. To their credit, Gillingham had their most threatening spell in the final ten minutes, Lauren Williams firing across goal, then a Tune free kick saved by Cowling with Shannon Redhouse firing the rebound over on 87 minutes.
Newcastle preserved their first clean sheet on the season and completed the first half of their southern double successfully with another 600 mile round trip to come next weekend in the SSE Women's FA Cup at Charlton Athletic.
Gillingham: Courtney Shanly, Lauren Williams, Emma Tune, Rachel Ahern, Shannon Redhouse, Jade Keogh, Kallie Balfour, Georgia Reece, Madison North, Lydia Wills, April Bowers. Subs: Imogen Bullivant, Vanisha Patel, Charlie Thurston, Katie Hardaker.
Newcastle Utd: Allison Cowling, Alisha Smith, Jess Havelock, Courtney Lock, Kate Brooks, Jessica Foster, Beth Gardner, Jess Round, Ellie Dobson, Ellen Turnbull, Emma Hewitt. Subs: Megan McKenzie, Jessica Clarke, Lauren Driver.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Georgia Reece slides in to tackle Jessica Foster
(middle) Kallie Balfour is denied by a save from Allison Cowling
(bottom) Jessica Havelock tries to escape the attentions of Lydia Wills
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