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Crawley Wasps 2 Gillingham 3
Gillingham earned a place in the Third Round of the Vitality Women's FA Cup with a fine 3-2 away victory over Crawley Wasps at Horley Town FC. Trailing twice to goals early in each half, Gills reversed their fortunes with a Lilli Maple free kick and two strikes from Otesha Charles, the winner coming with only seven minutes to go.
Wasps took the lead when Emma Plewa broke clear on the right and cut back an inviting ball for Naomi Cole, playing her 100th game for the club, to drive a low shot past Cara Davies on five minutes. Play was evenly balanced for much of the following 20 minutes with both teams settling back well into the swing of competitive play after such a long break and minimal preparation.
Charles set up the visitors' first real sight of goal with a run and cross which Georgia Griffin could not quite turn past Megen Lynch at the far post. Plewa created a Wasps chance on the half hour but Davies did well to punch clear.
Gillingham's equaliser came when Charles was fouled just outside the area in a central position. Maple hit a fine free kick over the wall and into the bottom left of Lynch's goal on 43 minutes.
Crawley went very close to regaining the lead before the break when Immy Lancaster got clear on the left and fired in a low shot which drew a good save from Davies. Unfortunately, Lancaster was injured in the act of shooting and was unable to continue.
Gillingham started the second half very brightly and put the home defence under considerable pressure particularly with breaks down the left from Jasmine Auguste. After sustained Gills pressure it was Wasps who regained the lead on 56 minutes with a close range finish from Tash Stephens. For a while it seemed that the hosts had gained control of the match, dominating the ball and nullifying the visitors attack.
The introduction of sub Mel Espinosa gave Gillingham a boost and she instigated the equaliser on 70 minutes, setting up an attack which saw Charles turn sharply in the box and get an early shot away beating Lynch, albeit via a big deflection.
If the leveller carried a slice of good fortune, there was no such doubt about the winner with Charles, who had a superb match, racing clear and hammering a fifteen yard shot high into the net on 83 minutes.
Wasps poured forward in search of an equaliser but, despite a couple of late corners, the Gills defence, marshalled by skipper Vicky Ashton-Jones, held firm for a hard earned win and a trip to Cheltenham Town in Round Three.
No report would be complete without paying tribute to the efforts of every player and staff member of both clubs to perform at such levels after enduring months of lockdown restrictions.
Crawley Wasps: Megen Lynch, Holly Talbut-Smith, Rachel Palmer, Hope Nash, Lottie Turner, Ellie Russell, Emma Plewa, Naomi Cole, Immy Lancaster, Charlotte Owen, Tash Stephens. Subs: Chanelle Gainsford, Amy Green, Flo Jackson, Lauren Graves, Priscilla Martins.
Gillingham: Cara Davies, Jasmine Auguste, Georgia Pearch, Hannah Wheeler, Vicky Ashton-Jones, Georgia Griffin, Jade Keogh, Otesha Charles, Lydia Wills, Lilli Maple, Amy Haynes. Subs: Millie Waud, Mel Espinosa, Daisy Monaghan, Lauren Parsons, Sophie Chapman, Abi Hearn, Trinity Barden.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Lilli Maple scores Gillingham's first goal from a free kick
(middle) Emma Plewa under pressure from Jasmine Auguste
(bottom) Naomi Cole is tackled by Georgia Griffin
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