Gillingham 5-0 Haverhill Rovers - Retaining both cups was our target, says Jack Wheeler
Ryman Women’s Cup Final
Thursday 8th May 2014
Stephen McCartney reports from Maidstone Road
GILLINGHAM assistant manager Jack Wheeler says it feels fantastic that his side have reached their targets of completing a cup double this season.
The Gills, who retained the Kent Women’s Cup with a comfortable 3-0 win over Charlton Athletic’s reserves at Maidstone United last month, also retained the Ryman Women’s Cup after easing to a comfortable 5-0 win over Haverhill Rovers.
Gillingham, who came away from Woking with a 2-0 win over Westfield in last years’ final, converted five of their fifteen shots on target against a side that play four levels lower.
Charlotte Long got the ball rolling with an early goal before Sophie Brown capped off her player-of-the-match performance with her first goal for the first team.
Haverhill defender George Westrope sliced the ball into her own net for Gillingham’s third before striker Lisa Fulgence slotted in her nineteenth goal of the season, before Brown added a fifth in the second half.
“Fantastic for the team, really pleased for us, our players, our staff and obviously the club in general that we performed really well tonight and we’ve managed to retain the trophy so I’m really proud of the girls,” said Wheeler.
“For me and James (Marrs) we’re really pleased of what we’ve done and what they’ve achieved because winning it comes the pressure of making sure that you can apply yourselves in the right way because the pressure’s on you to retain the cup as well.
“The girls done themselves a lot of credit by going out here and applying themselves in the right way and performing the right way.
“A few new faces have gone in there as well and have done themselves a credit and brought themselves into the hat a little bit and it’s very pleasing to see that we’ve got enough depth in the squad across the whole team, not only the first team but a few players that have stepped up tonight and proved that they can play at this level.”
Wheeler was put in charge by Marrs, who took a step back and the assistant manager was thankful for the opportunity.
He said: “I thoroughly enjoyed being there but we’re a good team me and James and we’ve done it from the start of the season so I do thank him for giving me the responsibility of running the team tonight. I know that this is his baby, he wouldn’t have given it over to someone who he didn’t trust so for me on personal terms I’d like to thank him for giving me the opportunity.
“I dedicate our win to the girls and to him. I think our relationship has been top drawer this season and it’s been a thoroughly good season to work with him as well.”
Gillingham, who lead The FA Women’s Premier League by four points going into their last two league games, came up against a Haverhill side that were in third-place in the Eastern Regional Women’s Football League Division One North and arrived in Chatham on a five match unbeaten run.
But the gulf in class between the two teams was clear to see as Gillingham dominated the game and created a high number of chances to win the game by more.
Haverhill parked the team bus in front of goalkeeper Jaz Hardy, who pulled off a string of fine saves to keep the score down.
Gillingham won the corner count by 15-2 and went close to scoring with their first when Lauren Davis glanced her header across the keeper and wide after Lauren Williams whipped in her first corner from the right.
But Gillingham opened the floodgates inside ten minutes following their second corner.
Williams swung the ball in from the right and Emma Michelmore’s initial shot was blocked before Long stroked her right-footed shot across the keeper, rolling into the bottom far corner to score from ten-yards.
When asked about the opening goal, Wheeler admitted: “If I’m being brutally honest all the goals are a bit of a haze because I was so fixated on all of the performances and making sure we were set up the right way because Haverhill are a decent set up and they hit us on the break a few times.”
Phillips released Fulgence into the penalty area who cut the ball back to Williams, but her left-footed shot rolled into Hardy’s gloves for a comfortable save.
Skipper Jay Blackie, who was one of three defenders at the back, played the ball out to Phillips, whose right-footed curler from 20-yards bounced into Hardy’s gloves for another comfortable save.
But Gillingham doubled their lead in the sixteenth minute.
Fulgence was released through the heart of the Haverhill defence and her shot was blocked by Hardy’s legs but the ball rolled to Brown, who took a touch before drilling her deflected shot into the far corner.
“She done really well,” Wheeler said of the promising striker.
“She’s one of the promising stars that we’ve got coming through as well within the club so we’re always making sure we bring through the next generation of footballers.
“Sophie’s proved it tonight by coming in and bagging a couple of goals tonight so we’re really, really proud that we’ve got young talent coming through not just in the first team.
“If players show a lackadaisical attitude where they can underperform we’ve got players like that who are willing to come on and play the 90 minutes and grab a couple of goals.”
Dominant Gillingham were to be denied a third when Williams swung in a corner from the right and Blackie planted her header across goal and left-back Lisa Pratt headed the ball off the line.
But it was to be three after 25 minutes, the goal going down as an own-goal from Westrope.
Williams released left-wing-back Davis, who got in behind the sea of red-shirted defenders before she cut the ball back to Brown down the left channel, who whipped in a low cross towards the near post, which Westrope sliced across her own keeper and into the far corner of her own net.
Wheeler said: “Right position, right time and that’s all you can ask them to do really most of the time to make sure you’re in the right position like Sophie was at the far stick if I remember rightly and the poor girl was defending, it ricochet off her shin and went straight into her goal.
“You can try to take that goal away from Sophie afterwards.”
Another chance went begging for Gillingham when Williams whipped in her sixth corner of the game and right-wing-back Emma Michelmore stabbed her shot straight into the keeper’s hands from two-yards out.
Michelmore released Davis through Haverhill’s defence like a hot knife through butter but her right-footed shot was blocked by Hardy, who was relieved to see Davis put the rebound over the bar.
But goal number four followed in the 37th minute when Danielle Carlton played a sublime diagonal ball over the top of the Haverhill defence and Fulgence took a touch before clipping her right-footed angled shot across the keeper from fifteen-yards, the ball nestling into the bottom far corner of the net.
“We’ve had a few chats with Lisa, she’s definitely after that golden boot,” said Wheeler.
“Charlotte Gurr (with 23 goals) is watching her heels in the last couple of games.
“At her previous clubs Lisa’s been the golden boot every single season and I know that one of her personal targets.
“We’ve spoken to her before and she said that anything over 20 goals is a good season for her and we’re almost there. We’ve got two games left so fingers crossed for Lisa and the whole team that she bags a few more.”
Gillingham ended the first half with Davis stinging Hardy’s fingers with a right-footed shot from 20-yards.
Haverhill almost pulled a goal back before the break when Rachel Mann whipped in a lovely low cross from the left but Laura Brown, who ghosted into the penalty area unmarked, slid but couldn’t make a connection to stab the ball towards goal.
Wheeler admitted that he didn’t want their commanding four goal lead to slip during the second half.
“We’ve been in this position many, many times throughout this season of leading at half-time or leading and taking our foot of the gas so there was a few coaching points that we made to the girls at half-time to make sure that they could change and tweak certain things for the second half.
“My half-time team talk was all positive. It might’ve not have been at the start with what I was telling the girls but I was trying to put a few points across to make sure that we improved for the second half.”
The second half took a while to get going, although Gillingham took nearly eleven minutes to create their first chance.
Carlton whipped in a quality cross from the left but Fulgence stretched at the near post to clip her shot over the bar from six-yards.
But Gillingham wrapped up the scoring with their fifth goal in the 58th minute through Brown.
Williams played the striker through on goal, who drilled a left-footed shot into the bottom right-hand corner, although the keeper did get a hand to the shot as she dived to her left.
“It’s one of them you’re quizzing me, I’m sitting here and thinking I remember that goal and I remember that goal because there were so many but it’s always a good problem to have that you can’t remember all the goals,” said Wheeler.
“Another one for Sophie so I’m really pleased that she’s managed to get on the scoresheet. If it comes of her toe or comes off her earhole as long as she’s managed to get on the scoresheet, so it’s very pleasing for me to see that she’s gone out there and she’s completed 90 minutes and grabbed herself a couple of goals.
“She’s applied herself in the right way that she doesn’t look out of place at all so we’re very happy that she’s done that.”
However, with the game now dead and buried the game turned into a midfield battle, but Gillingham had to wait for the final 20 minutes to create seven more chances.
Williams’ through ball released Fulgence who managed to get the ball out from under her feet to dink the ball towards goal, which was saved by Hardy low to her left.
Gillingham missed a sitter in the 76th minute when Phillips was played in behind a tiring Haverhill defence but she drilled her right-footed shot wide of the near post after Hardy rushed off her line and narrowed the angle.
Williams held her head in her hands in agony as a bounce denied her a goal.
Brown released Phillips down the right to reach the by-line before cutting the ball back to Williams, who swept a first-time shot curling around the keeper which was destined to nestle into the far corner, but the bounce took the ball agonisingly wide.
Brown then curled a left-footed shot wide of the far post before Carlton played the ball square to Long, who was given time and space to drill a right-footed shot straight at the keeper from distance.
Haverhill were saved by the woodwork in the 85th minute when Carlton powered a left-footed drive against the far post with the keeper struggling, but Hardy was in the right place at the right time to catch the ball on her goal line.
Carlton hit a left-footed angled drive which was pushed around her near post by the diving Hardy, who scooped Haverhill’s player-of-the-match award.
Wheeler was delighted with his goalkeeper Faye Baker, who made two saves in the final couple of minutes.
Baker back-peddled to ensure that Cerri Harris’ long-range shot was tipped over her crossbar before pushing away Helen Cryer’s shot at her near post after Stacey Roper whipped in the resulting corner from the right.
“The most pleasing thing about Faye tonight was her commanding of her box and her communication with her back three. I think she was outstanding. That side of the game has improved so much,” said Wheeler.
“She got called upon in the last five minutes and the other team managed to get a couple of shots on goal but what she got called upon she dealt with.
“Being a bit harsh, I was giving her a bit of banter on the side. She could’ve caught the ball but there’s always wants where you can improve but her progression over the last couple of months has been top drawer. I’m more than happy with that rather than the two saves at the end.”
Gillingham’s last chance saw debutant Bonnie Long unleash a left-footed drive from 25-yards which was caught at the second attempt by Hardy.
Reflecting on winning the double, Wheeler revealed winning two cups was what the club set out to do back in June 2013.
He said: “It’s one of our goals at the start of the season. Me and James sat down back in June, a long time ago and decided the realistic targets that we were going to have and we both earmarked the Ryman Cup and the Kent Cup to make sure we go out there this season and retain them.
“It’s very pleasing from mine and James’s point of view and also the club’s point of view to make sure we’ve set our goals and achieved them.”
Gillingham travel to Withdean Stadium to play rivals Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday, before completing their campaign with a home game against second-placed Coventry City on Sunday 18 May.
Wheeler added: “The very, very business end of the season now. We’ve got two games left to go.”
Gillingham: Faye Baker, Emma Michelmore (Bonnie Long 63), Lauren Davis (Catherine Cooper 46), Jay Blackie, Emma Wood, Danielle Carlton, Charlotte Long, Lauren Phillips, Lisa Fulgence, Sophie Brown, Lauren Williams.
Sub: Charlotte Gurr
Goals: Charlotte Long 10, Sophie Brown 16, 58, George Westrope 25 (own goal), Lisa Fulgence 37
Booked: Charlotte Long 72
Haverhill Rovers: Jaz Hardy, Lisa Pratt, Helen Cryer, Vicki Barber, George Westrope, Cerri Harris, Katie Shorter, Laura Brown, Stacey Roper, Julie Brown (Penny Everett 30, Stacey Spiers 68), Rachel Mann (Rachel Lindsal 59).
Referee: Mr Sam Nye (Maidstone)
Assistants: Mr Joe McKay (Maidstone) & Mr Dan Doyle (Rochester)
Fourth Official: Mr Bradley Loneran (Longfield)