Gillingham 7-0 AFC Wimbledon - We've got a bit of momentum behind Gillingham Ladies again, says boss Jack Wheeler

Friday 09th October 2015
Gillingham 7 – 0 AFC Wimbledon
Location Maidstone Road Sports Ground, Bournville Avenue, Chatham, Kent ME4 6LR
Kickoff 11/10/2015 14:00

The FA Women’s Cup Third Qualifying Round (sponsored by SSE)
Sunday 11th October 2015
Stephen McCartney reports from Maidstone Road

GILLINGHAM Ladies manager Jack Wheeler hailed his side’s professional performance after putting ten player AFC Wimbledon to the sword in this FA Women’s Cup Third Qualifying Round tie.

A crowd of 139 took advantage of a sunny Sunday as Gillingham inflicted AFC Wimbledon’s first defeat of the season after the London & South East Regional Premier League leaders arrived in Chatham on the back of six wins and a draw from their seven league and cup outings.

But Gillingham extended their winning run to six games on the spin – scoring 20 goals in three games at home - to progress through to the next round.

Wheeler awarded his side’s first goal to Ashleigh Loosemore, who got a toe to Kallie Balfour’s downward header to give Gillingham a dream start after only 124 seconds.

Gillingham doubled their lead early in the second half through Balfour’s header before AFC Wimbledon had a mountain to climb when they lost substitute Kirstie Bavington to a straight red-card after 58 minutes.

Gillingham, in second place behind Crystal Palace in The FA Women’s Premier League South East Division One table with 15 points from 6 games, went on to score five more goals with clinical precision.

April Bowers scored on her home debut to kill off the game before Balfour cross-come-shot from the right sailed over the keeper into the far corner.

Shannon Redhouse made it five from close range, before skipper Lauren Williams scored from a well-taken penalty, before AFC Wimbledon central defender Sian Houghton-North scored a late own goal.

“Very professional performance from us,” said Wheeler, 27.

“There’s a few things that we wanted to get out of the second half performance, which we did, but I thought the girls attitude was spot on today with the way we applied ourselves.  Looking at the scoreline of 7-0, there’s not a lot more than you can really ask of them.

“They’ve (AFC Wimbledon) been on a good run of form this season so far but with us and with the way we played today, with the Cup there’s always a chance of a big banana skin. 

“They’ve come up and done themselves credit here.  They’ve turned up today and they’ve done really well. One or two silly mistakes with the red card, which cost their team dearly today, but that was a very good competitive game, a very good game for the neutral just to turn up and watch today.”

Gillingham opened the scoring following their first corner of the game.

Katie Hardaker whipped in a corner from the left towards the far post where Balfour’s downward header from four-yards which was, accordingly to Wheeler afterwards, slightly touched in by Loosemore.

It looked like that Balfour had scored with the header, but Wheeler cleared it up by saying, “I think it was Loosemore that managed to get the last toe on it so Ashleigh Loosemore managed to get the first goal.

“Don’t tell her (Balfour), she’ll find out a little bit later but as far as I’m aware it was Ashleigh. It came off Ashleigh Loosemore. That was the rumour that came around that I heard in the changing rooms when I came in at half-time.”

But Wheeler was delighted with his side’s start.

“It was just the message from the start, just make sure we get out of the box, make sure the intensity’s there, exactly the same in the warm-up, make sure you’re nice and sharp when we’re in the warm up and we carried it on as soon as we started the game and it’s testimony to getting the goal in the first few minutes.”

AFC Wimbledon created their first chance inside the opening six minutes when Libby Suchley attempted to place her right-footed free-kick from 30-yards into the bottom left-hand corner but Gillingham keeper Courtney Shanly dived low to her right to save at the foot of the post.

AFC Wimbledon’s left-back Linsey Clarke then hit a first time speculative drive from 35-yards, which was heading towards the same corner, but an alert Shanly did well to hold on to the ball when she dived low to her right.

Wheeler revealed how he’s enticed former England international goalkeeper Pauline Cope-Boanas, 46, to the club as goalkeeping coach.

He said: “With the women’s game there’s a lot of goals that can be chipped in from a long distance, which is something we’ve been working on with our goalkeeper’s anyway. We’ve conceded two in the last two weeks from long range.

“Pauline Cope’s been doing really well. We’ve managed to nullify that and we held them out to long distance shots. There wasn’t much stuff in and around the six yard box or anything around the penalty box, which is testament to our defenders today because they’ve done their job.

“I’ve known Pauline for a number of years now. I’ve known here alongside Keith Boanas because he was my assistant director at the (David) Beckham Academy many, many moons ago in Greenwich and she used to come in as part of members of staff.

“It was just one of them where both opportunities were there. I was looking for a goalkeeping coach to give the girls something extra and with the connection of knowing her as well I dropped her a little message saying ‘what was she up to?’ and she said ‘not a great deal.’

“I’ve known her from the previous stuff and she’s got 60 odd caps for England. Just that kind of experience and our goalkeeper’s are thriving on it at the minute.”

Gillingham were playing some attractive football on the deck and began to start to dominate the game.

Fiona Constable came up with the ball from left-back into the AFC Wimbledon half and played the ball inside to Loosemore, who teed up Hardaker, who drilled her right-footed drive screaming just past the right-hand post from 35-yards.

Midfielder Emma Tune burst through but her right-footed dink from 25-yards was spilt by visiting goalkeeper Liane Tylee.

Gillingham right-back Williams was given time to whip in a cross which dropped at Balfour’s feet but the striker completely missed the ball in the middle and it came out to Constable, who took a touch before lashing her effort over.

Gillingham continued to press for a second and Loosemore clipped the ball up to Tune, who hit another shot on the turn high over the bar from 30-yards.

Williams played in another ball from the right and Bowers swept her shot across the keeper, the ball trickling past the far post after 25 minutes.

Hardaker swept the ball out wide to the right where Redhouse took the ball on and hit an angled drive which was caught by Tylee at her near post.

Williams then hit the ball up to Balfour, who cut into the penalty area but she blasted her left-footed shot over the bar from 15-yards.

AFC Wimbledon, who host Herne Bay in the league next Sunday, created a decent opening on the half-hour mark.

Right-back Jordanne Hoesli-Atkins clipped the ball up to Emma Keady, who laid the ball off to winger Zoe Clifford, who from a central position cracked her right-footed drive screaming wide from 25-yards.

Clifford was even closer with her next effort, stroking her right-footed free-kick from 35 yards, which flashed just past the foot of the left-hand post as the goalkeeper dived to her right.

Williams was putting a lot of balls up field to create long distance chances for Gillingham and once again Tune’s right-footed shot on the turn dipped just over the crossbar from 35-yards.

“It was a performance all round,” said Wheeler, who heaped praise on central midfielder Tune.

“We had quite large spells of the ball and with the way in which we play. Tuney’s quite instrumental in that, in the position that she plays for our team and I know she likes to break forward.”

Charlie Thurston’s poor back-pass was intercepted by AFC Wimbledon’s lone striker Kelly-Jade Whelan, but she could not score her fifteenth-goal of the season as she drilled her shot straight at Shanly when she only had the keeper to beat.

It proved to be a rather frustrating day for Whelan, who was in space on the edge of the Gillingham box, but sliced her shot wide of the right-hand post.

Seven minutes and 17 seconds were added to the end of the first half after AFC Wimbledon’s central defender Lauren Carnell hobbled off with a suspected injury to her left knee after attempting to win the ball off Balfour in midfield. Both players required treatment and Carnell decided against going off on a stretcher.

During that time, Gillingham created their best chance since scoring their early breakthrough goal.

Williams was given more time to float over a cross into the penalty area and Constable’s volley was superbly clawed away by Tylee’s outstretched right hand, preventing the ball sailing into the roof of the net.

“The keeper done really well to make sure it didn’t go in the back of the net,” said Wheeler.

“We’re working on a lot of stuff on our movement across our attacking line and that’s one of the moves that came off so I was quite pleased it transferred to come off from training to match.”

When asked what he said to his players at the break, Wheeler said: “Can’t give it to you because I don’t think it will be allowed on the website but basically making sure we gave us points that we can work on towards the second half so upping the intensity, making sure we don’t give any silly mistakes away and if we just make sure we can focus on our quality then we should come good in the second half, which is exactly what happened.”

Whatever was said by Chris Lyons inside the AFC Wimbledon dressing room during the interval had the desired effect as his side came out on the front foot early in the second half.

Skipper Jess Trimnell swept her shot across the goal from 16-yards and was destined to creep inside the far corner, but Shanly dived to her left to parry the ball towards safety.

But Gillingham prevented any likelihood of a comeback when they doubled their lead after 54 minutes.

Constable whipped in a corner from the right towards the far post and Balfour guided her header into the bottom left-hand corner from six-yards.

Wheeler said: “Great rise, great header again, so it’s always nice to see us (score) because I think that’s the first two goals that we’ve scored from corners this year!

“I don’t think we’ve scored any goals from corners this season so it’s always nice to get that kind of threat on set-pieces as well. She done really well, a great header again.”

Shanly made a comfortable save as a shot from Whelan bounced into her hands, before AFC Wimbledon shot themselves in the foot in the 58th minute.

There was a tangle of legs as Gillingham central defender Charlie Thurston tangled with Bavington, who reacted by kicking the Gillingham player whilst the pair were on the ground.

Referee Dan Doyle had no option but to issue Bavington a straight red-card and with it went AFC Wimbledon’s chances of causing an upset.

“A bit of a silly mistake, a little bit of a rough and tumble and she’s lashed out on one of our players so by letter of law she has to go,” said Wheeler.

“In terms of a spectacle it ruined the game. I don’t really like to see that to be brutally honest. I don’t really want to see people come down here and it spoilt the game for the rest of the game for AFC Wimbledon because they’re 2-0 down and their backs are against the wall but it was a very professional performance from our team. We kicked on in to the last half-an-hour.”

Balfour was played in on goal by a defence splitting pass but was forced wide by the last defender and the striker’s shot hit Tylee’s right leg to prevent the ball nestling into the bottom far corner of the net.

Wheeler said: “We’ve hit them on the break and done really well. Kallie’s been very prolific for us so far this season, nine times out of ten she will put those in the back of the net but it was just a very good save from the goalkeeper.

“I think the defender done really well as well because she’s managed to shut Kallie’s angle off and forced her a little wider of the goal, which made the goalkeeper make the save.”

But Gillingham’s despair was short-lived as they made it 3-0 after 61 minutes.

Redhouse whipped in a cross from the right channel and Williams helped the ball across the face of goal and Bowers guided her shot into the bottom left-hand corner from close range.

Wheeler said: “April’s just joined the team, she’s only been with us for a period of weeks and for her to get her first goal was always pleasing to see.

“I’m very happy how April is settling in with the team and she’s managed to get herself on the score sheet today.”

Gillingham received a big slice of luck to make it 4-0 in the 66th minute when Balfour whipped in a cross from the right channel close to the by-line. The ball sailed over the goalkeeper and dropped into the far corner.

“She’s not going to take that one as a shot because that was definitely a cross and I think she’s more surprised herself that it managed to get in,” said Wheeler.

“She got into right areas; right delivery towards the back stick and it’s managed to creep inside into the back of the goal - very happy all round.”

Balfour has now scored nine goals this season and Wheeler added: “Her goals to games ratio is very good, unbelievable at the minute so as long as she keeps following paths and keeps producing the goods in and around the box then I’m pretty sure she’s going to be one of our top goalscorers for the rest of the season.”

Tune clipped her shot just past the top of the right-hand post before Gillingham made it five after 71 minutes.

Balfour ran down the right channel and played the ball inside to substitute Lydia Wills, who played the ball across the face of goal towards the far post for Redhouse to sweep her shot into the bottom left-hand corner.

Wheeler added: “Another accomplished finish from Shannon, who has been one of our really good signings for us so far this season and she’s another one that’s fitted in really well within the team.”

Clinical Gillingham made it 6-0 with a penalty, only 141 seconds later.

Rachel Ahern played the ball out of defence to put Redhouse through on goal, who was tripped by last-player Rebecca Sargent and the referee pointed to the spot, but failed to issue his second red card of the match.

Williams stepped up and drilled her right-footed penalty into the right-hand corner to score her first goal of the season, despite Tylee guessing the right way.

“Lauren has been searching for this goal since the start of the season and I know it’s going to do wonders for her confidence,” said Wheeler.

“Obviously being captain of her side, which she has been for me so far this season, I asked her to step up and it was a really accomplished finish and I’m really pleased for her.”

AFC Wimbledon went close when Suchley raced through the heart of the pitch with the ball before hitting her right-footed drive sailing over the Gillingham crossbar from 30-yards, before Gillingham completed the seven goal romp in the last three minutes.

Balfour took a short corner to substitute Georgia Reece, who whipped in a low cross from the right across the face of goal and the ball bounced off Houghton-North at the near post and bounced into the bottom right-hand corner.

Wheeler admitted he felt sorry for AFC Wimbledon’s number 17.

He said: “The goalkeeper comes and misses it and it comes straight off somebody’s knee. That’s just football sometimes. That just happens. That’s just unlucky for AFC Wimbledon really. You don’t like seeing that because I don’t want my girls to be doing that either but that’s just how life happens sometimes.”

Wheeler was delighted that his side sent their fans home happy, which included mascots from Larkfield Ladies and Petts Wood Ladies side, who asked their role models for photographs and autographs before and after the game.

Wheeler said: “It kind of signals where we’re going at the minute and kind of what’s happening.  We’ve got a bit of momentum behind Gillingham Ladies again, which his always very pleasing to see. 

“We’ve managed to get the fans in because it’s a great day out. We had loads of mascots today and all the Gillingham Ladies appreciate their support so we’ve just asked them to come down. We’ve got some other teams that are coming down to be mascots next week, which is going to help boost the support we get every single week and I know the girls fully appreciate it all.”

England Lionesses’ performances at this summer’s World Cup, by finishing in third place, has also raised the profile of women’s football locally.

“Of course it massively helps us,” said Wheeler.

“It’s helped with the profile with everything that’s going on within the women’s game because the ladies were so successful at the World Cup. It’s kicked on and inspired the next generation of footballers that are coming through.

“I’ve seen it with the Pro-Kickers Academy. More girls are finding it acceptable to come and play football, which has changed their mentality and changing the perception of women’s football that they shouldn’t be playing when they’ve got every right to play and if you come to watch Gillingham Ladies and see how we play the right way.”

Holders Gillingham welcome Dartford Royals to Chatham Town’s Maidstone Road ground  next Sunday in the Kent Reliance Women’s Cup First Round.

Wheeler said: “It’s exactly the same of the outset we looked for today. Every cup has a potential banana skin. There’s always mishaps. There’s always people who come unstuck when they underestimate people and we’re definitely not going to be underestimating Dartford Royals.

“I think they won (their league) last year and they chose to stay in their league so they should be playing in the league below us so it shows you how good they are but they’ve decided to stay down, obviously that’s down to them as a club to decide what they want to do.

“We’re definitely won’t be underestimating them and we’ll make sure we’ll have another professional performance.”

And when asked about the next round of The FA Women’s Cup, Wheeler, who was James Marrs’ assistant manager when Gillingham were knocked out by holders Arsenal 2-0 in The FA Women’s Cup Fifth Round in April 2014, replied: “It doesn’t bother me who we get. I’m not really fussed about who we get.  Put anyone on the pitch I’m quite happy to compete against anybody. 

"I’ll obviously prefer a home draw because at the minute Chatham Town we’ve played three games and we’ve scored something ridiculous (20 goals). The last game here it was 9-0, we’ve won 7-0 today so this is our fortress at the moment so I’ll quite take anyone to come down to Chatham Town.”

Gillingham: Courtney Shanly, Fiona Constable (Lydia Wills 62), Lauren Williams, Emma Tune, Charlie Thurston (Georgia Reece 68), Rachel Ahern, Ashleigh Loosemore, Katie Hardaker, Kallie Balfour, April Bowers (Madison North 66), Shannon Redhouse.
Subs: Jade Keogh, Imogen Alabaster

Goals: Ashleigh Loosemore 3, Kallie Balfour 54, 66, April Bowers 62, Shannon Redhouse 71, Lauren Williams 73 (penalty), Sian Houghton-North 87 (own goal)

AFC Wimbledon: Liane Tylee, Jordanne Hoesli-Atkins, Linsey Clarke, Sian Houghton-North, Lauren Carnell (Kirstie Bavington 45), Rebecca Sargent, Jess Trimnell,  Libby Suchley, Kelly-Jade Whelan, Emma Keady (Sian Wylie 74), Zoe Clifford (Cindy Colliver 69).
Sub: Emma Marlow

Sent Off: Kirstie Bavington 58

Attendance: 139
Referee: Mr Dan Doyle (Rochester)
Assistants: Ms Joanne Park (Margate) & Ms Aimee Keir (Canterbury)