Gillingham 5-3 London Corinthians - It's nice for the girls to have a litlte bit of success, says Gillingham boss Simon Ratcliffe

Thursday 26th March 2015
Gillingham 5 – 3 London Corinthians
Kickoff 25/03/2015 19:45

Kent Women’s Cup Final Sponsored by She Kicks Magazine
Wednesday 25th March 2015
Stephen McCartney reports from Gallagher Stadium

GILLINGHAM manager Simon Ratcliffe says it’s nice for his team to have a little bit of success in a season of underachievement.

The Gills went into this Kent Women’s Cup Final sitting in the bottom three in FA Women’s Premier League Southern Division and Ratcliffe says two wins from their last four games will retain their league status.

They came up against an impressive London Corinthian’s side that play two levels lower, sixth-place in the London & South East Regional Premier Division.

UNDERDOGS: London Corinthians stunned Gillingham by taking a 2-0 lead inside 25 minutes.

A giant-killing was on the cards when London Corinthian’s raced into a 2-0 lead inside 25 minutes through talented strike pairing Emily Hart and Katherine Long.

But two goals in seven minutes clawed Gillingham back on level terms through striker Ashlee Hincks and a brilliant powerful header from Emma Tune.

The crowd of 234 at Maidstone United were entertained and Gillingham took the lead for the first time only 101 seconds into the second half when London Corinthians goalkeeper Courtney Harvey punched the ball into her own net following Hincks’ in-swinging corner.

But the Eltham-based outfit were not going to lose their first Kent Women’s Cup Final without a fight and Hart chipped in with her nineteenth goal of the campaign.

Gillingham responded and won the game by the 64th minute through Louise Lorton’s superb solo run and finish, before Hincks’ netted her eighteenth goal of the season.

London Corinthians defeated Meridian (9-0); Maidstone United (5-1) and Aylesford (4-0) to reach this showpiece final, while Gillingham eased past Parkwood Rangers (8-0) and last season’s Kent Women’s Plate winners, Herne Bay 3-0.

EYES ON THE PRIZE: London Corinthians' skipper Adele Keech (looking down in light blue shirt) leads out her team-mates for their first Kent Women's Cup Final.
Photo: Kent Football Association

But Gillingham claimed their sixth Kent Women’s Cup title in their history and their fourth success on the bounce.

CHAMPIONS: Gillingham manager Simon Ratcliffe (left) guided the club to their sixth Kent Women's Cup title - their fourth title on the bounce. 
Photo: Kent Football Association

“Is it? I didn’t realise that,” added Ratcliffe, coming towards the end of his first season in charge of the club.

“It’s my first one that I’ve been involved in.  I’m pleased that they’ve won. I’m pleased for the girls. It’s nice for them to have a little bit of success. We’ve not had a great deal of it this season so far and hopefully that will spur them on for the last four games of the season.

“They (London Corinthians) played well. I think they’ve got some players in their team that can play at a higher level.”

For London Corinthians’ joint-manager Bill Shaw, he was immensely proud of his players.

“They stuck at it, they never stopped, even right at the very end,” he said.

“It was a pity that we can’t get our players here for a midweek game. We’re two divisions below them, I don’t think we did too bad.”

Gillingham started the game on the front foot with their first chance arriving inside the opening five minutes when Hincks swung in a corner from the left and Ellie Manning’s downward header was cleared off the line by London Corinthian’s right-back Chanel Richards.

Hincks took a touch and clipped her shot whistling past the left-hand post from 20-yards, before holding midfielder Charlotte Long stroked a right-footed drive towards the bottom corner from 25-yards, which forced Harvey to skip to her right to make a comfortable low save.

London Corinthians’ were a threat going forward and Hannah Titchener and Hart were impressive against a sometimes woeful Gillingham back three consisting of Manning, Lauren Williams and Emma Michelmore.

Titchener cut a short corner to Hart on the right and she whipped in a great cross but Katherine Long swept her shot harmlessly wide of the target.

Hincks played a one-two with Lauren Phillips down the right to cut into the penalty area but Harvey advanced off her line and made a smart block with her feet.

Gillingham captain Lauren Williams then clipped a free-kick from the centre circle and the ball was cleared out to Tune, who looped her shot into Harvey’s hands from 25-yards.

Despite all of those chances for Gillingham, London Corinthians stunned their famous opponents by grabbing a 21st minute lead.

Richards clipped a long free-kick into the Gillingham penalty area and Hart was left in acres of space to flick her right-footed shot from 16-yards looping over Courtney Shanley’s head.

“There certainly was (a potential giant-killing) at one time,” said Shaw.

“We got those two nice goals and things looked very positive at one time.

“Great finish. She did everything right. It’s what she’s supposed to do. She’s a lovely player, been with us since she was 12 years’ old, now 26, so fourteen years’ she’s been with us.”

Ratcliffe said: “I thought we started really, really well. We had a couple of good opportunities, which we didn’t make the most off and all of a sudden we defended woefully and before you know it, we’re 2-0 down.

“We showed a bit of character to come back to 2-2 and take it on from there but they were poor goals given away, there’s no excuse for that.”

When it was put to the manager that his defence went missing for the opening goal, Ratcliffe replied: “I know where it was and I know where it should have been and it wasn’t in the right place when the ball came in so we’ve got to do better than that!”

London Corinthians believed a giant-killing was on the cards when they doubled their lead within four minutes.

Megan Mansfield swung in a corner from the left and Shanley dived to push the ball away at her near post.  The ball came back in from Titchener and found Katherine Long at the far post, who took a touch before drilling her right-footed shot into the near corner from 12-yards.

GOAL: Katherine Long (second from the right) scores to put London Corinthians' 2-0 up against higher-league Gillingham
Photo: Kent Football Association

“That put us in with a real chance at the time, didn’t it?” said Shaw.

“It gave us a real boost to try to hold on but the two following goals from our opponents were quite quick and that also made the game really good.”

“Again, we could’ve defended better, we should have done,” added Ratcliffe.

When asked what was going through his mind, the Gillingham boss knew his side would come good.

“Just keep playing! We’ve already had some very, very good opportunities and I knew we would continue to do that.

“I expected they would tire towards the end of the game and to be fair both teams tired. There was a lot of players out there with cramp.

“I told them to just keep playing and pass and move on this surface and it’s a lovely surface. It’s a lovely stadium and when we did pass it and move we looked reasonably good and when we didn’t, we looked poor.”

But Gillingham were not left shell-shocked for too long, as Hincks got her club out of a deep black hole in the 28th minute.

Tune played the ball into Phillips down the right and she cut the ball back to Hincks who placed her right-footed shot from 15-yards across Harvey and the ball rolled into the bottom far corner.

Ratcliffe said: “Possibly their keeper will be disappointed because it wasn’t the strongest of shots. That was a good goal.”

Shaw admitted: “I’ve watched them closely over the last two games and we knew if we could hold the number nine, we could keep it out of our box. We couldn’t hold her.

“It was a good goal. She moved in nicely and just slotted it into the corner. There’s not much more I can say about that!”

London Corinthians posed more problems for the poor Gillingham defence and Katherine Long released Hart through on goal but the angle was too tight and she steered her shot past the near post.

London Corinthians’ captain Adele Keech let fly with a first time shot from 35-yards, which sailed over the Gillingham crossbar.

But a piece of pure quality put Gillingham back on level terms with ten minutes to go before half-time.

Louise Lorton found space down the right touchline and she floated over a cross with her right-foot and Tune ran into the box to bury her powerful header in off the underside of the crossbar from eight-yards.

Ratcliffe said: “The second one was a good goal and we created some really good opportunities, scored some good goals.

“I don’t think Emma Tune scores many headers but that was very good.”

Shaw added: “Not only a quality header, she ran 10 yards from outside the box straight onto the ball.

“If you would have had three goalkeepers in goal, you wouldn’t have stopped that one! That hit the crossbar and went in off the underside – that’s a terrific one, you can’t defend those!”

London Corinthians pressed and created a couple more chances before half-time.

Katherine Long looked up and played a sublime diagonal reverse pass to put in Richards but her effort was well held by the diving Shanley at her near post.

They were to be agonisingly denied by the woodwork when Keech picked the ball up and drove a low right-footed angled drive across the keeper from 30-yards, only for the ball to kiss the outside of the foot of the far post.

“Adele’s got a cracking shot on her from anywhere, left of the field or right off the field. She can hit it really strongly. It was a bit unfortunate but we were close, weren’t we, at that stage. It could have gone anyway.”

With the game poised at 2-2, both managers were asked what was said during the break.

Ratcliffe said: “Just pass and move, keep the football, don’t give it away.  We started sharp in the second half.”

Shaw added: “We just told them to concentrate on what they were doing, don’t lose any heart. If anything changes because being 2-0 up they’re on a high and then suddenly 2-2 they’re on a low.  You just tell them to go out and play the best you can and keep going.”

Gillingham got off to a flying start by taking the lead for the first time.

Talented Hincks whipped in an in-swinging corner from the left but goalkeeper Harvey punched the ball into her own net at the near post to score a Cup Final own goal.

“Yes, probably,” said Ratcliffe, who added, “The keeper probably should have done better. The same for our goalkeeper possibly could have done better for their third goal.”

Shaw added: “She put it in with her hands and knocked it into her own goal. Once that happens that was unfortunate. We’re 3-2 down and then within five minutes, another one.

Unfortunately the first ten minutes of the second half, probably took the game away from us.”

The Gillingham fans in the stadium felt that goal would kill off their opponents but the score was level in the 51st minute when Hart intercepted a pass and produced a quality finish, clipping a right-footed lob from 30-yards, which sailed over Shanley.

“She’s scored probably three of those in the last two weeks, exactly the same,” said Shaw.

“Playing on the left, right-footed, we swapped them round. She’ll always do that for you and she played for me since she was 10 and now she’s 27, so seventeen years, not bad.

“She lives miles away in Essex, she’s not local but she still comes.”

The game was turning into a basketball match with plenty of chances, but Gillingham started to run away from their opponents by scoring a solo goal in the 55th minute.

Lorton won the ball herself and burst into the penalty area on the right-hand side before drilling a right-footed shot into the top near corner from just inside the penalty area, pleasing her manager.

“Very good finish, good shot from distance. I’m very pleased for her. She played well tonight, Louise.”

Shaw added: “She beat two or three players, went past them. If it was a slot in to the top corner, it was great.”

London Corinthians called the Gillingham keeper into making a save when Hart cut a left-wing corner back to Titchener and her angled drive was straight at Shanley, who made a comfortable catch.

Gillingham created a great chance when Tune’s sublime low pass put Phillips through on goal but her swerving drive from sixteen-yards just shaded the foot of the far post.

The eighth and last goal arrived in the 64th minute and Hincks wrapped up her player-of-the-match award in style.

Tune won the ball down the left and fed Hincks, who took a couple of touches before curling a beautiful shot into the top far corner from 25-yards.

“Top corner, good strike and she’s got the ability to do that,” said Ratcliffe.

Hincks was awarded the player-of-the-match award before the Trophy was lifted.

Ratcliffe said: “I felt we had a couple of players. I felt Louise Lorton played well and I thought Charlotte Long played well. Emma Tune did ok but Ashlee got the award from the Kent Women’s manager so that’s a pat on the back for her.”

Shaw, meanwhile, was also impressed with Hincks.

SUPER: London Corinthians' manager Bill Shaw believes Gillingham striker, Ashlee Hincks, pictured here with Phil Smith of The Football Association, should be playing Super League football.
Photo: Kent Football Association

“She deserves to play higher. She’s a Super League player personally, but she must enjoy playing for Gillingham. Good luck to them, so it’s all you can say.

“It’s a goal you can’t stop! We’ll stop her next time when we get our own Katie Taylor back from Australia – she’s our marker. We were without our marker today.”

There was still plenty of chances in the final twenty minutes to add to this goal-crazy game.

Keech’s free-kick found Hart at the far post and her low drive took a deflection and was helped behind by Gillingham keeper Shanley, who made the near post save low to her left.

Hart took their tenth and last corner but substitute Hannah Riddoch headed over from ten-yards.

Harvey made a last-ditch save to prevent Phillips scoring with a back-heal on the line after Hincks’ corner from the right produced a goal-mouth scramble.

Gillingham’s last chance arrived in the final two minutes.

Phillips released Charlotte Long through on goal but Harvey rushed out of her box to clear the ball straight at Lorton’s feet, who took a touch but her curling effort from 40-yards just wide of the near post.

And at the other end, Katherine Long clipped her right-footed chip just wide of the right-hand post from 30-yards after running at the Gillingham defence.

“We certainly had some good situations that we didn’t exploit and they had one shot that just went wide of the post,” added Ratcliffe.

“Overall, it was a good game. It’s probably fair to say to finish at 5-3 wasn’t too bad. I wouldn’t have liked it to be six or seven because they didn’t deserve that.”

Gillingham host West Ham United at Chatham Town’s Maidstone Road ground on Sunday, before travelling to basement side Keynsham Town (5 April).  They host second-placed Portsmouth (12 April), before travelling to Uxbridge to play Queens Park Rangers on the last day of the season.

“We played (West Ham) last week and we lost 5-1. I don’t think it was a 5-1 result but again we made some silly errors defensively and we’ve got to cut them out,” said Ratcliffe.

“If we do that the games we’ve played well this season we haven’t made any silly errors and if we do that, that breads confidence and then we tend to do well.

“I think we need two wins. We have got to play Keynsham, who are bottom of the table, but that doesn’t mean it will be an easy game, but I’d like us to see two wins out of the four.

“We’ve underachieved a little bit but we’re working on things for next season, formations and that sort of thing and we have quietly got better.

“Overall, if we retain our status in this league and we have a Kent Women’s Cup Final win, I’ll be happy with that moving forward.”

London Corinthians, who are also managed by Paul Taylor, want to win promotion at the end of the season.  Presently they are thirteen points adrift of leaders Old Actionians.

“We’ve been disappointed for three years now,” said Shaw. “We finished runner-up in our league and can’t make the National League by the odd goal or so. We finished second, we almost did it.

“We beat three or four National League level teams in the FA Cup this year and we know we’re very close to playing these teams on a regular basis so we’ve just told the girls that’s the standard that they’ve got to play and hopefully they’ll keep going and become that standard.

“They’ve had a good FA Cup run and next week we’re in the Semi-Final of the League Cup so we’re hoping to get through to that as well.

“We’ve got five games in hand in the league. If we win those five we’ll be top of the London & South East Counties League as well, which will get us into the National. Whether that will come, you never know.”

London Corinthians can take heart from their performance in a Final that has been dominated by Gillingham and Charlton Athletic over recent years.

CHAMPIONS: Gillingham celebrate their sixth Kent Women's Cup title
Photo: Kent Football Association

Shaw said: “We’d like to repeat it again. I’m pretty confident that if we had all our players here as well, we might have beaten them tonight.”

Gillingham: Courtney Shanley, Lauren Williams, Ellie Manning, Emma Tune, Emma Michelmore, Emily Lyons, Louise Lorton, Charlotte Long, Ashlee Hincks, Lauren Phillips, Sophie Brown.
Subs: Charlotte Thurston, Chloe Cavanagh

Goals: Ashlee Hincks 28, 64, Emma Tune 35, Courtney Harvey 47 (own goal), Louise Lorton 55

Booked: Ellie Manning 44

London Corinthians: Courtney Harvey, Kayla Murphy (Clair Williams 84), Chanel Richards, Lauren Wallace, Alex Ragan (Hannah Riddoch 63), Hannah Titchener (Kristi Nunnick 76), Adele Keech, Isabelle Michalski, Emily Hart, Megan Mansfield, Katherine Long.
Sub: Claire Jenner

Goals: Emily Hart 21, 51, Katherine Long 25

Attendance: 234
Referee: Mr Shane Brown (Sevenoaks)
Assistants: Mr Paul Franks (Sittingbourne) & Mr James Finch (Rainham)
Fourth Official: Mr Steve Roots (Tunbridge Wells)