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Kent FA Women's Cup final: Gillingham Women 3 Dartford Women 0


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Gillingham ended a memorable season by lifting the Kent Women’s Cup at the Gallagher Stadium.

They beat holders Dartford 3-0 in front of an excellent crowd of 528 on Thursday night.

Gillingham celebrate Kent Women's Cup final glory Picture: PSP Images
Gillingham celebrate Kent Women's Cup final glory Picture: PSP Images

Two goals in four first-half minutes, from Phoebe Leitch and player-of-the-match Mel Espinosa, gave Gillingham a half-time advantage.

Dartford rallied in the second half before substitute Maddie Farrand added a late third just two minutes after her introduction.

“We lost in the semi-finals to Dartford a few years ago, so it’s nice to right that wrong a little bit,” said Gills boss Josh Oatham, after being covered in champagne by his players during the post-match celebrations.

“I’m proud of the whole team. It’s been a brilliant season and a brilliant way to cap it off.

“It was a good game of football, with fantastic support for both sides, which made for a really good atmosphere.

“It’s a game everyone will remember and it’s good Kent can provide this.

Party time for Gillingham Women after winning the cup final Picture: PSP Images
Party time for Gillingham Women after winning the cup final Picture: PSP Images

“We’re proud of representing Kent and this was a really good day.

“We’ve had an unbelievable season, it’s been a record-breaking points total in Tier 3, and then to celebrate with a trophy is exactly how it should be done.

“We had to grind it out at times, cup finals aren’t always pretty, but the players got over the line. I’m so pleased.”

Gillingham showed their National League class in a dominant first half against a battling Darts side who worked hard to stay in the tie.

Wingers Kara Fordjoor and player-of-the-match Espinosa were chief tormentors, constantly running at the Dartford defence.

While they caught the eye with their pace and trickery, Beau Parker ran the show in midfield, picking up the ball and dictating play in a classy performance throughout.

Player-of-the-match Mel Espinosa goes for goal during Gilingham's 3-0 win over holders Dartford Picture: PSP Images
Player-of-the-match Mel Espinosa goes for goal during Gilingham's 3-0 win over holders Dartford Picture: PSP Images

Megan Maslak, an assured player carrying the ball forward from deep, and Espinosa had efforts ruled out for offside as Gillingham made a fast start, while Darts keeper Kelly Amerasinghe got down well to deny Amy Russ.

As Gills continued to attack, the opening goal came in the 27th minute after Espinosa won a corner.

Maslak went short to Espinosa and her cross was headed home by Leitch.

A second goal followed in the 31st minute with Russ playing in Espinosa, who broke into the box and floated the ball over Amerasinghe’s head into the top corner.

Gills might have had more before half-time, Maslak heading over when well-placed before Amerasinghe made an excellent save from another Espinosa strike.

Emily Vaughan twice tried her luck from distance as Dartford, who play two tiers below Gillingham in the London & South East Regional League, showed more as an attacking force immediately after half-time.

Gillingham winger Kara Fordjoor tests the Dartford defence Picture: PSP Images
Gillingham winger Kara Fordjoor tests the Dartford defence Picture: PSP Images

Midway through the half Paris Smith laid on a decent opening for Nicha Dyett, while their best chance to score came when Amy Panayi headed on to the roof of the net after a free-kick bounced awkwardly in front of Gills keeper Cara Davies.

By then, though, they were already 3-0 down, with substitute Farrand making an immediate impact for Gillingham with the 79th-minute clincher.

Played in by Russ, Amerasinhghe saved her initial shot but Farrand made no mistake from the rebound.

Gillingham Women: Davies, Haynes, Keogh (Charles 67mins), Ashton-Jones, Perch, Maslak, Parker, Leitch (Waud 73mins), Espinosa, Fordjoor (Farrand 77mins), Russ. Subs not used: Jestin, Griffin.

Dartford Women: Amerasinghe, Davis, Woodgates, Ahern, Torry, Adams (Green 59mins), Gibbs, Griffiths (Panayi 77mins), Read, Dyett, Vaughan (Smith 65mins). Subs not used: Burnham.

Referee: Bethany Archer.

Attendance: 528.

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