Charlton 2-1 Gillingham
Report by David Brenchley
Page last updated at 10:31PM BST, Sunday, 27 August 2017
A stunning Charley Clifford strike 23 minutes from time secured the Charlton women’s team their second victory of the season as they scraped past Gillingham 2-1 at Priestfield on Sunday.
As expected, it was a tricky tie for the women’s side against a Gillingham starting XI that boasted no fewer than 10 former Charlton players.
The Addicks took the lead on the half hour mark when Ellie Dorey sent an inch-perfect cross for Charlotte Lee to head home, but the hosts levelled five minutes into the second half through Kallie Balfour after an excellent fingertip stop from Charlton’s former Gills keeper Katie Startup.
But it was Clifford who had the final say, slamming home captain Kim Dixson’s quick free kick to keep her side’s 100% record intact, albeit just two matches into the season.
Head coach Riteesh Mishra elected to keep his line up unchanged from last Sunday’s 6-1 thrashing of Lewes, his only change being to bring Daisy Monaghan onto the bench for Beth Weller.
It was hard work for Charlton, with the home side setting up camp in their defensive third and hoping to use the ever-willing Balfour as an out on the counter-attack. That led to a cagey affair with fewer chances than the visitors would have liked.
It was Balfour who had the first shot on goal, though, but it was easily dealt with by Startup, with Charlton then getting themselves into a rhythm. Charlotte Gurr and Lee went close, while centre back Grace Coombs was unfortunate not to have put the south-east Londoners in front, heading a Gurr corner against the base of the post.
Balfour had an excellent chance to open the scoring on 24 minutes and, in truth, she should have. The striker latched onto a long ball over the top that evaded Charlton’s back three and advanced on Startup in the Addicks goal; however, her curled effort when one-on-one was high and wide.
And the Kent side were made to pay for that missed opportunity just six minutes later when they lost possession in their own half and the ball was sprayed wide for Dorey. The former Brighton winger ran at left back Lotti Klatt and drilled a cross in that Lee headed home against the post and past Courtney Shanly’s despairing dive.
The goal lifted Charlton and they ventured further forward in search of a second before half time. Lee diverted a Gurr corner inches wide of the far post just a minute later and Coombs fired a 30 yard effort on goal that was comfortably fielded by Shanly, who then went on to save from a Clifford snap shot.
Lee went even closer to bagging her third goal of the season as the interval approached, diverting two more dangerous Gurr corners goalwards, one just over and one against the woodwork. Gurr, another former Gills player, also headed an attempt just off target.
The referee’s whistle provided Gillingham with some much-needed respite from the onslaught, and they came out early in the second period with more intent. It didn’t take long for the equaliser to come, a long range effort from Jenny Newman almost catching Startup off her line.
However, the Addicks custodian backpedalled and did well to tip the ball onto the crossbar. Unfortunately for her, Balfour seemed the only player alert to the fact the ball had dropped into the six-yard box and got to it before Startup and the rest of the Charlton defence to tuck home.
That prompted their manager Jack Wheeler to pull his players back into their own half to set up camp for 40 minutes and Charlton tried to claw their way back in front. The hosts were stubborn, but they resisted for less than 20 minutes.
Once again, the second half introduction of Kit Graham added an extra dimension to Charlton’s play and it was the striker who was instrumental in the goal, collecting the ball before being unceremoniously dragged to the ground just outside the penalty area.
And it was quick thinking by Dixson and Clifford that did the rest. Sensing Gillingham were still arranging themselves for the set piece, Dixson rolled the ball square for Clifford to power home into the corner of the net and past Shanly’s dive. The home side were not happy with the referee’s decision to let the goal stand, but stand it did and Charlton had their noses back in front.
That sparked Gillingham into action, and they managed to find a few spare balls to speed play up a bit when play stopped. In truth, though, it was the Addicks still carving out the better chances, Chloe Brunton-Wilde, Gurr, Lee and Clifford all going close.
For their part, Gillingham did have chances, but their best from Balfour’s long-range try was easily saved by Startup.
Dorey was unlucky not to round the victory off with a superb individual strike. The wide player jinked past four Gillingham defenders, but Shanly somehow managed to smother her shot and hold on.
Added-on time saw Charlton forego attempts to score, instead electing to run the clock down in the corner, and they held off their rivals to record their second win out of two and keep them in second place in the FA Women’s Premier League South, behind Crystal Palace on goal difference.
Next up is a trip to bottom of the table Swindon in the FAWPL Cup first round, a competition they were beaten finalists in last season.
Charlton: Startup, Flack (Sullivan 76), Brunton-Wilde, Dixson, Coombs, Dorey, Clifford, Gurr, Pepper (Graham 62), Lee (Southgate 84), Nash. Subs (not used): Bottom, Monaghan.