Dartford Ladies beat Gillingham in thrilling fashion to reach Kent Cup Final.
From 2-1 down to win 3-2 in extra time, the Darts beat current cup holders Gillingham Ladies in an epic semi-final.
It was a crisp sunny day at Princes Park on Sunday 19th January ready for Dartford Ladies’ Kent Cup Semi-Final against Gillingham Ladies.
With Gillingham two leagues above Dartford Ladies and a semi-professional team it was going to be the toughest game of the season for the Darts so far and a big ask to make it through to the Final.
Immediate questions were asked of Gillingham after Megan Mansfield played a perfect ball over the top straight from kick off to put the strikers through and Caitlin Hirst slotted home within the first 30 seconds; much to the delight of the 100+ Dartford fans that had turned out for the game!
Gillingham replied immediately, equalising within a minute from some scrappy and nervous defending from the Darts. It was game on .
Gills then went 2-1 up before half time and looked set to hold the upper hand for the rest of the match with Dartford not able to get their foot on the ball and having to soak up a lot of pressure despite a few promising attacks early on.
Dartford came out sharp after the break though and started to pile the pressure on looking more solid and organised in defence and midfield. They were unrelenting in their attacks and were rewarded after some fancy footwork from Emily Read led to her being brought down in the box by a Gills defender.
Megan Mansfield stepped up straight away for the penalty and sent the keeper the wrong way, coolly placing the ball in the bottom left corner. The Dartford fans were on their feet and the belief this could happen was confirmed, it was 2-2 with 15 minutes left to play.
The Darts continued to press with the endless pace and energy of Rachel Stevens and Caitlin Hirst up front right through to the defence and had several close chances to seal the win in normal time. It wasn’t to be however and we went on to extra-time.
Dartford set up again keeping shape and biding their time to attack whenever they could. Tired legs set in on both sides and the thought of penalties was at the back of everyone’s mind.
Then a Dartford cross was whipped in across the box and picked up by Emily Read on the far side who lofted the ball back into the box to perfectly set up skipper Lizzie Adams who headed the ball home. Princes’ Park went wild!
Thanks to some fantastic saves from Jade Charlton in goal, the Darts held on to their 3-2 lead for the remaining nail-biting 20 minutes of extra time despite increased pressure from Gills, who were eventually unable to respond. It was a gritty and determined whole squad performance from Dartford Ladies as explained by Coach Connor Dymond after the game who summed up the match in the following way:
“It was a brilliant all round performance right across the pitch” and the “best performance I’ve seen from us in a second-half all season not conceding in over an hour of play against a team that play full-time”
Dartford Ladies now start to prepare for the Final on Thursday 26th March at Chatham F.C. – we look forward to seeing you there!