Battling Gills boost Premier League hopes with win over West Ham

Sent Her Forward round-up

• Top four win in Premier League title race – but a vital victory for one of the relegation battlers
• Forest Green on the brink
• Portsmouth’s Development team go on goal spree as Charlton head for title
• Fulham promotion hopes dented by Carshalton
• South East Counties promotion battle hots up
• Hurstpierpoint rack up 16 goals in latest county league mis-match

Portsmouth celebrate Sarah Kempson's winning goal against Plymouth Argyle, March 29 2015 (Photo: Jordan Hampton)

Sarah Kempson’s second-half goal kept Portsmouth firmly in the Premier League title race (Photo: Jordan Hampton)

Gillingham are celebrating possibly their best week of the season after following up their Kent Women’s Cup triumph with a crucial win over West Ham to boost their chances of avoiding relegation.

After winning the county cup for a record fourth time in a row, with victory over London Corinthians on Wednesday, the Gills faced a daunting challenge against the high-flying Hammers, just 10 days after the London club had beaten them 5-1 in their first league encounter.

But in a much-improved performance, Gillingham eased their relegation worries with a 3-2 victory that takes them six points clear of 11th-placed Copsewood.

Ellie Manning was the hero with a late winner following earlier goals from Ashlee Hincks and Lauren Phillips.

Lily Mellors had given West Ham a first-half lead and April Bowers drew them level after Gillingham had themselves gone in front. But Manning’s 73rd-minute winner was celebrated wildly by players and fans at Chatham Town FC.

The left-back emphasised how vital Wednesday’s cup triumph was in kick-starting Gillingham’s demanding season. She told the club’s website: “The win on Wednesday was just what we needed to get our spirits raised for the remaining games of the season, which are crucial to us.”

Manager Simon Ratcliffe cited the attitude of returning striker Charlotte Thurston as an important element of his team’s inspired performance. He told the club’s website: “I did not expect her to play. She wasn’t fit for Wednesday, and she turned up and said she felt good to play. She’s gone on to put in a good shift for us.

“When people show effort and enthusiasm, it rubs off on other people.”

While Gillingham were collecting only their fourth win of a tough season, the teams around them were all losing.

Keynsham Town, who look destined to finish bottom after failing to win all season, continued their recent improvement, scoring three times against Tottenham Hotspur, but still going down 5-3.

Katie O’Leary and Avilla Bergin each scored twice for Spurs, while Riana-Devi Soobadoo scored her first goal for the club.

Maria Garcia scored twice for Keynsham and Leanne Lapham got the other.

Copsewood Coventry also lost again, conceding three second-half goals – when they were down to 10 fit players – to lose 3-0 at Charlton Athletic.

Ini Umotong in action for Portsmouth against Plymouth Argyle, March 29 2015 (Photo: Jordan Hampton)

Ini Umotong returned for Portsmouth after flying back from Africa where she made her Nigeria debut against Mali (Photo: Jordan Hampton)

And Plymouth Argyle are still not mathematically safe after falling to a narrow 1-0 defeat at high-flying Portsmouth, although with five games left, they should have enough to scramble clear.

Pompey’s win came courtesy of Sarah Kempson‘s 13th goal of the season shortly after half-time. Ini Umotong, back after making her international debut for Nigeria, was a second-half substitute.

Kempson’s goal proved vital for Perry Northeast’s side as their two biggest rivals for the Premier League title also both won.

Cardiff City remain top on goal difference after defeating Queens Park Rangers 2-0, thanks to goals from Nia Jones and Hope Suominen, either side of half-time.

And Brighton are still just a point behind the pair following their 3-0 victory over Lewes in the first of two Sussex derbies in a week.

Goals in the last 20 minutes from Jay Blackie, Fliss Gibbons and Sophie Perry earned Brighton a crucial three points that leave them perfectly poised to capitalise on any slip-up by the top two in the final hectic weeks of the season.

Lewes, under former Albion manager John Donoghue, had held out for 70 minutes against James Marrs’ free-scoring side, creating their fair share of chances.

But the late goals keep their rivals very much in the title race – although Lewes have the opportunity to dent those hopes when the two meet again at the Dripping Pan on Sunday.

Charlton’s six-shooters have sights on Reserves title

Charlton Athletic took another big stride towards the Premier Reserves League title with a 6-1 win over Bedford.

They now need only six points from their final four matches to guarantee the championship after finishing second to Brighton in a much smaller division last season. For more details of Charlton’s performance, click here.

Brighton, West Ham United and Spurs are the only teams who can catch Charlton, of whom only the Hammers won on Sunday, beating Chichester City 3-1.

Abbie Solly scored twice for West Ham and Steph Burder the other, with Sian Payne replying for Chichester with her first goal of the season.

Brighton could only draw 2-2 with Queens Park Rangers, Jo Wilson and Rachel O’Regan scoring for the Hoops, leaving the Sussex club five points behind the leaders, having played a game more.

Tottenham are way back, 19 points behind Charlton, but they still have more than a third of their fixtures to play. But after being held to a 1-1 draw at home to Crystal Palace, they will need to win almost all of them to stand a chance of overhauling the leaders.

Out of the running for the title are Portsmouth, but their season continues to improve, and on Sunday they cruised to their fourth victory in a row, winning 7-1 at C&K Basildon.

Action from Lewes Development v Gillingham Reserves, March 29 2015

Lewes stay bottom after just failing to clinch their second win in a row at home to Gilllingham Reserves

Liz O’Callaghan hit a hat-trick, and there were also goals for Rebecca Bell, Katie James, Brittany Jeal and Georgia Puddick.

Laura Bryant replied for Basildon.

Two of the bottom four met in blustery conditions in Lewes, where a last-minute penalty from Madison North earned Gillingham a 2-2 draw. Kerry Tagg had given the home side the lead, but Ashleigh Loosemore equalised before half-time.

Georgia Tibble scored directly from a corner before North grabbed the Gills a point with her 94th-minute spot-kick. Full report here.

Seven-up for champions-elect

Forest Green Rovers are on the brink of promotion to the FAW Premier League after demolishing St Nicholas 7-0.

Their seven-goal haul effectively clinched the title on Sunday, giving them a 12-goal advantage over Exeter City, the only other team who could win it.

But a point next Sunday at Chichester City would be enough to guarantee the Premier League Division One South West championship, regardless of how Exeter get on the following weekend against Cheltenham Town.

Forest Green led the division’s bottom club 4-0 at half-time through goals by Naomi Marshall, Ellie Okis, Charlotte King and Ella Hitchcox.

They added further goals after the break through Sophie Okey and a brace from substitute Annie Martin.

Exeter just about kept in the hunt with a 2-1 victory at Chichester City, whose manager Matt Wright broke the news to the players that he was standing down.

Natasha Knapman scored both Exeter’s goals, leaving them looking destined to dip out on promotion by the narrowest of margins for the second season in a row – barring final-day miracles.

Lauren Cheshire scored Chichester’s goal.

Larkhall Athletic came away victorious from a wet and windy Isle of Wight, beating Shanklin 3-1.

Emily Harrington and Lizzie Barratt put the visitors 2-0 up at half-time, but Marika Bebere pulled one back for the islanders before Kate German made sure it would be a more relaxing journey back to the mainland for Larkhall, who are set for a mid-table finish.

Shanklin, like the other clubs in the bottom three, are still playing catch-up, but look safe for another season.

Carshalton pile on the pressure as Hassocks shock cup heroes

With leaders Old Actonians in League Cup action, Fulham Foundation passed up the opportunity to draw level with them at the top of the London & South East Regional Women’s League, losing 1-0 at promotion rivals Carshalton Athletic.

The Surrey side are now perfectly poised for a late-season run towards a second successive promotion, slipping ahead of AFC Wimbledon into third place.

Laura Curtis scored the only goal of the game, stretching their unbeaten league run to almost six months – and gaining revenge over Fulham, whose victory on October 5 is Carshalton’s only league setback in this debut campaign following their promotion last season.

Carshalton have three games in hand of Fulham and Old Actonians and have six points to make up on the team they beat on Sunday. But they are nine behind the leaders – which may prove a little more challenging.

The pair have yet to meet this season, making their games on April 19 and May 10 crucial to the destiny of the league title – and possible places in Division One South East of the FAW Premier League.

At the 19th time of asking, Hassocks finallly recorded their first victory of the season, defeating Eastbourne Town – the team directly above them – 2-0.

Just two months ago Eastbourne Town were travelling to Premier League Derby County for an FAW Cup third-round encounter, having knocked out another Premier League side, Queens Park Rangers in the previous round.

But they have struggled with the consequent backlog of fixtures and are in real danger of relegation after losing their last five games. They have not won since beating Hassocks in the reverse fixture in October.

Katherine Chappell and Kate Harding scored the goals that earned the bottom club their first win, although they had goalkeeper Loz Dolbear to thank for keeping them in the match. Eastbourne’s own ‘keeper, Sarah Walshaw, was injured in the scramble leading to the first goal and had to be replaced.

Chappell and Eastbourne’s Beth Richardson were sent off late in the game.

Meanwhile, Old Actonians maintained their bid for a league and cup double, defeating KIKK United 4-0 in their League Cup semi-final.

Carla Williams scored two and Chelsea Berlin and Natasha Cree one apiece as the league leaders eased into the final, where they will meet London Corinthians, who reached their second cup final of the season with a 4-1 win at Aylesford.

Corinthians, who lost to Gillingham in last week’s Kent Women’s Cup final, were always in front against their Kent opponents, scoring through Chanel Richards (2), Adele Keech and Megan Mansfield.

Rebecca Barr replied for Aylesford.

South East title fight goes down to the wire

The battle to reach the London & South East league could be decided next week when the only two remaining contenders, Herne Bay and Dartford Royals, meet at Winch’s Field.

If Dartford, the current leaders, win, they will take the South East Counties Premier Division title, but any other result will leave them biting their nails as their opponents play their remaining two fixtures, knowing that victories in both will secure the title by virtue of their far superior goal difference.

The leaders did their part on Sunday, beating Anchorians 5-2, with goals from Emily Arnold, Kelly Philpott, Jenny Rose, Kerry Whitehorn and Sophie Longhurst.

Louise Foreman and Samantha Ryan replied for Anchorians.

Herne Bay went one better than their rivals, hitting struggling South Park for six in Reigate.

Harriet Chapman and Carly Farrow had given the visitors a half-time lead, and in the second half, Issie Tulett added two, and Vicky Holness and Emma Brown the others as Herne Bay bounced back to winning form after last week’s draw at Parkwood Rangers.

The battle for the title

P W D L F A PTS
1 Dartford Royals 17 13 3 1 49 24 42
4 Herne Bay 15 11 3 1 62 11 36

Next week’s clash between the two promotion hopefuls is the first of two in a fortnight – they meet in the final of the League Cup on April 19.

Meridian finished their season in style, winning 4-2 at Burgess Hill Town, but it was not quite enough to keep them in contention for the title.

Amy Russ scored twice for the visitors and Olympia Little another after an own goal had given them the lead. But Keeley Wheatley was back to goalscoring form for Burgess Hill, registering her 33rd of a prolific season. And Naomi Robinson matched Meridian’s feat by scoring directly from a corner, thanks to the strong wind.

Crockenhill‘s mini-revival came to an end as they went down 2-1 at home to Parkwood Rangers, who claimed their first victory in five games.

Crockenhill, who have been in the bottom two nearly all season, had won their previous two games, but they were unable to make it a hat-trick as goals from Rachel Mugami and Jordan Springett clinched the three points for Parkwood, who have shrugged off the loss of some key players this season and look set for a respectable mid-table finish.

Kristtina Manktelow scored for Crockenhill, who are not yet completely out of danger.

Hurstpierpoint go to town against Henfield

Hurstpierpoint have their scoring record back, months after it was taken away from them.

The newly formed Sussex County League side, based in Cowfold, put 16 goals past Predators back in December, only for the result to be expunged after their opponents pulled out of the league.

But on Sunday they matched that haul with a 16-0 victory at Henfield.

Stacey Jackson doubled her season’s tally with seven goals, and there were two for Melissa Bramley.

The others were shared among seven other scorers: Chloe Ansell, Emily Hale, Rebecca Smallman, Carolyn Walters, Jenny Weller, Victoria Smallman and Crystal Waite.

Despite the resounding victory, Hurstpierpoint look destined to finish the debut season in mid-table, all the teams above them having beaten Henfield by similar scores during the campaign.

Sparrows make rare point

Horsham Sparrows avoided defeat for only the second time in their 16 games in the Surrey County Women and Girls Football League Under-18 Division, drawing 0-0 with Knaphill Athletic.

They remain bottom, but have games in hand of some of the teams immediately above them.

Crawley Town also have games in hand of all four teams above them at the other end of the table, and have a chance of overhauling one or two of them after their 2-0 victory at Kempton.

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