Gills team impress during recent tournament
Gillingham FC Community Trust (GFCCT) attended the Kinder +Sport EFL U13s Girls Cup Area Final, hosted by Millwall FC, on January 11.
Representing the Gills were Highworth Grammar School from Ashford, who won our Local Finals competition back in November. Buoyed on by their success there, the team were hoping for more wins to take them one step further on the road to Wembley.
Before the day, GFCCT coaches Jack Knighton and Dan Blewett visited the school for a training session with the girls to assist with their preparations. The coaches worked on shape and position in small-sided games, as well as communication and individual ball work.
On the day, having battled rail strikes and road closures, the team finally made it to The Den, just in time for the first round of games to kick-off. Dressed in full Gillingham FC kit, the eight girls from Highworth were ready to take on some tough competition. The six-a-side competition had two qualifying groups of five teams, with the top two teams from each group going on to the semi-finals. The Gills were drawn in a group against school teams representing Leyton Orient, QPR, Brighton, and hosts Millwall.
Under the intimidating dome of Millwall’s indoor pitches, the Highworth team lined up for their first match against Leyton Orient, watched from the side-lines by their competitors and cheered on by their teachers and the Community Trust team. Right from the off, the girls really gave it their all, putting in some good challenges and defending well against Orient’s striker. Both teams had some good chances, and in the end a magnificent save on the final whistle by Highworth’s keeper kept the score line at 0-0 – a positive start to the tournament.
Next up were the team representing the hosts Millwall. Highworth came back raring to go from their team talk, and had an instant impact, as a fantastic shot rebounded off the cross-bar and was slotted in to make it 1-0 to the Gills! With confidence boosted, the pace of the game picked up, and Highworth showed better passing and more organised play. Millwall were pushing for an equaliser, but again the Gills defended well, holding on to secure a 1-0 win.
Game three saw the girls up against the school representing Brighton. They came into the game following a loss and a draw, so were looking for a win. Early on Brighton took a shot, and despite a valiant attempt by the keeper, Highworth conceded their first goal of the tournament. The Highworth girls pushed back, keeping Brighton’s keeper busy, but they just couldn’t find the net. A free-kick for Brighton looked like it could cause more trouble for the Gills team, but a fantastic save denied them a second goal. Highworth persevered, but they just couldn’t quite find an equaliser, and the game ended 1-0 to Brighton.
The final game for the Gills team was against QPR’s local winning school. The score lines for all of the teams in the group were very close, and in the final leg it was still open for any of the teams to qualify for the semi-finals. The final game started well with pace, and the Gills team put instant pressure onto QPR’s keeper, forcing her into several big saves. Both sides pushed for a winner, but neither succeeded, and the game ended 0-0. Meanwhile, a Brighton win against Leyton Orient on the other pitch meant those two teams went through to the semi-finals from the group. The Highworth team had put on an excellent display, finishing third in their group.
Overall, the Highworth girls did themselves, their school and the Gills proud in their effort, determination and professionalism throughout the tournament, showing their skills against some tough opposition. They proved their defensive strength, conceding just one goal in four games, and were unlucky not to make it through.
Speaking after the tournament, Highworth’s teacher Effie Dodds said; “It’s been really enjoyable day – it’s a great experience for the girls, and that’s what we came here for today. The quality of football from all of the teams has been very good. It’s been a really helpful learning experience for us as a team too – we’ve been able to see who links up well with who, and where each girl’s strengths lie in terms of their position. Many of the girls in the team are Year 7s, so I hope they’ll be able to come back for next year’s tournament too!”
Community Trust Participation Development Officer Jack Knighton added; “We were really proud to have Highworth representing Gillingham FC today. The girls put on a fantastic display, and were unlucky not to progress from their group – it was a really tight competition. We’re already looking forward to next year’s Girls Cup!”
Thank you to Millwall FC for hosting a great Girls Cup Area Final, and well done to overall winners Brentford who progress in the tournament. A big thank you and well done especially to the players and staff from Highworth Grammar School – you did the Gills proud!
Read more about the Girls Cup Local Finals here.
For any girls aged 11-13 who are interested in getting involved in football, come along to our fun and friendly sessions on Tuesdays, 6.30pm at Strood Sports Centre – no experience necessary! Find out more.
Find out more about the GFC Community Trust on Twitter via @GillsCommunity, or contact us on GFCCT@priestfield.com.