PRE-SEASON: GILLINGHAM LADIES 1 CHELSEA LADIES 2

A late Kate Longhurst strike was enough for Chelsea Ladies to secure victory at Gillingham in the Blues' first pre-season game.

After winter signing Helen Bleazard scored on her first appearance in a Chelsea shirt, finding the top corner with a stunning 20-yard free kick, Gillingham would level the match before Longhurst sealed the win in the final minute.

On a cold afternoon at Chatham Town FC's Sports Ground, the friendly was played in three 30 minute periods, allowing for an extra break in play for Blues manager Matt Beard to communicate with his side as preparations continue for the upcoming FAWSL season.

With Blues goalkeeper Carly Telford returning from an injury sustained last season, Sarah Quantrill, on loan at the Gills throughout the winter, played the full 90 minutes for the hosts, allowing both much-needed match practice.

Chelsea would begin the match brightly, with Bleazard and Dani Buet looking to create from wide areas as the visitors dominated the early exchanges, despite struggling to test Quantrill.

After being restricted to long shots throughout the first period, the best chance would fall to Chelsea left-back Sophie Perry when she arrived at the far post to meet Buet's cross, only to miscue from close range.

As the first 30 minutes drew to a close, a strong Gemma Bonner challenge was enough to foil a rare Gills attack to keep the scores level at the first break.

After a brief team talk, the second period saw several substitutions, with rolling changes permitted throughout the match. The Blues would continue to press for an opening goal, with Quantrill twice frustrating Lander before the visitors finally broke the deadlock on 55 minutes.

When a free-kick was given for handball, Bleazard lifted her effort over the wall and past Quantrill to give Chelsea the advantage going into the second interval.

Following the more traditional 15-minute break after the second period, the hosts looked to find an equaliser, twice testing Telford, before levelling the scores on 70 minutes, with Lauren Phillips' deft finish over the Chelsea keeper from the edge of the penalty area.

Looking to react immediately, the visitors came close to retaking the lead, with Bonner and Drew Spence going close in a goalmouth scramble from one of several late corners for the Blues, the last of which would prove decisive.

In the final minute of the match, Buet's delivery fell to Longhurst, who's sweetly struck volley found the top corner to secure a deserved win for Chelsesa.

Chelsea (4-4-2): Carly Telford; Lara Fay, Gemma Bonner, Kylie Davies, Sophie Perry; Drew Spence, Hayley Moorwood, Laura Coombs, Helen Bleazard; Dani Buet, Ashlee Hincks.
Subs: Sophie Ingle, Kate Longhurst, Helen Lander.


By Daniel Clarke.

Image by Julian Hart Photography.