Preview: Abingdon Town vs Gillingham

While much of the attention this weekend will be on the Super League and Championship as part of Women’s Football Weekend, let’s not forget that the Vitality Women’s FA Cup is ramping up with the first round proper taking place. One of the ties that we are most interested in involves tier three side Gillingham taking on Abingdon Town from the Southern Region Women’s Football League, the fifth tier.

Gillingham enter the competition at this point, while Abingdon Town have already played two games as part of the competition’s qualifying phase, beating Long Crendon 6-0 and Portishead Town 8-7 on penalties after the game finished 2-2 in normal time. 

Town’s boss Kieran Beesley told me, “I believe we’ve had a good run so far and have deserved our victories in each round. We had a convincing win in the second round qualifying game where we came out 6-0 winners followed by a thoroughly deserved win against higher opposition in the last round.

“The last game demonstrated our organisation, resilience and togetherness to get through the 90 minutes, after having opportunities to have won it in normal time after taking the lead twice. But, the ladies showed courage to stay composed to get the win in a tense penalty shoot-out. Now we have an exciting match up against tier 3 opposition.”

Many clubs outside of the professional levels of women’s football are having to contend with losing players and staff to COVID protocols and injuries that are picked up during the season. Town are no different, with COVID issues affecting over half of the team in the last two weeks which is bound to have impacted preparation. 

Abingdon Town go into the game as huge underdogs, something which isn’t lost on Beesley, “Unfortunately we are unable to play at the Marcham Centre in our next FA Cup tie vs Gillingham but a local tie nonetheless with our supporters in attendance can only help us. We’re not naive to the challenge but we will take any little advantage we can. We always believe! It’s the FA Cup after all and anything can happen in this competition. It only takes one chance!”

Beesley’s side has been spreading the goals around the team this year. Chloe Ball and Elisha Cox have both scored four goals each but seven other first-team players have also found the net this season. If there is to be a big cup upset in this match then Abingdon Town must take advantage of any chances that they have in front of goal, they cannot afford to be wasteful against a team like Gillingham, who were eliminated by Arsenal in the fourth round last time out. 

If you’d like to be there then the match is a 1 pm KO at Wallingford Sports Park, Hithercroft Road, Oxfordshire, OX10 9RB. 

Photo: Gary Marsh