SSE Women's FA Cup - 1st Round.
Crystal Palace Ladies 1 -2 Charlton Athletic
at Selhurst Park Stadium
Palace Ladies took to the Selhurst Park pitch on Sunday for the first time in the women's FA Cup. On an occasion that demonstrated not only the progress being made by the team on the pitch but also the support being shown from within the club and across the support network, the Eagles were keen to show just why so many people are talking about them this season.
The draw against local rivals Charlton was, to be fair, a fixture that would have suited a later round and was without doubt the stand out tie of the first round proper. With both teams experiencing the full match day treatment from the staff at Crystal Palace FC, the stage was set for an entertaining game.
Following a minutes silence following the tragedy in Columbia this week the game got underway in front of over 550 fans. Following a disjointed first 10 minutes, Palace were the quickest to settle and played some neat, tidy and expressive football with the game focused predominantly in the Charlton half, apart from a couple of counter attacks.
Gemma Bryan returning from injury looked a constant threat, posing real difficulties for the Charlton defence. It was through these endeavours that Bryan went closest in the opening 40 minutes, shooting just wide on a couple of occasions, where by her own high standards, she would of backed herself to score.
As the half progressed Palace were playing some very attractive football using the high press to keep Charlton pinned into their own half. As half-time approached the Palace pressure told when a cross was swung in from the left for Pam McRoberts to add a deft header sending the ball into the Charlton net.
Whilst it is always said that scoring just before half-time can have a significant impact on the conceding team to, it can also be the case that the team scoring could have benefited from a further 10 to 15 minutes to capitalise on their gain. This was certainly the case for Palace, who a few minutes later were retreating to the dressing room with a one goal advantage, that could have been more.
Sitting with the well used cliche the second half was a very different affair with Charlton looking to suppress the pressure of Palace and move the game further into their opponents half. The initial 25 minutes of the half saw Palace repel the Charlton efforts but it soon became noticeable that the Eagles were defending deeper and deeper, with Charlton going ever closer to scoring. Finally the pressure told in the 79th minute when Charlton were able to score from close range, through Rosey Sullivan following Palace being unable to fully clear their lines. With around 15 minutes it was now anybodys game and
Charlton were in the ascendancy.
The withdrawal of Bryan following her return from injury was clearly a blow for Palace, who doggedly battled to keep Charlton at bay. With the match running towards extra time and the potential for penalties, Palace found themselves under even greater pressure, with keeper Chanel Yardley being called into action on a number of occasions. And it was following one such fine save that Palace hearts were broken in the 89th minute when the acrobatic efforts of Yardley were again in evidence when saving a goal bound Charlton effort; but was unable to prevent the follow-up header, from Charley Clifford, putting Charlton into a 2-1 lead late on. With little time left, the typical Palace spirit was evident as the girls pushed on to try and snatch a last gasp equaliser. However the previous three draws between these teams in the last two seasons was not to be and Palace ran out of time at the end of an enthralling and entertaining cup tie.
Speaking after the game head coach Dean Davenport said, "Naturally we are all disappointed with the result, knowing that it was not beyond our ability to win this tie. Credit should go to Charlton for managing to stay in the game during a first half that I felt we dominated. We know from previous encounters that one goal is not likely to be a good enough lead to see a game out against them. Unfortunately we were not able to continue our threat throughout the second half: something that the girls are all bitterly disappointed about. Charlton showed their experience and their credentials in game management and in taking the chances that they had when they arose and this is something that we, as a young team, are still learning. In some respects it is positive to see the girls disappointment, as I do believe this shows what the expectations are within the squad and how far they have come in such a short space of time. Whilst we may not be in the hat for the next round we have achieved far more today than just a result on the pitch. Crystal Palace Football Club as a whole has demonstrated to the wider sport and a community that this is a club that backs women's football and inclusivity and celebrates it in a way that many others will be envious of. We are immensely proud to be an integral part of this football club and look forward to many more opportunities to prove it. Everybody involved within the Palace Ladies set up would like to sincerely thank the management and staff at CPFC for their support. We are most certainly Palace and proud"
Palace ladies are back in action next Sunday in an equally challenging fixture as they take on League high flyers, Spurs, in the FAWP League Cup semi-final, to be played at Cheshunt FC. Follow Palace Ladies on Twitter @PalaceLadiesFC for all match and club information.