Crystal Palace Ladies played their final home fixture of their inaugural FA Women’s Championship season at Selhurst Park on Sunday afternoon, with the visitors being local rivals Charlton Athletic.
Beyond the football, the day was made all the more special by the return of mascot Lilac, who stole the hearts of Palace fans last season as she prepared for groundbreaking treatment that would allow her the chance to walk unaided.
Ahead of the south London clash, Lilac proudly walked both teams on to the pitch; showing what true determination and amazing support can really achieve.
Frustratingly, the Eagles were without several key players such Gemma Bryan, Ashlee Hincks, Pam McRoberts, Megen Lynch, Freya Holdaway and Chloe Burr.
Despite a bright start to proceedings, it was the Addicks who would strike first. A low ball was drilled across the face of goal, where Sara Eggsvik was on hand to stab home at the back post.
The visitors would double their lead on 39 minutes with an almost carbon copy of their first goal, albeit from the other flank. Amber Stobbs’ delivery got the better of Lucy Gillett in the Palace goal and gave Kit Graham the simple task of tapping the ball over the line.
After the break, Palace appeared rejuvenated but were limited to half chances, with Katie Startup yet to make a save.
The Addicks almost went three up just nine minutes into the second 45, but Charley Clifford’s 25 yard free kick struck the woodwork.
However, after Gillet made a good save from Graham, two would become three when Liz Ejupi found space on the edge of the box and sent a low, driven shot across Palace's shot-stopper and into the bottom corner.
The introduction of Jade Keogh appeared to spark Palace into life, and almost immediately, the Eagles were awarded a penalty. The impressive Kallie Balfour stepped up and made no mistake, sending Startup the wrong way.
Just two minutes after that, Keogh nearly reduced the deficit further, but after a game of pinball in the box, she was unable to turn the loose ball home at the back post, allowing Charlton to clear.
As Palace surged forward, they would fall victim to a sucker punch four minutes from time. Gillett’s clearance from inside her own box ricocheted off Graham, who was first to the loose ball. Lily Agg was on the end of Graham's squared ball and only had to tap into an empty net to find Charlton's fourth and final goal.
The words amazing and heroic are used all too often. People talk about a tough journey and defying the odds. Today , only year after ground breaking treatment, our inspiration @LegsLilacs WALKED our team onto Selhurst Park. Truly awesome. ❤️💙⚽️@CPFC @FAWC_ pic.twitter.com/V6mRejF5hV— Crystal Palace L.F.C (@PalaceLadiesFC) April 28, 2019
Despite the loss to a team that has shown good form this season, Palace Chairman Richard Spokes was in a positive mood, saying: “For sure, this has been a tough first step at this level, but with all the circumstances taken into account, including our reduced preparation for the season and some incredible injury issues, this season should be a springboard for Crystal Palace and the efforts of all will be seen as a success in our broader history.
"Today, here at Selhurst Park with around a thousand supporters enjoying all the facilities and an entertaining spectacle, we can see the passion that everyone has for our continued development and as such, all connected to our club should be very proud.”
Palace: Gillett, Nash, Stevens, Nuttall, Butler, Mackenzie, Georgiou, Haydock, Watling, Whinnett, Balfour.
Subs: Salgado, Davenport, Collins, Keough, Chandler, McKeag.
TICKETS: There are tickets remaining for Palace's first team clash against Cardiff City on Saturday, and you can buy up to four by clicking here.