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      Champions: The complete story of Palace Women's incredible season


      A week ago today, Crystal Palace Women made club history by winning the Championship title at Selhurst Park – and, with it, promotion to the top-flight for the very first time.

      This is the story of how they did it...

      July – Palace's new era

      The summer rang in an off-season of vast change in south London, with a move to a new ground, the VBS Community Stadium in Sutton, ahead of 2023/24.

      Palace fans were also able to celebrate the appointments of Grace Williams as the club’s new Head of Women’s Football; Laura Kaminski as the new head coach; Adam Jeffrey as the new assistant coach; and eight new players donning the red and blue for the very first time.

      A chapter of change – but one with results both immediate, and spectacular…

      August & September – An explosive start

      After a strong set of pre-season results, Palace Women’s first competitive game of 23/24 – their first outing at Sutton, accompanied by an electric atmosphere – was a hint towards the rollercoaster ride to come.

      Taking on Reading, who were newly-demoted from the Women’s Super League, the Eagles were grateful to Elise Hughes’ 102nd-minute looping header, from Fliss Gibbons’ perfectly-flighted cross, for a point, having gone behind in the 88th minute to a scruffy goal.

      Women's Match Highlights: Crystal Palace 1-1 Reading

      Then, in September, two historic victories: a 2-1 win over Birmingham City on a baking hot day at St Andrew’s, with captain Aimee Everett thumping home the opener from a corner, ignited Palace’s season and gave them their first win under Kaminski.

      That was swiftly followed by a 9-1 demolition of Durham in Sutton. Annabel Blanchard scored three and Hughes hit four, with Hayley Nolan and Molly Sharpe also getting in on the act, to help secure a club-record win, later named the Performance of the Week by the League Managers’ Association.

      Match Highlights: Crystal Palace Women 9-1 Durham Women

      September did end with the frustration of conceding a last-minute equaliser to Sunderland on the road, but Palace went into the first international break of the season having laid down a marker of their intent.

      October – Awards galore

      Blanchard claimed both the Championship’s Player and Goal of the Month awards for September, with Kaminski taking Manager of the Month – and that form continued when fixtures resumed.

      Palace immediately picked up where they left off in October, securing a dominant 4-0 win over then-league leaders Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park; summer signing Shanade Hopcroft got her first goal for the club, with Polly Doran, Blanchard and Sharpe the other scorers.

      Women's Match Highlights: Blackburn Rovers 0-4 Crystal Palace

      A week later, Palace’s goal glut continued, running away with the second-half at home to London City Lionesses.

      Level at 1-1 at the break, a second-half Blanchard hat-trick put Palace on course for a 6-1 win which saw them move up to third in the table.

      Women's Match Highlights: Crystal Palace 6-1 London City Lionesses

      October did see Palace suffer their first defeat of the season, however: an end-to-end contest, but eventual 2-3 loss, to Charlton at the Valley, despite Araya Dennis’ Goal of the Season contender from 35 yards (which later won the league’s monthly prize).

      November & December – Records & cups

      As would come to prove a vital habit for Palace, the disappointment of defeat did not linger for long. The Eagles bounced back straight away, with 3-0 and 3-2 wins away to Watford and home to Lewes respectively in early November.

      Young England internationals Shauna Guyatt and Lexi Potter grabbed spectacular first professional goals in those respective fixtures.

      Women's Highlights: Watford 0-3 Crystal Palace

      Then, the first attendance record fell: with Palace and Southampton battling at the top of the table, a club-record 4,442 fans – a figure bettered later in the season – witnessed a 4-3 thriller go in the Saints’ favour, despite goals from Everett and Hughes (two).

      Cup competitions took centre-stage in the winter months: a 3-0 win over Watford in the Continental League Cup group stages made up for the disappointment of a penalty shoot-out defeat to Lewes in the same competition.

      But both results were bettered by a thumping 6-0 win over Chatham Town in the Adobe Women’s FA Cup third round, Hughes the provider of another hat-trick, and Sharpe with the pick of the goals.

      Women's Highlights: Crystal Palace 6-0 Chatham Town

      With a 1-1 draw at Reading, Palace Women concluded 2023 in fourth place, just two points off the Championship summit and – as would be the case for most of the rest of the season – having a game in hand.

      As Kaminski would summarise: “This group play some fantastic football, so we’ll look to really progress, hold on to that and crack on in the next half of the season.

      “We’ve still got a long way to go this season, so we have to stay focused and really concentrate on the task ahead of us.”

      January – New arrivals and new frontiers

      Palace welcomed three fresh faces to south London in the January transfer window, with Ria Percival, Izzy Atkinson and Abbie Larkin all arriving.

      But the team experienced mixed fortunes on the pitch in arguably their most challenging spell of the season.

      There was the joy of a dramatic 3-1 win over Blackburn in the FA Cup fourth-round – the first time Palace had won back-to-back games in the competition in their professional era, thanks to a key second-half penalty save from Demi Lambourne, and a late turnaround kick-started by Nolan.

        Women's Highlights: Crystal Palace 3-1 Blackburn Rovers

      This was followed by a hard-fought 2-0 win over London City Lionesses in the league.

      But that was tempered by elimination from the League Cup group stages at London City just three days later, with the frustration of a scrappy 1-0 defeat to Charlton in Sutton at the end of January resulting in Palace slipping to fifth in the table.

      February – The grand stage

      Nevertheless, Palace once again laid a real marker for their title aspirations with their response: a superb 2-1 win over Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium.

      Atkinson grabbed her first goal for the club with a wonderful solo effort, on the way to winning Championship Player of the Month.

        Women's Highlights: Southampton 1-2  Crystal Palace

      Next up was a day to remember – but surely one Palace will now get to repeat next season – as the Eagles visited Emma Hayes’ all-conquering Chelsea side in the FA Cup fifth-round.

      After a superb team performance, with Palace showing all the resilience and endeavour which had taken them that far, only a spectacular back-heeled finish in the 81st minute from Mayra Ramirez – the world’s most expensive women’s player – saw the four-in-a-row Women’s Super League champions progress at Palace’s expense.

      The result was Chelsea’s but the day, in truth, belonged to Palace and their away supporters at Kingsmeadow – everyone superb from the first minute to the last.

      Given a taste of competing with a WSL team, Palace reasserted themselves in the league, dispatching Blackburn convincingly in Sutton thanks to goals from Blanchard, Atkinson, Chloe Arthur and Hopcroft.

      Kaminski was named Championship Manager of the Month for the second time.

      March – More history made

      On Mother’s Day, Palace began March with a celebration of their families, before making more history by winning at Selhurst Park for the first time in the Championship.

      A hard-fought game against Sheffield United was settled by a late poacher’s effort from Sharpe.

      A scrappier return fixture a week later saw the Blades claim revenge at Bramall Lane, but Palace responded in impressive fashion once more.

      A 3-0 win over Watford, again at Selhurst Park – with another club-record 5,566 tickets sold – was capped by superb goals from Sharpe, Percival and Blanchard.

      Access all over | Crystal Palace 3-0 Watford

      Knowing that maximum points in the season run-in would secure promotion, a 5-1 win at Durham on Easter Sunday – Blanchard (two), Sharpe, Hughes and Hopcroft with the goals – set Palace up perfectly for the final month.

      Three big games left – could they deliver?

      Women's Highlights: Durham 1-5 Crystal Palace

      April – Clinching it

      Returning for the international break with their destiny in their own hands – a point off the summit and a game in hand – it really felt like the season was there for Palace to seize.

      The run-in began with second-placed Palace at home to fourth-placed Birmingham – themselves not out of the title race – in our final game of the season at Sutton.

      Palace rose to the challenge, as Blanchard’s cross picked out Hughes for her 23rd goal of a landmark campaign.

      The Eagles were forced to battle hard to stay in front – but holding firm, with the likes of Lambourne, Percival, Everett, Nolan and Gibbons all outstanding at the back – a 1-0 win was secured.

      Two to go. Next up: Lewes away, at The Dripping Pan – a day none of a Palace persuasion will ever forget.

      Our final away game of 2023/24 was settled by a Hopcroft wondergoal – a ferocious dipping volley from 30 yards certain to win many an accolade in the future – and a composed Sharpe finish.

      Women's Highlights: Lewes 0-2 Crystal Palace

      That – in combination with Charlton’s 1-0 win over Sunderland in the north-east – meant that Palace were almost certain to win the Women’s Championship title going into the final day, unless there was a remarkable three-point and 22-goal swing in the Addicks' favour on the final day.

      Sunday 28th April, 2024

      Some 6,796 fans purchased tickets for the final-day fixture – the third time Palace Women set a new record crowd this season.

      And despite our Charlton winning 2-0 against Southampton at the Valley, they never came close to spoiling a celebratory day in SE25 – with promotion, the title and a trophy lift all confirmed by a 0-0 draw against Sunderland.

      The match was admittedly a slower burner for on-the-pitch entertainment, with the second-best defence in the division, Sunderland’s, coming up against the fourth-best in Palace’s – and openings ultimately proved hard to come by.

      Women's Highlights: Crystal Palace 0-0 Sunderland

      But Molly Sharpe went close for Palace on three occasions in the first-half from crosses, while Demi Lambourne produced an excellent save from Ellen Jones to keep Sunderland at bay on the stroke of half-time.

      After the interval, both teams hit the woodwork as Izzy Atkinson’s mis-hit cross almost found the top corner for Palace, whilst Sunderland’s Jenna Dear hit the crossbar with a fantastic effort from 30 yards.

      But ultimately, a 0-0 draw would more than do for Palace’s players and staff, who – upon hearing the full-time whistle – raced onto the Selhurst Park pitch in their droves to celebrate a simply remarkable campaign.

      The day, the occasion, the Championship title – and with it, promotion to the 2024/25 Women’s Super League, putting the Eagles in the top-flight for the first time… it all belonged to Crystal Palace.