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Crystal palace

      Report & Highlights: Record crowd roar Palace to superb win at Selhurst

      Crystal Palace Women
      Sharpe 4'
      Percival 11'
      Blanchard 58'
      Watford Women

      Goals from Molly Sharpe, Ria Percival and Annabel Blanchard gave Crystal Palace Women a convincing 3-0 win over Watford at Selhurst Park in front of a record crowd.


      • Record ticket sales of 5,566 greet Palace Women in SE25
      • Eagles seeking back-to-back Selhurst victories
      • Sharpe stabs Palace ahead inside four minutes
      • Hughes and Hopcroft go close from distance as Palace dominate early on
      • Percival hammers Palace into two-goal lead inside 11 minutes
      • Lafayette nearly scores own-goal from Hopcroft corner
      • Defender then deflects Blanchard’s header onto the roof of the net
      • León tests Lambourne’s handling on the stroke of half-time
      • HT: Palace 2-0 Watford
      • Atkinson denied by Howard as Palace press for third
      • Blanchard poaches Palace’s third on the line after 57 minutes
      • A series of teasing crosses go close for the Eagles as they press for a fourth
      • Hughes header cleared off the line for a second time
      • Baptiste heads late Watford half-chance wide
      • Hopcroft corner turned over the bar by Howard with seconds left
      • FT: Palace 3-0 Watford
      Women's Highlights: Crystal Palace 3-0 Watford

      With 5,566 tickets sold for the game at Selhurst Park – a club-record crowd for a Palace Women’s fixture, surpassing the 4,442 against Southampton earlier this season – the Red and Blue Army certainly turned out in their number.

      A sunny south London day full of games, activities, face-painting – and fan cams and t-shirt cannons – perfectly set the scene for an exciting match-up in SE25.

      And Palace – heading into the final five games of a season with all to play for – certainly thrived off that energy inside the opening exchanges, dominating the opening minutes.

      It took the Eagles just four minutes to take the lead. Some outstanding footwork in midfielder from Lexi Potter saw the midfielder free Annabel Blanchard down the left-wing.

      Her low cross into the box deflected behind Elise Hughes, whose shot on the spin was saved by Watford ‘keeper Bethany Howard – but fell to Molly Sharpe, the matchwinner at that end of Selhurst Park just two weeks ago, to once again turn home from close range.

      The goal was greeted with roars from inside Selhurst Park and Palace continued to launch attack upon attack, Hughes – freed by a clever touch from Blanchard – and Shanade Hopcroft both went close with efforts from the edge of the box.

      Third time proved to be the charm.

      With just 11 minutes on the clock, Izzy Atkinson swept a low cross in which was only half-cleared to the edge of the box – and Ria Percival, cutting inside from right-back, returned the ball with interest, drilling an inch-perfect finish on her left foot into the bottom corner.

      The game settled after Palace’s impressive opening salvo, but they continued to enjoy the majority of possession and offer the greater threat, Hopcroft’s lofted near-post corner almost going in off the midriff of Watford’s Abbie Lafayette.

      With Palace firmly in control, their chances slowed, but they did come close on the half-an-hour mark when Percival’s flighted ball in was headed goalwards by Blanchard – but deflected onto the crossbar via some brave defending from Lafayette.

      It wasn’t until the stroke of half-time that Watford enjoyed an effort on goal, but Demi Lambourne was more than equal to Lucia León’s daisycutter – although Lafayette’s outside-of-the-boot strike seconds later proved more threatening, albeit off target.

      When play restarted after the interval, a similar pattern emerged; Palace began brightly, with Atkinson and Potter both testing Howard’s handling in the opening moments.

      Indeed, it was Atkinson who had the first real opportunity of the half on 50 minutes, more good footwork from Potter freeing Hughes, who duly squared for the unmarked Atkinson. Taking the strike early, she could not direct the ball either side of Howard from inside the area.

      Hopcroft was next to go threaten from close range; Sharpe’s cross from the right wing deflected off the bottom of Laila Harbert’s boot and flashed across the face of goal, but the Palace midfielder – on the stretch – could not divert it beneath the bar.

      The third goal was coming – and duly arrived on 57 minutes, albeit in curious fashion. A square pass from Hughes was miscued high into the air by León, falling perfectly for Hughes to loop a header over Howard.

      León got back to attempt a clearance off the line, and it was difficult to tell if it had fully crossed the white paint before Blanchard got a telling header to truly hit the back of the net; the stadium announcer gave it to the Palace No. 10, although you sense the dressing room debate will rage on.

      The game was settled as a contest, but Hughes remained determined to get her goal; when Hopcroft stole the ball high and Blanchard prodded it over the top, Hughes once again headed it over the goalkeeper. With substitute Abbie Larkin looking to usher it over the line, somehow Lafayette stole in for Watford to hack clear beneath her own bar.

      Even then, Palace kept attacking – Lucy Watson in particular provided plenty of impetus off the bench with a number of driving runs from deep, including one which perhaps ought to have resulted in a penalty; Percival had one late half-volley fly over the bar; and Hopcroft’s late corner almost went straight in, but for Howard.

      At the other end, a clipped ball forwards gave former Palace forward Bianca Baptiste – on as a late substitute for Watford – the chance to head goalwards, but she directed her effort wide.

      And as the action drew to a close at a sun-soaked Palace, with a record crowd roaring them on and three points secured in some style, nothing could put a dampener on a landmark day for Crystal Palace Women.

      Four games left, a point off the summit and with a game in hand – it could still turn out to be a landmark season.

      Palace: Lambourne (GK), Percival, Everett, Nolan, Gibbons (Reilly, 76), Potter (Arthur, 84), Hopcroft, Blanchard (Filbey, 84), Atkinson (Larkin, 68), Hughes, Sharpe (Watson, 76)

      Subs: Negri (GK), Johnson, Guyatt, Dennis

      Watford: Howard (GK), León (Fyfe, 62), Meiwald, Lafayette, Bennett (Chandler, 78), Georgiou, Fleming (Rossiter, 45), McLean, Wilson, Harbert (Baptiste, 72), Johns

      Subs: Harris (GK), Head, Palisch, Davison