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Watford 0 Charlton Athletic 1
Charlton Athletic put a stop to Watford's recent revival and rose to third in the Premier League National Division table with a 1-0 away win at Northwood.
The winning goal was scored by 16-year-old Kit Graham who impressed throughout the game in midfield but both sides went very close to adding to the goal tally in a tough contest. Charlton had to be careful right to the end of a second half where injuries led to ten minutes of added time, but came away with a valuable win.
Watford looked lively in the opening exchanges, snapping into tackles and closing Charlton down quickly. Sarah Wiltshire, operating very effectively in an attacking midfield role, created the first dangerous moment, releasing Megan Wynne, whose low cross was well held by Megen Lynch. Holly Miles had a shot from distance which went wide and Shelby Hills later had an effort after a goalmouth scramble disallowed as the hosts fought to keep the improved run going.
Charlton, however, scored from their first real opening. Gemma Bryan flighted in a dangerous free kick from 35 yards wide on the left which was met by Graham, whose far post run was perfectly timed to allow a close range header on 26 minutes.
Graham had further attempts on goal before the break, a header from Fliss Gibbons' cross was well held by Lauren Davey and a couple of long range shots blocked. However, it was Watford who were desperately unlucky not to draw level. Wiltshire went close with a 30-yard left foot free kick, then beat Lynch with an effort from the edge of the area. The ball struck the inside of the right hand post, spun along the line, struck the other post and rebounded to the waiting Charlton keeper on 40 minutes. Jo Wilson had an effort blocked with a last ditch challenge by Cori Daniels as Watford went into the break unlucky to be trailing.
In truth the Golden Girls never really dominated again, as Charlton played very well on the resumption and created a number of chances to extend their lead, whilst restricting the hosts to a couple of close calls from set pieces. Bryan was thwarted by Davey in a one-on-one from a Kim Dixson pass and also hit the bar from 30 yards. Gibbons also had an effort turned onto the bar by the Watford keeper and a powerful strike well saved after Courteney Gibson had dribbled past four tackles in a thrilling run to set her up. Just prior to this, Gibson had starred at the other end, clearing a Chloe Gunn header off the line from a Wiltshire corner, which was the nearest Watford came to grabbing an equaliser.
The Watford cause was not helped by a series of injuries which led them to finish the game with ten players as Miles had to leave the field with a cut to her head and the breaks disrupted any attempts to build up concerted pressure on the visitors goal. They battled to the end and forced the Charlton back four to concentrate at all times but the Addicks saw the match through successfully with few real scares.
Watford, eight points from safety with just four matches left, will need a huge shift in fortunes to retain their National Division status. Charlton's two wins in a row have gone a long way to ensuring they will stay in the top flight and have set them up to challenge for third place behind Leeds United and Sunderland.
Watford: Lauren Davey, Georgia Mays, Holly Miles, Shelby Hills, Sarah Wiltshire, Megan Wynne, Kate Natkiel, Leanne Jones, Chloe Gunn, Joanne Wilson, Ellie Butterwick. Subs: Irene Martin-Garcia, Paige Logie, Ashley Hall.
Charlton Athletic: Megen Lynch, Toni Alden, Kim Dixson, Becky Duggan, Ellie Bailes, Fliss Gibbons, Gemma Bryan, Kit Graham, Sinead Boyer, Cori Daniels, Courteney Gibson. Subs: Jordan Butler, Jenny Newman, Elizabeta Ejupi, Emma Beckett, Mia Sellar.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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