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Charlton Athletic 4 Brighton & Hove Albion 1
Charlton Athletic were outstanding in defeating FAWPL Southern Division leaders Brighton & Hove Albion at Sporting Club Thamesmead.
Charlton got off to the best possible start on six minutes. A long Grace Coombs pass released Gemma Shepherd on the left and the striker cut the ball back for Amy Howlett who curled a shot on Faye Baker's net, with Kit Graham getting a slight headed contact on the strike to guide it in
the far corner.
The second, three minutes later, was also Graham's as she raced clear on the left, powered past the last defender and finished calmly past Baker.
Charlton were constantly seeking to pressure every visiting player as far up the pitch as possible which led to some ambitious attempts to play their way out from the back. One such manoeuvre led to Charlton's third on 21 minutes, Shepherd alertly dispossessing an Albion defender 15 yards out in front of goal, then slotting past the exposed keeper.
Brighton made two substitutions and started to find their rhythm going forward. Lynch twice needed to be alert to deal with crosses as sub Charlotte Gurr found time and space deep in the Charlton half and was quick off her line to force Fliss Gibbons wide of goal as the visitors threatened to reduce the deficit. On 45 minutes these two players combined well, with Gurr sliding a perfect pass for Gibbons to outpace the defence and shoot low past Lynch. The scorer then set up Lucy Somes for a shot which Lynch held as Brighton finished the half well.
Any momentum which Brighton might have gained from their goal was dissipated very soon after the restart. Howlett cut in from the left wing and curled a lovely 20-yard effort beyond Baker for Charlton's fourth.
Shepherd was very close to adding a fifth before Lynch was called upon to make two saves in the 52nd minute. Again it was Gurr who set up Gibbons but the Charlton keeper was quick off her line to foil the dangerous situation, then did well to hold an awkwardly bouncing shot by Deanna Cooper from the resulting corner.
Charlton continued to look capable of adding to their lead, particularly when they won the ball back in the opposition half. Charley Clifford and Sam Pittuck were especially adept in achieving this task and the former was very close to scoring on 61 minutes after Shepherd had challenged for right wing cross but Clifford's hooked shot was just over. Howlett had an effort saved after Coombs had played another well weighted long pass to release her on the left on the hour.
Brighton also continued to press with intensity. Gibbons getting to the line and firing a low near post cross which Lynch dived to hold. Lisa Fulgence came on for the final 20 minutes to add to the attacking options and was close to reducing the deficit from a Charlotte Owen free kick. Cooper made a surging run from the back and was injured by an illegal challenge after beating three players but Charlton stood firm and rarely looked in real danger.
At the other end, Graham, Shepherd and Howlett were combining very well to ensure that Charlton always had a threat going forward. Indeed the best chances were created by the hosts as the final minutes counted down and Brighton pushed higher and higher. Graham played a beautifully weighted cross from the left which just evaded Shepherd and then had a powerful shot blocked as Charlton were able to play with some freedom, earned by the hard work and skill of the whole team.
Other results meant that Brighton remained top but that will be no consolation on a day when they were soundly beaten. The intensity and quality of play from Charlton was most impressive as Brighton tried everything to claw back the early deficit and this was at the end of three matches in a busy FAWPL week, a tribute to the effort and commitment of the players of both clubs in what promises to be a fascinating Southern Division title race.
Charlton Athletic: Megen Lynch, Katie Flack, Grace Coombs, Charley Clifford, Sam Pittuck, Gemma Shepherd, Kit Graham, Amy Howlett, Megan Mulholland, Emma Harrison, Ruby Southgate. Subs: Stef Simmons, Rosie Paye, Olivia Cole.
Brighton & Hove Albion: Faye Baker, Amy Taylor, Sophie Perry, Jay Blackie, Izzy Burt, Amy Green, Lucy Somes, Fliss Gibbons, Charley Boswell, Deanna Cooper, Charlotte Owen. Subs: Charlotte Gurr, Lisa Fulgence, Kirsty Barton.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Amy Howlett tries to get away from Izzy Burt
(middle) Kit Graham is crowded out by Jay Blackie and Charley Boswell
(bottom) Charley Clifford battles for the ball with Fliss Gibbons
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