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Charlton Athletic 2 Cardiff City Ladies 0
Charlton Athletic celebrated their first competitive match at The Valley in over a decade with a 2-0 win over Cardiff City which books them a May 3rd FAWPL League Cup Final tie with holders Sheffield FC.
After two very close matches already this season, this semi final encounter was again on a knife edge for over an hour, in which the visitors had created the better chances. However, once Charlton had capitalised on a defensive error for skipper Kim Dixson to open the scoring, the home side grew stronger and settled the outcome through top scorer Kit Graham.
There was nearly a dramatic opening to the contest when Megen Lynch's clearance was blocked by Naomi Clipston and the rebound rolled just beyond an open goal. Cardiff settled the quicker and Abbie Britton went close before Hope Suominen beat the offside trap on the right to shoot across Lynch, who got a vital touch on the shot to send the ball wide on ten minutes.
Charlton played their way into the contest and put together their best move midway through the half. Charley Clifford released Amy Howlett on the right and her cross was headed wide by Emma Harrison under pressure from City keeper Alesha McGlynn. Good work down the right then allowed Graham to set up Howlett for a shot which flew narrowly wide of McGlynn's near post.
The Cardiff keeper was quick off her line to smother a dangerous through ball towards Gemma Shepherd on 36 minutes but it was the visitors who could have taken the lead close to the break. Kelly Isaac had a sweetly hit shot tipped wide by Lynch at full stretch, then Michelle Green headed over from six yards from an inviting Laura Williams cross. Clipston then set up Suominen for a shot narrowly over before Nia Jones headed a Williams corner wide under pressure as Cardiff finished the half on top.
Cardiff had a big chance to take the lead shortly after the restart. Another good cross from the right found Suominen open in front of goal but Lynch managed to block her close range effort. Shannelle Edwards twice found space to run in on goal from the left but both efforts were blocked at the last.
The crucial moment came midway through the half when a Cardiff defender played a risky back pass towards McGlynn from wide on the left. Graham reached the ball first and rounded the stranded keeper before showing good awareness to cut a pass back to Dixson who finished calmly on 67 minutes.
Cardiff had two free kicks in dangerous areas soon after the opener but Charlton really upped their game in the final quarter, none more so than player of the match Sam Pittuck who showed great composure in central defence, including a crucial interception when Edwards again got free to whip a low cross into the six yard box on 77 minutes.
The tie was settled on 80 minutes when Graham seized on a loose ball, beat the last defender and crashed an emphatic finish wide of McGlynn. Cardiff battled on and Clipston had an effort well held by Lynch but it was Charlton who created the final chance with Graham denied only by a fine tackle from Hannah Mills. A third would have given an unrealistic edge to the score after a well contested and even match but it was the home support who could look forward to the third Cup Final of what promises to be a busy end of season for the Addicks.
On a special day, in front of an enthusiastic and supportive crowd, it was fitting that the opening goal was scored by a player who had attended the previous competitive fixture at the iconic venue in 2003 as member of a junior squad and acted as a ball girl for a previous generation of Charlton Athletic players and now helped earn the first national Cup Final spot since 2007 for her club.
Charlton Athletic: Megen Lynch, Katie Flack, Rosie Paye, Grace Coombs, Sam Pittuck, Charley Clifford, Kit Graham, Amy Howlett, Emma Harrison, Kim Dixson, Gemma Shepherd. Subs: Alex Baker, Stef Simmons, Nikita Whinnett, Katie Hardaker, Ruby Southgate.
Cardiff City Ladies: Alesha McGlynn, Hannah Mills, Nia Jones, Abbie Britton, Kayleigh Green, Kelly Isaac, Michelle Green, Naomi Clipston, Shannelle Edwards, Hope Suominen, Laura Williams. Subs: Kerry Bartlett, Zoe Atkins, Hannah Daley, Chloe Tucker, Annie Pritchard.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Hope Suominen goes close with a shot past Megen Lynch
(middle) Shannelle Edwards tries to hold off Kim Dixson
(bottom) Kit Graham challenges Abbie Britton
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