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Charlton Athletic 4 Blackburn Rovers 3 (aet)
Charlton Athletic booked a place to play Tottenham Hotspur in the FAWPL League Cup Final by beating Blackburn Rovers 4-3 after extra time in a dramatic semi final at Thamesmead Town FC.
Charlton, Southern Division leaders, eventually found their way past the runaway leaders of the FAWPL Northern Division in a match played in a swirling wind with occasional heavy showers of rain and hail.
An end-to-end start saw Rovers keeper Danielle Hill make a fine save from an Avilla Bergin inswinging corner, then Rovers striker Saffron Jordan had a header cleared by Ruby Southgate. Danielle Whitham then had a cross pushed away off the bar by Charlton keeper Alex Baker and the resulting corner saw Faye McCoy head just wide.
The home side took the lead when Kit Graham turned away from a defender before curling a 20-yard effort just beyond Hill's leap on 37 minutes. Charlton doubled their lead not long after the break when Kim Dixson released Bergin on the right and her cross was expertly turned home at the near post by Gemma Shepherd. The same player had a chance to settle the tie when Hill brought down Bergin but her penalty was dragged wide of the left hand upright.
Rovers took advantage of this reprieve and a double substitution gave them a much greater attacking threat. Alexandra Taylor crossed from the right for Jordan to guide a neat header wide of Baker on 76 minutes. Lynda Shepherd was inches away from an equaliser with another header, then Ellie Stewart volleyed over from close range after a free kick was headed down.
The equaliser came on 85 minutes when Jordan broke clear of the defence and was brought down by Baker, Lynda Shepherd converting the spot kick. Charlton responded really well to this double setback, having the better chances as extra time approached, a shot being cleared off the Blackburn line with the final kick of normal time.
Blackburn were forced to start the extra 30 minutes with just ten players with Emma Rankin unable to continue and all three substitutions already made during the first 90 minutes
Bergin nearly restored Charlton's lead on the restart but Hill made a superb save, turning away her powerful shot at full stretch. Baker responded with a fine block to deny Jess Holbrook right at the end of the first period of extra time but the real drama came in the last fifteen minutes.
Dixson was again the provider, this time releasing substitute Stef Simmons whose first time cross shot from wide left flew high into the net beyond Hill on 110 minutes. Baker made a good save from sub Natasha Fenton's free kick before Charlton seemed to have made the game safe with a fourth soon after. Simmons was again the scorer but the set up was an astonishing run by Graham across the Rovers area past three tackles, then twice denied by keeper Hill before rolling the ball back across the area for Simmons to convert.
Back came Rovers again, the impressive Jordan finishing another cross with a crisp first time shot with two minutes remaining. There was just time for Rovers to go down to nine as Stewart received two yellow cards in quick succession with them battling hard but in vain to find another equaliser.
Already booked to meet Spurs in the Capital Cup Final and the Ryman Cup Final, Charlton now have a third Cup encounter to look forward to against their London rivals as well as an exciting finale to the FAWPL Southern Division title race.
Alex Baker, Katie Flack, Rosey Sullivan, Grace Coombs, Ruby Southgate, Kim Dixson, Charley Clifford, Gemma Shepherd, Avilla Bergin, Kit Graham, Charlotte Lee. Subs: Stef Simmons, Bupe Okeowo, Georgia Dunne, Hope Nash, Daisy Monaghan.
Danielle Hill, Cara Bicklett, Ellie Cook, Jess Holbrook, Saffron Jordan, Faye McCoy, Kelsey Pearson, Lynda Shepherd, Ellie Stewart, Ella Toone, Danielle Whitham. Subs: Natasha Fenton, Alexandra Taylor, Kayleigh McDonald, Emma Rankin.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Kit Graham can't find a way past Ellie Stewart
(middle) Lynda Shepherd wins the ball ahead of Gemma Shepherd
(bottom) Saffron Jordan is challenged by Ruby Southgate
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