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Blackburn Rovers 1 (Shepherd pen 5)
at Sheffield United FC>
Charlton Athletic 2 (Graham 42, Clifford 45)
Blackburn Rovers 1 (Shepherd pen 5)
at Sheffield United FC
Charlton Athletic came from a goal behind to win the FAWPL Championship Play-Off match at Bramall Lane and earn themselves a place in the new look FA WSL Championship for next season, subject to confirmation.
Blackburn Rovers were playing in this match for the second successive season and this may have showed during the early stages as they took advantage of early Charlton nerves to go ahead with just five minutes on the clock. Natasha Flint tried her luck from fully 35 yards and after her shot came back off the post, Saffron Jordan reacted quickest to the rebound but was brought down and a penalty was awarded. Lynda Shepherd stepped up to stroke the ball past Katie Startup frorm the spot and Gemma Donnelly's side were ahead.
Boosted by the early goal, Blackburn continued to dominate matters and sought a second goal, winning a series of corners. They were handed a good chance to double their lead when, under pressure from Jordan, Hannah Churchill underhit a back pass and then hauled down Jordan on the edge of the area as she latched onto the loose ball. The Charlton defender, perhaps fortuitously, was shown the yellow card and Flint curled the resulting free kick goalwards but Startup produced a magnificent save, diving to her right to palm the ball over the bar.
The first real opportunity for Charlton came as Georgia Griffin volleyed wide and a drinks break at that point gave the Addicks an opportunity to clear their heads and settle following the almost constant Blackburn pressure.
Charlton began to come into the game with Charlotte Gurr forcing Danielle Hill to save from a free kick, and another kick saw Nicole Pepper's cross pick out Charley Clifford who headed wide.
A minute later though, Clifford became the provider as Charlton got back on level terms. Winning herself space on the right, the midfielder drilled a superb cross into the area where Kit Graham stole inbetween two defenders and guided her header over Hill for the equaliser.
Before Rovers could recover, Pepper crossed for an unmarked Griffin to glance another header past an exposed Hill in first half injury time and the match had been turned on its head in just four minutes.
Jordan went close for Blackburn early in the second half from a Lagan Makin cross but, clearly buoyed by the double strike, Charlton were looking a different prospect and nearly increased their lead with a 25-yard strike from Clifford which was saved at full stretch by Hill.
Hill was having a fine game in goal and twice had to come off her line to deny Addicks goal ace Graham, who also shot over at the near post from a quickly taken free kick by Gurr.
Flint was always a threat at the other end and drilled a shot just over as Blackburn threw players forward in the latter stages. Natasha Fenton went even closer with a free kick from wide right which hit the bar before being put behind for a corner.
With players committed forward, Blackburn were always likely to be vulnerable to a counter attack and they had a glorious chance to seal the outcome in the last minute of normal time when Graham was brought down just inside the area for a penalty. However, Hill came to Blackburn's rescue as she saved well low to her right from Charlotte Gurr.
Harley Bennett shot wide from Olivia Lukasewich's nod down as, superbly marshalled by Sam Pittuck in defence, the Addicks saw out the additional four minutes very effectively to celebrate a hard earned victory and the FAWPL Championship trophy in front of close to a thousand spectators.
Charlton Athletic: Katie Startup, Olivia Lukasewich, Grace Coombs, Charley Clifford, Charlotte Gurr, Hannah Churchill, Sa m Pittuck, Nicole Pepper, Kit Graham, Harley Bennett, Georgia Griffin (sub Hope Nash 80mins). Subs not used: Chloe Brunton-Wilde, Kim Dixson, Charlotte Lee, Flo Jackson.
Blackburn Rovers: Danielle Hill, Chelsey Jukes (sub Ria Montgomery 82mins), Alex Taylor, Lynda Shepherd, Kayleigh McDonald, Ellie Cook, Jess Holbrook, Natasha Fenton, Saffron Jordan, Natasha Flint, Lagan Makin. Subs not used: Amelia Size, Hannah Walsh, Eve Clarkson, Kaylea Cunliffe.
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