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‘It’s a bit of a grudge match but we just want to play good football’ – Charlton-Palace renew rivalry this weekend in FA Women’s Championship

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BY STEFAN FROST

Emma Follis is adamant that Charlton will not buckle under the pressure of derby day as they prepare to face South London rivals Crystal Palace this Sunday.

Just a point separates the two sides in the FA Women’s Championship, with the Addicks fractionally higher in fifth. The added subplot of winner-takes-all in the league standings will do much to spice up the contest.

Charlton are without a win since early February – their last was a dominant 3-0 display against Watford – but they remain positive and geared towards the task ahead.

“It’s a big game for the club. Our first game against Palace didn’t go how we wanted but we’re now focusing on what we’re good at,” Follis said. “It’s a bit of a grudge match but we just want to play good football and test them. We have a strong enough squad. There’s no reason why we can’t get the win.”

Charlton narrowly lost 3-2 to Palace back in November and to avoid a repeat of such disappointment the hosts will have to put up a similar performance to what they showed against league leaders Liverpool over the past two weekends.

In two back-to-back fixtures with the reds, Follis and her team-mates managed to restrict the Reds to just one goal, claiming a 0-0 draw in the second match. Earning a point against a typically free-scoring outfit is an impressive achievement and Follis believes this is a sign of things to come.

“We nullified Liverpool quite well. We were disappointed not to get a draw in the first game but we picked up points in the second,” the midfielder said. “We showed we can beat those kinds of teams.

“Our game plan is to work hard off the ball. It’s about getting your shape right and everyone knowing their roles and responsibilities. With possession we want to be more secure on the ball and press well.”

The support of a home crowd will no doubt invigorate Charlton to employ these tactics as best as they can. Home support is particularly advantageous when more fans come to games and that is a trend which Charlton have been experiencing of late.

Charlton Athletic Women v Sunderland Women, FA Womens Championship, The Oakwood, 31 October 2021

When they hosted the league leaders two weeks ago the Oakwood had a season high attendance of 671, and with the local derby upcoming that number could easily rise once more. The valuable support this will give the team is not lost on Follis.

“The atmosphere at the Liverpool game made a big difference to the team,” she said. “We really appreciate the fans that come down and give us extra encouragement.

“We know this weekend means a lot to the club but we can’t let the occasion take over and get distracted from the game itself.”

The campaign so far may not have panned out exactly as anticipated, but Follis thinks there is still room to end it in satisfying fashion, with half an eye on building towards the next season.

“It’s a cliche but we need to take every game as it comes and keep developing as a team,” she said. “Promotion is not on the cards as Liverpool are too far ahead so we just want to go unbeaten for the remainder of the season and finish second. We’re good enough to do that, we just haven’t shown that throughout the season.

“This is the club’s first professional season so it was always going to be a lot to expect us to go up, especially with Liverpool’s established squad and the financial support they have. But we’ve grown and will build on this for next season. It’s been an exciting year.”

Before attention turns to the next campaign, Charlton Women have a derby to prepare for against a Palace side that have received red cards in their last two fixtures. A bruising contest may await but the job at hand for the Addicks is clear – end their winless run in front of a packed home crowd.

PICTURES: KEITH GILLARD

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