Charlton 4-3 Blackburn Rovers (FAWPL Cup semi-final)
Report by Sue Prior
Page last updated at 10:53PM GMT, Sunday, 05 March 2017
Two Stef Simmons goals in the second half of extra-time clinched Charlton Women`s place in the FA Women`s Premier League Cup Final after Blackburn had fought back from 2-0 in a pulsating match at Thamesmead on Sunday.
Head coach Riteesh Mishra made just one change to the team that won convincingly at QPR last week with Charlotte Lee replacing cup-tied Katie Bottom.
What a Cup semi-final it turned out to be, the match had everything . . . spectacular goals, finger tip saves, end to end action, whole hearted challenges, penalties, yellow cards, a red card, driving rain, a hail storm, and bright sunshine.
Charlton created the first real chance as an Avilla Bergin corner caught on the wind forcing Rovers keeper Danielle Hill to make a smart claim from under her crossbar.
The heavens opened and the driving rain made it difficult for the players and keeper Hill picked a yellow card for one comment too many to the referee.
A quick break from the visitors saw a cross from Whitham hit the Addicks crossbar before the ball was cleared to safety.
With 36 minutes gone Kit Graham broke the deadlock after a great turn gave her the space to fire a 25 yard strike into the top corner.
And it was Graham`s goal that separated the two teams at the break after an evenly contested first half.
Graham came within inches of adding a second early in the second half when her free-kick sizzled narrowly past the far post.
A torrential hail storm then followed amidst which Gemma Shepherd swept home Avilla Bergin`s cross after 49 minutes to put the Addicks two up.
With almost an hour gone Charlton had the chance of a third as Bergin was sent tumbling by keeper Hill who was lucky not to pick up a second yellow card. Shepherd wasted the opportunity putting her spot kick wide of the goal.
Hill was soon in action again saving a low long range drive from Graham.
Rovers began to force their way back into the game and Addicks keeper Alex Baker did well to hold a powerful 35 yard strike before a free-kick from Ellie Stewart flew narrowly wide.
On 75 minutes striker Saffron Jordan put the visitors back in the tie glancing home a right wing cross.
Rovers then wasted two glorious chances to level, skipper Shepherd missing the target with a free-header before another effort was blasted over the bar.
With 5 minutes to go the visitors pressure finally paid off as Baker brought down Jordan and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. Skipper Shepherd made no mistake from the spot kick to level the tie 2-2.
Graham almost nicked it for the Addicks deep into injury time but her powerful goalbound effort was blocked.
By now Rovers having used all their substitutes faced playing extra time with ten players after one limped off. Spurred on by this Charlton pushed forward & Avilla Bergin forced Hill into a fine fingertip save.
Shepherd pulled the ball back to substitute Stef Simmons who saw her looping effort drift inches over the upright.
The first-half of extra time finished with Rovers skipper Shepherd forcing Baker to make a superb point blank save.
As both teams slugged it out in the driving rain, all looked set for a penalty shoot out, when with six minutes left Stef Simmons, close to the touch line, sent a 35 yard effort flying into the top far corner of the goal to put Charlton ahead again.
Just four minutes later Graham went on a mazy run bringing two fine saves from Hill before setting up Simmons to fire home her second and Charlton`s fourth.
The game was far from over as Jordan claimed her second to force a nail biting last few minutes for the home fans.
Rovers frustration was completed in the dying seconds as Stewart was shown a second yellow card for jumping up at a Charlton throw in.
Charlton will face Tottenham Hotspur in the League Cup Final on 7th May - venue to be confirmed
Charlton: Baker, Southgate, Flack, Coombs, Sullivan, Dixson, Clifford (Monaghan 94mins), Lee (Simmons 76mins), Shepherd (Nash 106mins), Graham
Subs not used: Dunne & Okeowo