Stef - We want to finish as high as we can
Report by David Brenchley
Page last updated at 12:08AM UTC, Friday, 24 April 2015
One by-product of having a winning first XI is a settled team, meaning there will always be frustrated players sitting on the sidelines.
A consequence of the Charlton women’s team having won 15 of their 17 competitive matches so far in 2015 is a number of former first team regulars have found themselves out of the side for long periods of time.
None more so than left back Stef Simmons, who was left hanging on 99 appearances for the club for four weeks, before joining the Addicks’ 100 club as a 90th minute substitute in a 2-1 FA Women’s Cup win over Coventry City.
Simmons then started the following two matches before being relegated back to being an unused substitute for the next two weeks.
However, the 23-year-old’s hard work on the training ground has paid off, having started the last three matches, including the 2-1 Ryman Cup final victory over Tottenham Hotspur.
And, after a follow-up 2-1 win over Spurs on Wednesday evening, where she was named PHSC plc Player of the Match, Simmons spoke of her determination to keep a spot in the starting line up.
“It was heart-breaking, being on the bench and not playing or coming on for a couple of minutes,” she explained.
“It was really heart-breaking but I’ve been doing extra work with Luke [Brown], the fitness coach, and now I feel a lot fitter and hopefully I can keep my place.
“I think I did OK [on Wednesday], didn’t let anyone get past me apart from a few times. I just did what [interim coaches Jeremy Parsons and Michael Paye] wanted me to do, the instructions they have me, I just took that on board.”
Simmons also revealed the second win over Tottenham owed a lot to the gameplan set out by Parsons and Paye, having had the chance to scout their opponents the week earlier.
Whereas Charlton’s opening goal could have been construed as having come from sloppy defensive play from Spurs, the pressure applied on Wendy Martin by Charlton’s front players forced an experienced player to make a critical mistake.
Martin collected a short Toni-Anne Wayne goal kick and tried to play a pass across her own box but saw the ball fall to the prolific Kit Graham instead, who made no mistake in taking advantage.
On that plan, Simmons added: “Playing them the week before helped, because we learnt how they play.
“They always look to play through [Bianca] Baptiste because she’s quick, they use their two wingers and Wendy in the middle because she’s tall so we just needed to press high and I think we did a good job.
“We set the trap and then once people in the middle get on the ball we press them and then we press together as a team and they’ll lose the ball and we’ll get it up to the front two and hopefully they do something and get a goal.”
Meanwhile, the Addicks play their eighth and final game of a busy April when they host relegation-battlers Copsewood Coventry at Sporting Club Thamesmead on Sunday (2pm).
Another team they have played recently, the first half was a tight affair in the West Midlands, before Charlton’s superior quality showed in the second half, yielding three goals and another victory.
Simmons knows Copsewood will pose a tough challenge but the defender believes her side can take confidence from the character they have shown recently.
Charlton have somehow managed to find a way into a number of recent clashes despite adversity – they went two goals down to both Plymouth and Portsmouth before coming back to win 5-3 and 6-3 respectively.
Furthermore, the south-east Londoners saw Everton hit a potentially heart-breaking 87th minute FA Cup quarter final winner, only to grab a 90th minute equaliser through Nikita Whinnett.
And both matches against Spurs saw that character shine through, as the north Londoners hit 89th and 87th minute equalisers in the Ryman Cup and league games respectively. Both times, Charlton (or, more specifically Kit Graham) managed to pull winning goals out from somewhere.
“That characters is very pleasing, I think it’s good for the team as well,” Simmons said.
“I just think the girls are brilliant to be honest, the way we came back on Sunday [against Plymouth] from 2-0 down to win 5-3 and then today went 1-0 up, 1-1 and then come back to 2-1.
“I think the desire’s there to finish as high as we can in this league. You never know, Brighton might slip up, Portsmouth might slip up; you just never know in this league. Hopefully if we keep winning all our games, we just want finish as high as we can.”