Stuart Weston hailed the Charlton women’s reserve team after they defeated Arsenal 2-1 to move to within one point of winning the Premier League South Division One title.
Goals from Kylie Manktelow and Emma Harrison within the opening 20 minutes ensured the Addicks got off to a flying start to what was a massive game.
After a below-par first half, Arsenal were given a stern half-time team talk and came out in the second period intent on pulling the game back, knowing a draw would put them in the title hot-seat.
After former Charlton youngster Freda Ayisi pulled one goal back just three minutes after the interval, the south-east Londoners had to weather a second half storm.
That they did and Weston was delighted with his young side’s resilience and is pleased their fate is now in their hands.
He said: “I can’t tell you how proud I am of them. We knew [Arsenal] were going to come out fighting [in the second half] because you could hear the manager wasn’t happy with them.
“We were prepared for that and I got Gemma Shepherd to drop a bit deeper so we could shore things up a bit and we dealt with it well – a couple of little scares but you are always going to get them against teams of that quality.
“You could see Arsenal were a good side from the beginning. They have quality, they work hard and their technical play is fantastic.
“At the end of the day, they are the next tier down from a Super League side that wins the Super League every year. We have to be so proud of ourselves.”
Weston also reserved special praise for the two goalscorers, and awarded Manktelow with his player of the match plaudit.
Harrison joined Charlton a month ago, becoming the fourth player to move from West Ham United, and has had a big impact, scoring two goals in three games for the reserves.
“We took our chances; Kylie with a great bit of pace to leave the defender standing and having such a cool head for a young girl it was a lovely finish and then Emma with another great finish,” Weston added.
“She worked tirelessly for the whole game, chasing down, especially in the second half when we got a lot more players behind the ball she just didn’t give up.”
It has been a superb first season for Weston, who took over four games in to the campaign after Bill Long was made caretaker manager of the first team.
An 11-match winning streak ensued, ended only by a Premier Reserve League Cup semi-final defeat to Bristol Academy on penalties.
He currently has a record of 14 wins from 17 matches and praised the girls for buying into his ideas and football philosophy as they prepare to win the title on 12 May at home to Cardiff City.
“It’s all there for the taking – we win the league if we draw with Cardiff, which is a great position to be in. The girls have just been amazing this year.
“I’m just thankful that the girls took to my ideas of how I wanted to play and the tempo I wanted to play at and every single one of them has worked so hard and put in exactly what’s required.
“That has been the reason for our success – their hard work and their passion to want to win.”