Women’s First Team Assistant Manager, Riteesh Mishra reflects on Charlton’s incredible play-off final victory over Blackburn Rovers back in 2018.
The Addicks secured the win following a 2-1 triumph over Rovers at Bramall Lane thanks to first-half strikes from Kit Graham and Georgia Griffin. Charlton headed into the tie having won their respective league and faced Blackburn with the opportunity of promotion to the Women’s Championship.
Riteesh said, “It was a mixture of jubilation it felt like it was triumph, it felt like the club had been ready to do that for a little while. Also a feeling of massive relief, you feel like you're on top of the world. Going through an entire season winning your league and then the only way to get promoted is to have another one-off game after being league champions is a really strange feeling... It felt like a massive achievement."
The opposition took the lead within the opening five minutes of the encounter, Lynda Shepherd converting her penalty, Riteesh claimed his side had planned through all the possible scenarios and had to remain focused in order to turn the tie around.
“We had a bit of time to plan for the game after winning the league, we went through scenarios of being 1-0 down or 1-0 up, how we would approach the game in that scenario.
"I think at half-time it was quite calm and composed, we felt we were on top in the game anyway. We backed ourselves physically that we’d be able to finish the game quite strong. Other than the first 10-15 minutes it felt like we were the stronger team. Half-time was quite calm and measured, it felt the team had belief as we had planned for the scenario."
During a tense second half, Charlton received the opportunity to cement the victory in additional time when the Addicks were awarded a penalty, Charlotte Gurr stepped up for the Addicks however her effort was saved by Danielle Hill:
“Only one goal in it so we never felt comfortable, I think it would have been a massive relief if we had scored the penalty and relaxed the nerves a little bit. Despite that, we did feel quite confident that we would get it over the line. Just because of the players, we had a lot of experience and belief in each other. We had most of the season unbeaten so we had a lot of belief, even after missing that penalty it felt like we were going to win the game.
"A lot of the staff involved still work in football and sports, we are still in touch. It was five years ago, when players look back they will always remember that season. Many of the players are still playing now in the Championship or in the Super League."
Turning to present-day Charlton Women are now entering their third season as a full-time professional outfit, Riteesh identified the substantial growth that the club has gone through as well as the rise of women’s football and the impact it has had on the league.
“I think the club has gone from strength to strength since that promotion. We’ve moved from a part-time team to now a full-time outfit. That is the only way to compete in this league, to give the players and staff the resources and put in a full-time programme so you can try to compete.
"We have shown the last two seasons that we have put really good foundations in place, we are getting better and the competition is getting much stronger. The gap between the Super League and Championship is so much smaller than it was three seasons ago. That is because of the growth of women’s football. You see the level of international players in the Championship and the number of full-time teams across the country with resources put in place.
"It’s a great time to be involved in football, the pressure and competition are getting higher and higher. Last season there were seven teams that were full-time in our division, I imagine going into the new season there will be more than that. It is always going to get more and more competitive, we’re on the right track and progressing quite well season on season. We hope to continue that progress."
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