Charlton Athletic Women got their 2019/20 FA Women’s Championship campaign up and running with a goalless draw against Lewes Women at The Oakwood on Sunday.
It was a tight end-to-end contest throughout, with both goalkeepers excelling and producing some crucial saves to keep the score line deadlocked while the visitors were twice denied by the woodwork.
With 14 players joining the club over the summer, Charlton manager Riteesh Mishra gave debuts to five of the starting eleven, with two new faces coming off the bench in the second half.
But it was Lewes, who had played their first competitive match of the season the previous weekend beating newly promoted Blackburn Rovers 5-1, who started best with Charlotte Kerr having to be alert to clear a header off the line just six minutes in.
The Addicks hit back with Charlie Devlin, who caused Lewes’s defence problems all match, being cynically brought down after an enterprising run but Lily Woodham’s free kick eluded everyone and landed beyond the far post.
Down the other end, Startup made a smart save down low to deny Jess King after the attacker had cut in off the left wing, while a couple of blocks from Charlton’s defence then repelled both King and Katie Rood.
Charlton’s best chance of the opening period came when Devlin played a corner short to Woodham. The Reading loanee thundered a powerful effort from 35 yards out towards the top corner, but Faye Baker was equal to the strike and tipped the ball round the post.
Just after the half an hour mark, Devlin put a free kick from 19 yards out just over the bar, while Ellie Noble and Zoe Ness saw chances go begging for Lewes shortly before the interval.
Again, it was Lewes who started the second half brightest, hitting the frame of the goal twice within six minutes of the restart. Danni Lane first glanced a Noble free kick onto the crossbar first before King dispossessed Dorey and fired, once again, onto the 'woodwork'.
In between, the tireless Lilli Maple lobbed an effort just over the goal for Charlton, who were to bounce back spectacularly after a double sub from Mishra. The gaffer gave debuts to Ellie Leek and Jenna Legg, who injected new-found energy and attacking prowess into the hosts’ game.
Indeed, Legg could have had a goal within second of coming on as the hard-to-handle Devlin fed a clever ball through to the midfielder, who could only toe-poke the ball straight at Baker.
It was Devlin again who created yet another chance for her side, cutting in from the right byline and squaring for Charlie Estcourt arriving late, but her touch ballooned well over from close range.
A Devlin free kick then created havoc in the Lewes defence and, after a mis-kick from a Charlton player the ball fell again to Legg. Legg powered a shot on target, but got a strong hand to it to deny her.
Kerr and Devlin saw a chance each come and go before Lewes looked destined to break the deadlock when Emma Jones bundled her way through the Charlton defence to get one-on-one with Startup. Jones flicked the ball towards goal, but Startup pushed the effort around the post and out for a corner.
After almost 10 minutes of stoppage time, the referee brought the game to an end still goalless, with Charlton picking up a point and a clean sheet to kick their campaign off.
Charlton are next in action in a fortnight’s time when they travel to face Durham Women on Sunday 8 September.
Charlton: Startup, Kerr, Newborough, Phillips (Leek 58), Coombs, Dorey (Hector 83), Devlin, Woodham, Estcourt, Eggesvik (Legg 58), Maple. Subs (not used): Salgado, Espinosa, Griffin, Heuchan.
Lewes: Baker, Quayle, Cleverly, Hayes, Emma Jones, Noble (Donovan 68), Ness (Emily Jones 85), King (Taylor 85), Boswell, Lane, Rood. Subs (not used): McIntyre, Foster, Peters.
Bookings: Boswell, Emma Jones (both Lewes).
Match sponsor: Ability Scaffolding