Photos courtesy of: Touchline Photography
It was a disappointing night for Chris Phillips' young Lionesses as three first half goals saw local rivals Charlton Athletic pick up the bragging rights in this emotional Women's Championship fixture dedicated to the memory of young goalkeeper, Jordan Dawes.
The game started as a backwards and forwards affair and the first chances of the game fell to the hosts in the 6th minute. A good run from Charlotte Gurr saw the attacker breach the Lionesses' back-line and hit a good effort from a fairly tight angle, but the ball trickled wide of the far post. This was followed seconds later by a double effort from outside the penalty area that was blocked well and cleared by the Lionesses' defence.
Charlton again came close to taking the lead after a defensive mix-up in the Millwall back-line in the 10th minute. Confusion between Kalani Peart and Ylenia Priest saw Elizabeta Ejupi break through, but her effort went wide of Chloe Sansom's post.
The action continued to be firmly in the Millwall half and it was Amber Stobbs who was next to try her luck after another defensive mishap in the 16th minute, but her effort was kept out well on the goal line by Chloe Sansom.
The Lionesses had little action in their opposition's goal mouth in the opening exchanges and their first half-chance came in the 22nd minute from Lucy Fitzgerald. The young winger superbly managed to keep the ball in play after it looked destined to go for a goal kick, and managed to lay the ball back to Evie Clarke. But unfortunately for the Lionesses, the pass was blocked at the last minute and cleared from danger.
It was in the 34th minute when the pressure from the hosts finally paid off. Some nice build up play resulted in a weighted ball being played across Sansom's goal. The pass had eluded the Millwall defence, but not Kit Graham on the far post who slid in to put Charlton in the lead. A cool finish from the experienced centre forward.
Stand-in captain and two time Player of the Month nominee, Evie Clarke came close in the 38th minute when she connected well outside the penalty area, but her half-volley could only hit the outside of the woodwork and bounce out for a goal kick.
Half-time may have been approaching, but the hosts continued to apply the pressure and in the 39th minute scored their second goal of the game. Another spell of precise and exquisite link-up play saw the ball land at the feet of Charlotte Gurr at close range, and her driven effort nestled into the back of the Lionesses' net to make it 2-0.
Not to be deflated by the Addicks, Millwall were quick to reply when only a minute Beth Lumsden launched a free-kick towards the Charlton goal in the 40th minute. Katie Startup in the Charlton goal excellently parried the ball onto the bar, but the crossbar came into play again for a second time and kept the ball out before a desperate clearance from the Charlton defence saw the ball away.
The final goal of the half was scored in injury time as Elizabeta Ejupi's strike from distance crept in at Chloe Sansom's near post to secure the host's third and leave Millwall with a mountain to climb.
The second half started in the same way as the first with Charlton being the more dominant and a low cross in the 54th minute was destined to inflict more danger to the Lionesses' defence if it was not for a late block by substitute Riva Casley.
With the points in the bag, Charlton took their foot off the gas and retained possession for the majority if the half. The Lionesses had promising moments such as a delightful piece of skill and shot from Annie Rossiter in the 67th minute, but her effort was blocked well and the danger cleared.
A training ground routine involving a short corner and deep cross from the Addicks saw them come close again in the 78th minute, but the cross was just too deep and flew over the box for a goal.
A late consolation from Millwall looked destined in the 90th minute after Evie Clarke unleashed a goal bound effort from inside the Charlton penalty area, but Startup reacted well and kept the ball out.
The final whistle sounded and the game ended 3-0. The damage was done in the opening 45 minutes, but some impressive moments from the Millwall midfield in particular will leave Chris Phillips confident for this weekend's trip to Lewes.
Charlton Athletic Women:
Startup, Kerr, Coombs, Ritchie, Gurr (Nicol 83), Stobbs (Agg 74), Graham (Clifford 69), Bennett, Maple, West, Ejupi
Subs not used: Bailes, Parreno-Espinosa
Sansom, Mackie, Bailes (Young 45), Priest, Lumsden (Ali 79), Cataldo, Clarke, Fitzgerald, Rossiter, Peart (Casley 45), Neville
Subs not used: Harford, Bailey, Stovold, Stewart