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Crystal Palace are approaching the future with great optimism after a couple of years spent in the lower half of the Southern Division.
Palace maintained their promising start with a 2-2 draw against Keynsham Town and captain Becky Merritt told Women's Soccer Scene that, despite having to fight back from conceding two early goals, she felt her side could have won the game. "I think it was two points dropped," she said, "a few decisions went against us but that's football. It was the old saying of a 'game of two halves' - we got the two goals back and pushed forward and I think at times they struggled with us, but likewise we did struggle against them as well."
Sarah Walters played an important role in the centre of defence, which meant she had to cope with Keynsham's renowned forward line. "They're a skilful bunch," she admitted, "as long as you keep tight and watch their stepovers. But it's a good experience to play against players of that quality and it kept us on our toes."
Sarah also praised recent signing and defensive partner Kim Whitcombe who joined during the summer from Southampton Saints. "Kim's a good signing," she said. "She is strong at the back and good in the air - she's played three times for us now and is coming along game by game.
"We came here last year and lost 1-0 on a rainy day but we've come along since then. I think we needed that first game against Colchester to wake us up and hopefully we'll grow stronger now. We've a long trip to Brighton next week and hopefully we can pick up where we left off today."
Palace have picked up four points from their first three games and have improved after losing their opening match against newcomers Colchester Utd. "It was quite a long pre-season and it took time for us to gel with a lot of new players coming in," said Becky. "The first game was always going to be tricky and Colchester hit us hard.
"There have been a lot of changes at the club with new players in but we've got a great team spirit, which helps tremendously. We work well and have got a good management behind us, so that will keep us going."
"We are an ambitious club and always, hopefully, in this league," adds Sarah. "We've just got to start pushing now for the top of the table and see what happens. Last season was my first one at the club and it was a wake up call - we don't want to be playing in relegation dogfight, we want to step up and hit that top four."
Following Watford's promotion at the end of last season, the Southern Division is expected to be more wide open this time and Becky sees no reason why Crystal Palace cannot make an impression. "Last year, Watford were running away with it and the only real contenders were Portsmouth," she says. "We had a couple of good results against them, so that is something positive to take into this season.
"I think we've got a good shot this year and with a lot of hard work, we'll get there."
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