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Leicester City finished their season with a match at the Walkers Stadium, having invited the Champions of the Southern Division, Charlton Athletic, to share in a prestige friendly.
The Foxes, who finished third in the highly competitive Northern Division, won 3-2 in an entertaining match where both teams showed why they have had successful seasons in League and Cup competitions.
Playing in a relaxed atmosphere on a perfect playing surface, both teams used their full squads with frequent rolling substitutes. Charlton moved the ball particularly well in the first half, creating a number of chances but somehow managed to go in 2-1 down at the break, as the home side showed their ability to convert chances and exploit their pace on the break.
Stef Simmons was just wide in the Addicks' first attack after two minutes and top scorer Gemma Bryan went close before the home side took the lead with their first real attack. Natasha Meade beat the offside trap on the left from a Leah Rawle pass before crossing for Vicky Gallagher to finish from close range on 11 minutes. Charlton poured forward and Leanne Hall made two fine saves, from a Grace Coombs free kick and from another Simmons shot, both times pushing the ball away for a corner.
However Charlton were not to be denied and when Bryan crashed a header against the bar after good work by Ellie Bailes, the rebound was forced home by Fliss Gibbons on 20 minutes.
Further efforts by Fliss Gibbons, Sam Rowland and Jenny Newman threatened to give Charlton a deserved lead, but it was Leicester who made the breakthrough right on half time. A deep left wing Meade corner drifted beyond keeper Megen Lynch and Courtney Sweetman-Kirk dived in to head home at the far post.
The match dropped from the high standard of the opening half as a number of injuries and substitutions hampered both the flow of the game and team shape. However the final fifteen minutes saw both teams rediscover their rhythm and attacking potency. Charlton went close when Gibbons was denied by sub keeper Nicola Kuch but she was unable to stop a thunderbolt from the edge of the area by Toni Alden after Bryan's cross was half cleared on 79 minutes.
As the match went into added time, Leicester went for a winner but Charlton sub keeper Sarah Smith made a good save to deny Meade. One minute later, however, Meade did well to set up Gallagher to convert neatly. In a thrilling finish, Charlton were only denied an equaliser by a fine Kuch save to turn over another Alden thunderbolt from a 20-yard free kick.
After a season of high stakes matches for both teams, this was one encounter where the result was largely irrelevant and the appreciative supporters of both clubs were able to applaud the efforts of two fine squads.
Leicester City: Leanne Hall, Zira Handley, Annabel Johnson, Natalie Johnson, Sammy Morris, Leah Rawle, Natalie Reay, Courtney Sweetman-Kirk, Natasha Meade, Vicky Gallagher, Katie Lowder, Subs: Chanelle Edkins, Destiney Toussaint, Holly Morgan, Jodie Randal, Nicola Kuch.
Charlton Athletic: Megen Lynch, Katie Flack, Toni Alden, Charley Clifford, Becky Duggan, Ellie Bailes, Jenny Newman, Grace Coombs, Fliss Gibbons, Gemma Bryan, Stef Simmons. Subs: Claire Goldsmith, Katie Hardaker, Ellie Manning, Pam McRoberts, Sam Rowland, Sarah Smith.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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