BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Kit Graham is confident that Charlton Athletic Women can consolidate their place in the new-look Championship after securing promotion on Sunday.
The 22-year-old sharpshooting forward was on target in the FA WPL play-off final against Blackburn Rovers as Riteesh Mishra’s side emerged 2-1 winners at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane.
The victory confirmed that the Addicks will take their place in the second tier of the domestic women’s game in the 2018-19 campaign.
The likes of Manchester United and Aston Villa have also been granted places in the division, but they have secured spots via the licensing procedure rather than claiming their place on merit.
Graham and Georgia Griffin both headed home crosses in the first half to cancel out Lynda Sheppherd’s penalty.
Charlotte Gurr saw a late spot-kick saved to ease some of the Charlton nerves in the closing stages.
Graham, 22, went past 200 career goals for the Addicks this season and notched 33 goals in 23 FA WPL matches, including the weekend’s match.
Charlton were comfortable winners of the Southern Division title but now face a serious jump in class.
Graham said: “We’re looking at how Tottenham did this season – they settled themselves in and have not been at the bottom or top. That is our aim, to do the same. I’m not saying we are looking to be contenders for the top of the league.
“For the moment we are just enjoying a rest but at the back of our minds we know the hard graft starts now.
“The next step is a little bit into the unknown. We don’t know what players are going to be where and what some of the teams have got.
“The promotion hadn’t really sunk in at the start of the week and it was kind of hard to talk about it. I don’t think it was our best performance, but Blackburn would probably say the same too.
“I felt confident, even when they scored I didn’t think we were under the cosh. I knew we had goals in us, it was about getting them as quickly as we could and then riding it out.
“Travelling up and seeing the stadium was a bit of a shock for some people. The crowd was about 1,000 and that’s probably the biggest a lot of us have played in front of.
“Nerves were always going to play a part and who could handle that better.”
Graham was just shy of 50 goals for Charlton this season. That return is made all the more impressive by the fact she had a quad injury which limited her game time in the opening weeks.
“I was just coming on for the last 10 minutes of matches because I was struggling,” she said. “I got fitter as the season went on and this is the best I’ve felt thanks to the work the coaches have put into me – that’s not just training but the extra sessions that the girls have done. I feel a lot sharper and happier in myself.
“I’m going to work hard in the off-season. Hopefully I’ll put goals away against better teams but I’m not expecting to score 50-odd, like I have this season. I still want to be a consistent name on the scoresheet.”
Charlton Women were due to hold their presentation evening last night.
Graham said: “We can get the rest of the team who couldn’t make it up to Sheffield – the reserves, younger girls and our friends and family involved. It will be nice for everyone to come together and enjoy such a good season.”