Charlton Athletic Women midfielder on facing her old team Crystal Palace Ladies this weekend

BY RICHARD CAWLEY
richard@slpmedia.co.uk

Charlton Athletic Women’s midfielder Lilli Maple has promised to show no emotions if she scores against former club Crystal Palace Ladies on Sunday.

The two sides clash this weekend in a derby at VCD Athletic (2pm kick off) with the Addicks looking to build on an impressive start to life in the FA Women’s Championship.

It already looks as if Charlton are nailed on to be the top performing South London club even before the halfway stage of the campaign is reached.

Millwall Lionesses are bottom with just a single point from their eight matches. The Eagles sit just above them having collected four points – already 12 behind Riteesh Mishra’s side.

Maple and Ellie Bailes both left Palace for Charlton in the summer. Prolific striker Gemma Bryan also made the same switch over the close season. The Eagles were eventually promoted to the new-look Championship after Doncaster Rovers Belles and Sheffield FC both withdrew from the league.

Maple, 22, will not celebrate if she hits the back of the net.

“No – you have got to be respectful,” she told the South London Press. “Emotions will be high. But just because you have scored a goal doesn’t mean the job is done.

“I didn’t want to play Palace too early. I wanted to get settled and maybe face them mid-season. Derbies are always tough – and especially if you have come from that club and then face them straightaway.

“My decision was based only on my development. I wanted to be at a team where I can grow and learn. Riteesh and James Marrs [coach] were big factors in coming because I knew I would probably be the fittest I had been and would be able to take on information to allow me to be the best that I can be.

“Palace weren’t happy about it but there is no animosity or bad feelings. I will always respect Dean [Davenport, Palace manager] for giving me a chance. The girls were lovely and Dean is a really nice guy.

“But when you play for a team then you can’t have any friendships [on the other side]. You can’t go into it worrying about if they are going to give me a bad challenge because I used to play for them.

“You have got to follow the strategy and tactics that you have been told to do, just like another game.”

Charlton lost 1-0 to Tottenham Hotspur Ladies last weekend, the north Londoners moving to the top of the table with Manchester United Women a fixture behind after a blank weekend.

The Addicks have stepped up a level following promotion with few issues. Maple said: “Probably a lot of people didn’t think we’d be doing this well but we knew as a club that we could do extremely well because of the players we had.

“We were lucky to get our bad games out of the way in pre-season. We lost 5-0 [to Arsenal Academy] but  bounced back right away and our league form is really good.

“We want to continue that so that we go into the Christmas break in the top three.

“All we want to do is put ourselves in the position that we can actually challenge the likes of Manchester United. I know we lost to Tottenham but there is no real difference between us.

“Man U have got a lot of money behind them and it helps a lot. They can employ their players to be full time whereas we’ve got to work our socks off to be in training three times a week.

“We’ve got to do the right things at training but also away from it as well, because no-one is watching us to see what we are doing.

“I don’t think the gap is that big. If we were full time then it would be a lot closer. They will run away with it but quite rightly so.”

Maple has one key requirement when asked about her ambitions.

“The biggest thing is me enjoying my football,” she said. “The second priority is a hard one because I don’t want to get ahead of myself and say I should be playing in the WSL. But if you are at a Championship side then I don’t see why you can’t get there.

“It’s every young girl footballer’s dream to be a professional.”

IMAGE BY KEITH GILLARD

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