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Crystal Palace: The story so far & what’s to expect

When being poised the question of what club has a good future ahead of them in the women’s game. Far few would deny Crystal Palace a place in that question.

The reason as to why this is the case isn’t just down to favouritism or an uneducated guess, however. The London side have just secured their second successive top five finish in the Barclays Women’s Championship. This is by no means, any easy feat; a side capable of competing at a high level throughout a long slog is an achievement in itself.

Competing in a division where still yet not every team is full-time, or in other words, professional. Palace have probably exceeded expectations this season. Heading into August off the back of a fourth placed spot the season beforehand, Palace introduced blissful amounts of new players to London in the hope of building upon their newfound successes. Fifteen new signings were involved in the first match-day squad of the season where Palace started strongly, beating London City Lionesses 0-1. After two games this brand-new side found themselves top of the league and looking to put an early stamp as promotion contenders.

September saw a major record broken for the Eagles as they broke their home record attendance for a match at the historic, Selhurst Park. A crowd of 1,876 watched on as Palace succumbed to a first seasonal defeat at the hands of newly promoted Southampton. Nevertheless, a crowd of that capacity goes to show that this club is only heading in one direction. Forwards. Elise Hughes looks as if she’s been living in another world looking back on the season. A hattrick against Blackburn Rovers helped Palace respond to make it three victories from four matches.

Do you remember that record I talked about earlier? Yes, well, Crystal Palace returned to Selhurst Park two months later and beat that attendance record that was only just set. Almost 2,000 supporters watched Palace put in a spirted display, before losing again – this time to Charlton Athletic. 1,969 was the exact number – a figure that shows the club is growing.

Palace reached the fourth round of the FA Cup for the third time in four years as they thumped Watford 5-1. However, Southampton got the better of their southern counterparts once again as a 2-0 score line went in their favour. February is where reality kicked in. Promotion this season would have meant for the unthinkable to have taken place. Finishing as high as possible was the only realist goal left for the team. A win against Durham and a quick-fire double Sheffield United put Palace on track for a successful year. Another big crowd of over 1,700 cheered on Palace to victory over Blackburn Rovers, this time at their usual playing ground – Hayes Lane.

And a first draw of the season was secured on remarkably the campaign’s final round of fixtures. A 1-1 draw against Charlton secured fifth place for the Eagles. Not a bad year all things considered. Another big summer looms ahead. I wouldn’t write off this side for another good season in 2023/24; perhaps, a sustained promotion challenge can be brought forward. That is when we will truly see just how far this side can really go.

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