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Charlton lift League Cup

By Tony Leighton

Substitute Emma Coss hit the winner as Charlton Athletic lifted the Nationwide Women's Premier League Cup with a hard fought 1-0 victory over holders Fulham in Sunday's final.

Central defender Coss replaced injured captain Casey Stoney in the 32nd minute and two minutes later headed home her first goal of the season to keep the Addicks on track for the treble of league, FA Cup and League Cup.

Remarkably, in a season when they could produce a triple triumph only previously achieved by Arsenal and Fulham, this was Charlton's first major trophy in the history of the club.

Manager Keith Boanas said: "It's phenomenal to have won our first trophy - I feel it's reward for all the people at Charlton who've shown faith in women's football since I joined the club in 1996.

"This is a great way to start paying them back, and it also takes a bit of pressure off us in terms of winning trophies. But we still want the league title, which would give us European football next season, and winning the FA Cup would be the icing on the cake."

Joy for Charlton was despair for Fulham, losers in each of their last three games against an Addicks line-up who are the only side in the last three years to have beaten the Cottagers in domestic competition.

But after seeing her side lose a game in which they had the majority of the possession and create most of the scoring opportunities, Fulham boss Marieanne Spacey was in defiant mood.

"The girls are obviously very disappointed about losing the final," said Spacey, "especially as we played the better football and had more shots at goal.

"But I said in the build-up to the game that one chance could win the game and we had be the ones to take it - and unfortunately we lacked a cutting edge today.

"The players are hurt, but we've still got every chance of winning the League and I'll be emphasising the fact that although today was a cup final, every game from now until the end of the season is going to be a cup final - and we've got to win them all!"

In order to win the League Fulham will have to rely on Charlton slipping up in one of their last two league matches, against Arsenal and Leeds United.

The key game will be the Addicks' 15 April visit to Arsenal, who are currently third in the table but could still win the League as well as the FA Cup - in which they face Charlton on 3 May.

The Gunners kept up their League pressure with a 2-1 home win against Birmingham City, Vicky Gallagher giving Blues the lead but an own goal levelling the scores then Jayne Ludlow hitting a late winner.

Arsenal are now eight points behind Charlton but have two games in hand - so their meeting next month could prove decisive, though if the match is drawn that could let in second-placed Fulham.
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