It's hard to believe that we are almost into November already!

With trick or treaters roaming the streets, hunting sweets and armed with eggs, and the dark nights creeping in earlier and earlier, I like to distract myself with all things Palace! What better way to do that, than to indulge in my latest 5BY5 interview, introducing one of this seasons new additions to our Crystal Palace Women's ranks.

Last time out, the interview was with goalie Lucy Gillett, who had made her loan move from Brighton into a permanent one. This time around, we stay in the defensive element of the game, moving onto right back, and Annabel Johnson.

A lot of managers will tell you, Roy included, that to build a successful team, you need solid foundations at the back. If you don't concede goals, then you don't lose games. Also, by keeping a clean sheet, if you haven't got the fire power up front, you have a little less to worry about, as one goal would be enough to win. Last season, our first in the Championship, everyone would admit that we struggled in both areas. We could not score enough goals, and we struggled not just for clean sheets, but for keeping the opposition scoring at a minimum. The changes of personnel made this summer, have reflected the need to correct those struggles.

Right back, was one area that struggled for consistency. Ria Collins, Pam McRoberts and Hope Nash all played there at one point, as injuries and the struggle to find the right back four combination took its toll. All three have departed the club in the summer, requiring someone new altogether. Step forward Annabel Johnson.

Having played for the likes of Durham and London Bees(Last season), Annabel already had experience of playing at this level, and we are clearly benefitting from that. The role of full back is vital, as they need to provide protection to the centre backs, and support to the midfield. If a right or left back is pulled out of position, the defence is exposed. It can often mean a centre back has to drift out wide to fill the gap, creating a new gap in the heart of defence. One of the benefits we have seen down the years on the men's side, is that Joel Ward has always stood up to his attacker, allowing those behind him to get in position. With AWB, he would always get back and get his tackle in, preventing the winger from cutting inside. If your full backs are performing, then it makes it easier for your centre backs to do their job efficiently. Hence why, you can get away with individuals in attack(at times), but when it comes to defence, a strong unit is a must.

Annabel is certainly playing her part in that this season. She has been a revelation at right back, making the position her own, putting in dominant performances. Yes, since our opening day clean sheet, our home form has been a struggle, away from home we have been excellent(sound familiar?) and so we have won three of our last five games in all competitions. In a league where goals have been free flowing in so many games, our women are having to work especially hard at the back, and Annabel has been a strong element of that. It says it all, that Annabel has so far played in all seven league games, and both Intercontinental Cup games. Amy Goddard is the only other player to have been able to achieve that, and it shows just how much faith gaffer Dean Davenport has in his first choice right back.

Continuity is something that we have craved, and Annabel has definitely brought us that. She has also brought quality, and even a cheeky long range goal, just to expand her repertoire with us! Enough of me talking though, let me hand over to Annabel to tell us more about her!

PLAYER NAME: Annabel Johnson

POSITION: Right Back

JOINED PALACE: August 2019

PALACE APPEARANCES: 9

PALACE GOALS: 1

PERSONAL

(Please state the reason with each answer when required)

1) What is your background in football?

I started my open age career at Leicester City Women for two years before moving to Coventry United where I played for four years. I then moved to Durham for 2.5 years before moving to London Bees for one season.

2) Who are your football heroes/inspiration?

My parents have always been very supportive with my football, if it wasn’t for their help I wouldn’t of been able to experience all the opportunities that football has given me

3) What is the proudest moment of your career so far?

Captaining team GB at the university games in Taipei.

4) What has been your favourite moment in the famous red and blue so far?

When we got a 92nd minute winner against London Bees! It’s always good fun playing an old club, even better when you beat them.

5) What do you hope to achieve in your career in the next five years?

I would love to win the league.

TEAMMATES

(Please state the name of the player and the reason why)

1) LAST OFF THE PITCH: Who trains the hardest?

Cherelle(Khassal), always grafts in training and takes that onto the pitch as well.

2) UNOFFICIAL CAPTAIN: Who is the most vocal on the pitch, despite not wearing the armband?

Unfortunately Ashlee Hincks picked up an injury earlier in the season, but she was very encouraging on the pitch. She was also very welcoming when I first joined!

3) NERVES OF STEEL: The team have a penalty in the last minute of injury time to win the league, who would you pick to take it?

Dre(Andrea Georgiou), even though she takes a lot of stick off the girls. She’s a calming influence on the pitch that I would back in a pressurising situation.

4) ONFIELD WARRIOR: Some teams like to play dirty to get an advantage, who is in the Mile Jedinak mould, that will give it back to defend the team?

Aoife(Hurley), quiet off the pitch but a tank on it. Always throwing her body into challenges.

5) THE MOTIVATOR: Football isn't all glory, there are plenty of downs to go with the ups. Who in the team can you always rely on to pick you up for the next game, when you need it?

Ashleigh Goddard, a rational talker who always looks on the positive side. It’s always motivating to have positive solutions, which is what Ash provides for the team.

So, now we all know Annabel a little better. If you want to see her in action, then get down to Hayes Lane on November 17th to watch us take on London City Lionesses!

If you are interested in club sponsorship, or sponsoring a CPLFC player, then please contact club secretary Paula Johnson at [email protected]

*All photos credited to Tara Hook Photography*

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