By Oliver Yew at Ashby Avenue
Arsenal Ladies produced an outstanding performance to beat Lincoln Ladies 2-0 and get their FA Women's Super League campaign back on track at Ashby Avenue.
The Gunners bounced back in fine style following last week's defeat to Birmingham as first-half goals from Jordan Nobbs and Ellen White sealed the victory for Laura Harvey's side and saw them close the gap at the top of the table to three points.
Arsenal looked to spring out of the traps and catch their opponents cold but both sides took time to adapt to a difficult playing surface in what was a scrappy opening period.
It was the visitors who came to terms with the hard, bumpy surface first and they had the first sight of goal as Danielle Carter worked some space and picked out an excellent cross for White, but the striker's header was straight at goalkeeper Nicola Hobbs.
Carter was involved again as Harvey's side started to get a grip on proceedings. The forward played a slick reverse pass to Kim Little who broke clear down the right-hand side and whipped in a testing cross which evaded everyone in the box.
Arsenal were growing in confidence with every minute and Katie Chapman tried an audacious effort from 25 yards only to see the shot fly well wide. It typified most of Arsenal's play - good in passages but no end product.
Despite Arsenal's dominance Lincoln nearly took a shock lead as Sue Smith's inswinging corner had Emma Byrne flapping but luckily for the visitors the ball flicked off the top of the crossbar.
It proved to be a fruitful few minutes for the home side as full-back Rachel Daly picked out a super through-ball for Stacey Aisthorpe but the winger's ball into the box was poor and Byrne collected easily.
Normal service was resumed almost immediately though as the Gunners took a deserved lead in the 27th minute. The Lincoln defence cleared Rachel Yankey's cross only as far as Nobbs and she struck a fierce right-footed shot from the edge of the box past Hobbs.
The goal seemed to give everyone in yellow a huge lift and Harvey's side now began to get their crisp passing game going.
Midfielders Little and captain Chapman were becoming more and more influential on the game with Arsenal getting Little on the ball as much as possible. It nearly paid dividends as she slipped a neat pass through to White but the striker's touch was too heavy and the ball ran easily through to the goalkeeper.
But the pressure told once again ten minutes before the break as White finally found the target and scored her second goal in as many games in the Women's Super League.
In what was a carbon copy of her goal against Birmingham, White was released by Carter and the striker raced clear of the Lady Imps' defence and lobbed the onrushing keeper from just inside the penalty area.
It sent Arsenal in at the break with a deserved two-goal advantage.
Lincoln manager Rod Wilson sent his side out early after the break and made a bold move - bringing towering centre-back Leandra Little on for Ainsthorpe - as he looked for an improved performance from his players.
The move nearly worked straight away as substitute Little skipped a couple of Arsenal challenges but fired her 20-yard shot over the crossbar.
But the visitors rode the storm well and they nearly got a third as Carter beat the offside trap and bared down on goal but Rachel Daly made an excellent challenge just as the forward was about to pull the trigger.
Arsenal were showing their class now as Little pulled the strings in the middle of the park and the midfielder drilled wide after yet another sublime passing move from Harvey's side.
The Gunners were on the hunt for a third and Little again went close again with a fierce strike but was denied by a brilliant save from Hobbs.
On what was a busy night for Hobbs, Carter was next to test her after leaving Sue Smith for dead in the Lincoln box and drilling a shot goalwards. The keeper parried the ball away.
In a final bid to get his side back into the game Lincoln manager Wilson sent on Sophie Barker and Megan Harris. Once again the changes nearly had the desired impact as a good passing move ended with Little firing wide when presented with an opening.
Lincoln pushed hard and bombarded the Arsenal box late on but the Gunners' back four held firm for a comfortable victory which sees them keep the pressure up on league leaders Birmingham.
- Nobbs Goal!
- White Goal!
- Yankey 83
- Steph Houghton 83
- Becky Spencer
- Nicola Hobbs
- Mel Sutcliffe
- Sophie Bradley
- Jess Clarke
- Casey Stoney
- Bonnie Horwood 73
- Rachel Daly
- Stacey Aisthorpe 46
- Lucy Staniforth
- Sophie Walton
- Sue Smith 73
- Sophie Barker 73
- Megan Harris 73
- Kay Hawke
- Leandra Little 46
- Carlla Cantrell