By Tom Bennett
Arsenal Ladies extended their lead at the top of the Women's Super League with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Bristol Academy on Wednesday.
Gemma Davison broke the deadlock midway through the first half with an excellent strike, before diminutive midfielder Jordan Nobbs doubled the visitors' advantage on the stroke of half time.
Substitute Jennifer Beattie added a late third to ensure Laura Harvey's side left Stoke Glifford with all three points.
It was a commanding display from the current holders who dominated for large periods of the game, and, but for the Bristol goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain and a rebuffed penalty appeal in the first half, could have won by more.
By their standards, Harvey’s team had endured a difficult run of late, with one win in four amounting almost to a crisis for a team used to winning.
But the Gunners put their recent form firmly behind them for the televised game at the Stoke Gifford Stadium, making it four wins in five in the WSL to preserve their place at the top of the league table.
Davison was at the centre of everything for Arsenal, scoring the opener and turning provider for the second and third, and her probing runs down the right flank were a constant source of danger to the Bristol backline.
It was from the right side that she opened the scoring just before the half-hour mark. Receiving the ball from Kim Little, Davison cut in before unleashing a superb strike from the corner of the box across the keeper and into the far corner of the net.
The goal followed a clash between Katie Chapman and Bristol’s Jess Fishlock in the build-up, an incident which the home side felt should have seen play halted. But following on from a sustained period of Arsenal pressure – in which Rachel Yankey had twice gone close, Little had threatened and a strong penalty shout was denied - the goal was no more than the visitors pressure warranted.
Arsenal doubled their lead shortly before half time through Nobbs, who having tried her luck with a bicycle kick moments before, succeeded in beating the Bristol keeper with a more orthodox finish second time around. A great run and cross from Davison found the England youth international in space a few yards from goal and she took a touch before calmly side-footing home.
The Durham-born youngster could have made it three in first-half injury time, latching onto another centre from Davison but just skewing her shot wide of the target.
In the second period, Arsenal kept things tight. After a run of uncharacteristically nervous displays at the back which had seen nine goals conceded in their previous three games, a clean sheet was a priority for the Gunners. Robust defending ensured just that, with the hosts limited to to only a handful of half chances.
Opportunities came on the break for Arsenal though, with Little and then Yankey both forcing good saves from Chamberlain.
And with three minutes of regular time to go, another blistering run from Davison ended with a low cross for substitute Beattie, who finished smartly for 3-0.
- Nobbs Goal!
- Houghton 70
- Chapman (C)
- Davison Goal!
- Hayley Ladd
- Beattie 70 Goal!
- James 70
- Heatherson 57
- Windell 22
- Rachel Simkin
- McCatty 22
- Ellie Isaac
- Green 70
- Ellen Curson
- Harding 57