Arsenal Ladies progressed into the sixth round of the FA Women's Cup with a 2-0 win over Gillingham on Sunday.
After a goalless first half a brace from Kelly Smith secured the victory for the Gunners, giving them a timely confidence boost ahead of Wednesday's WSL curtain raiser against Notts County.
Despite controlling possession throughout, Arsenal weren't at their flowing best on a sunny afternoon in Hertfordshire but, with Smith back in the goals and youngsters Leah Williamson and Christie Murray impressing, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic for another season of success for the Ladies.
Shelley Kerr made three changes to the side that was knocked out of the Champions League by Birmingham last month.
Murray made her debut for the club after she was ineligible for the Champions League tie with Birmingham, while promising youngster Leah Williamson was given a chance at centre back and Siobhan Chamberlain was preferred to Emma Byrne in goal.
Arsenal made all the running in the opening stages. Smith warmed the palms of Faye Baker after 17 minutes. Shinobu Ohno was next to go close for the home side when she latched onto a long ball and poked wide.
But as against Birmingham in the Champions League, Gillingham proved difficult for Arsenal to break down and Kerr's side looked short of ideas in the first half. In the 39th minute Ohno found Emma Mitchell with a clever reverse ball and the left back saw her low shot blocked by the legs of Baker.
Arsenal continued to push the Gills back at the start of the second half. Yankey saw a drive blocked on the line from Smith's cut-back.
The Gunners were finally rewarded for their tireless siege on the Gillingam goal when Emma Tune tripped Smith inside the box, giving Jairo Marin no choice but to point to the spot. Smith picked herself up and kept her cool from 12 yards, sending Baker the wrong way.
Smith, who always looked Arsenal's most likely scorer, saw a close-range shot blocked on the line before sending a free-kick over.
And the forward put the tie beyond Gillingham with 10 minutes remaining with an instinctive left-foot strike which flew into the top corner.
In the end, a comfortable and deserved win for Kerr's side.
- Smith 89 Goal! Goal!
- Carter 81
- Bragg 89
- Bailey 81
- Faye Baker
- Deanna Cooper
- Lauren Davis
- Jay Blackie
- Fliss Gibbons
- Emme Tune
- Nikita Whinnett
- Amy Taylor
- Lisa Fulgence 78
- Rachel Ahern 78
- Danielle Carlton