By Isaac Moore
Arsenal Ladies’ title challenge took a blow after they were held to a goalless draw at home to Lincoln Ladies in the Women's Super League.
The Gunners are four points behind leaders Liverpool with a game in hand on the Merseysiders and now have to rely on other results if they are to retain their WSL crown.
Shelley Kerr made just one change to the side that beat Doncaster 3-1 on Sunday, with Gilly Flaherty replacing Ciara Grant. The Gunners knew three points were essential after Liverpool’s win over Doncaster the previous evening.
And they started with purpose. Kim Little played a slide-rule pass to Ellen White who fired in a cross for Danielle Carter to shoot straight at Karen Bardsley in the second minute.
Arsenal then had a claim for a penalty turned down. White nicked the ball off England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley, who then appeared to bring the striker down. Referee Stuart Cheek ignored the forwards' protestations and pointed for a corner.
The hosts dominated possession throughout the first half but struggled to break down the typically well-organised Lincoln back line. The visitors often defended with 11 players behind the ball and looked to catch the hosts on the counter-attack using the pace of Jess Clarke and Courtney Sweetman-Kirk.
Clarke twice found space down Lincoln’s right in the opening 15 minutes but on both occasions her cross was cleared to safety.
Midway through the first half, Katie Chapman lost her marker but headed Alex Scott's free-kick directly at Bardsley.
Lincoln’s best opening came with just over five minutes of the half to play. Sweetman-Kirk found space down the right and her searching cross just evaded the onrushing Carla Cantrell.
The Gunners began the second half with much more intensity and missed a golden chance to take the lead in the 47th minute. Jordan Nobbs squeezed a ball through to Carter who went clean through on goal only to shoot straight at Bardsley. The Lincoln defenders recovered to clear.
Kerr’s side came even closer seven minutes later when Little went on a mazy run and teed up Nobbs 25 yards out. Her shot took a deflection and cannoned off the crossbar.
But the Ladies were nearly caught cold in the 57th minute when Clarke broke the offside trap to move through on goal. Byrne raced off her line to make a superb block and quickly got to her feet to parry away the rebound.
Two minutes later Flaherty misjudged a loose ball which Cantrell pounced on but her shot was blazed well over.
This was a frustrating night for the home side but not finding the breakthrough wasn’t through lack of effort. Little twice worked herself some space on the edge of the area but was denied first by Sophie Bradley’s desperate block and then by the excellent Bardsley.
Davison had another shot blocked by Casey Stoney with five minutes to go as Arsenal started to run out of ideas, constantly finding themselves crowded out by the visitors. They could have had a penalty in the last minute when Carter tumbled under Stoney's challenge. Again though, the referee was unmoved.
And in the dying seconds, Steph Houghton wasted Arsenal’s last chance of the evening as Lincoln denied them victory for the third time this campaign.
Copyright 2023 The Arsenal Football Club Limited. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.