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Clare Wheatley will be stepping out for her third F.A.Women's Cup final appearance this Monday against Charlton Athletic and she is once again looking forward to the big occasion. "It gets better every time!" says the experienced wing back, who also doubles as the Club Secretary. "It might be my last one, you never know, so I shall make sure that I enjoy it. I scored in the Final five years ago against Southampton Saints, after returning from a knee ligament injury, and that was a great moment."
Arsenal will approach the match in superb form after a string of victories which have taken them to the brink of a possible League and Cup 'double', including a 1-0 victory over Charlton two weeks ago. "We've been on a good run and our preparations have gone really well," says Clare. "The young players in the squad have had extra experience and we now have 18 players who could easily start the game for us, there is great competition for places.
"I know it will be a close game between two closely matched teams, and a lot of people are going to be looking for the result. Whoever wins the individual battles on the pitch will win the match."
Arsenal's winning run coincided with the arrival of Scottish goal machine Julie Fleeting, and Clare feels that she was the missing link in the squad. "We missed Angela Banks at the start of the season following her decision to stop playing but the opportunity arose to sign Julie. Our manager Vic Akers had been trying to sign her for a long time because she is strong in the air, strong on the ball and a natural goalscorer.
"Having Faye White back from her injury has also been a great help, she is a tower of strength for the team and played really well against Carmaine Walker in our recent match. Ellen Maggs is a player who rises to the big occasion and is probably the most technically gifted player in the country, but she also does her fair share of tracking back for the team."
The season will not end for Arsenal on Monday as they still have to play Fulham in what is set to be a title decider with three outcomes still possible. "It's the closest season ever and three teams can still win the league. Whatever the result on Monday, we'll be right up for the Fulham game! We've missed winning the title and missed playing in Europe, and we want that back."
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