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Arsenal Res took the Premier Reserve League Southern Division One title race to the final day by defeating Chelsea Res 3-1 at Arkley on Sunday.
Having lost against Reading the previous week, the Gunners needed to beat the Blues to deny them the league title. Two goals midway through the first half from Natalie Ross and Brooke Nunn underlined the home team's early dominance but Chelsea fought back with great spirit either side of half time and created a number of good chances but took only one, an excellent long range effort.
A late goal sealed the Arsenal win and forced Chelsea to obtain three points from their remaining match against Watford Reserves to clinch the title. Arsenal themselves have a match against bottom of the table Millwall Reserves which they will need to win in order to put pressure on the leaders.
Arsenal started off with real purpose and created a series of openings through crisp passing movements . Naomi Cole was just wide with a header from a corner, Ross just failed to convert a Ruesha Littejohn cross, Lillie Bilson forced a diving save by Frankie Gibbs before Ross was played in by Littlejohn to finish from ten yards on 26 minutes. Within two minutes, the lively Nunn broke clear to finish a chip over the diving Gibbs.
Chelsea, who had lost a number of players to first team call ups and other clubs, struggled to find any fluency, but started to find a foothold in the game as the break approached. Bilson nearly added a third with a fine run and shot against the bar but it was the Blues who returned with greater resolve, with Emma Delves adding experience in front of the back four. Arsenal's Ross had left the match with an injury and her passing skills were missed in the Gunners midfield.
On 65 minutes, Kerrie Ryan laujnched a 35-yard drive which beat Sarah Quantrill to give the Blues hope . The Gunners keeper then kept her team ahead with a double save as the Blues pressed forward with real menace. As the minutes ticked away, Cole, Cally Rowell, Lauren Williams and Billie Murphy were all forced into last ditch defence to protect the lead as Chelsea sought the goal to seal the title.
After another Chelsea near miss on 83 minutes, Littlejohn broke clear on the right and curled a fine right foot finish beyond Gibbs to seal a hard fought but deserved win in an enjoyable match full of fine performances by players from both sides.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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