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Arsenal Res 2 Charlton Athletic 0
Arsenal Res booked their place in the London FA Senior Cup Final by beating Charlton Athletic in their semi final at Rowley Lane.
A fine first half display by a young Arsenal team yielded two goals and several other chances. Charlton, themselves with few players over 20 and missing prolific scorer Gemma Bryan, fought back well in the second half to put pressure on the Gunners but Arsenal still created the clearer chances to extend their lead, only to be denied by fine goalkeeping and goal line heroics by the Addicks defence to leave the outcome uncertain until the end.
Arsenal started at a high tempo, moving the ball around crisply and seeking to play in speedy forwards Kirsty Linnett, Emily Thomson and Lauren Bruton. It was Linnett who took the eye early on, dancing past three challenges before being stopped by a Becky Duggan tackle. Brooke Nunn hit a perfect 40-yard through ball for Bruton who shot across Megen Lynch but inches wide. Another deflected Bruton effort was well held on 19 minutes as Arsenal dominated in every department.
A Grace Coombs effort just wide on 27 minutes was Charlton's best effort but Arsenal were getting close to breaking through. Nunn played in Bruton who had a shot saved, Thomson's follow up was blocked on the line and Taylor O'Leary shot over from the rebound.
The deserved opener arrived soon after this triple close shave. Another quick interchange of passes sent Linnett clear and she finished well on 39 minutes. Arsenal went two up as a result of a long ball which sent Thomson away with Duggan in pursuit. The Charlton defender clipped Thomson as she made a last ditch tackle and Bruton converted, despite slipping as she took the penalty. Bruton and Nunn could have made it three but missed good chances as the half ended with the Gunners very much on top.
The second half was more even as Charlton played their way back into the match. Kim Dixson started to stamp her authority on the midfield and substitutes Francesca Ali and Sam Rowland gave added spice to the attack. Fliss Gibbons made several good breaks on the left but, apart from couple of tricky crosses, Sophie Harris had little to do, being well protected by a mobile and tough tackling back four.
Another Coombs effort, this time deflected just over on 62 minutes was the closest Charlton came to reducing the arrears, though they pushed on right to the final whistle. Meanwhile the width and pace of the Gunners attack was always a threat. Bruton was clean though on goal but was pressed by Lynch and shot just wide. When the otherwise excellent Charlton keeper made a bad throw out, she was rescued by Duggan, heading clear Nunn's shot from under the bar and blocking Thomson's follow up by the post.
Further close escapes kept the contest in doubt right to the end, but the Gunners deserved their place in the Final. Charlton never resorted to foul tactics to halt the highly fluent Arsenal play and the worst tackles in the match were committed by an Arsenal player.
Charlton have an FA Women's Cup fourth round encounter next week with Reading FC Women which will present another challenge for the South Londoners. In the Final in April, Arsenal Reserves will play either Millwall Lionesses or Tottenham Hotspur whose tie was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.
Arsenal: Sophie Harris, Alexandra Hindwood, Billie Murphy, Hannah Short, Megan Sargeant, Taylor O'Leary, Rebecca Anderson, Brooke Nunn, Kirsty Linnett, Emily Thomson, Lauren Bruton. Subs: Hayley Ladd, Tricia Gould, Leighanne Robe, Kelly Blanchflower, Bianca Bragg.
Charlton Athletic: Megen Lynch, Katie Flack, Stefanie Simmons, Kimberley Dixson, Becky Duggan, Megan Chandler, Pam McRoberts, Charley Clifford, Grace Coombs, Feiicity Gibbons, Jenny Newman. Subs: Francesca Ali, Samantha Rowland, Rachel Ahern, Ciara Sherwood.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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