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Women's Football News
Arsenal 4 (Smith 6,80, Ludlow 14,45)
Charlton Athletic 1 (Holtham 2)
att: 24,529; at the City Ground, Nottingham Forest F.C.
Arsenal's dominance of the women's game is complete after they captured their fourth trophy of the season with a victory over a hard working Charlton Athletic side in front of a record crowd at Nottingham.
Kelly Smith returned to the Arsenal line up after missing the UEFA Women's Cup success, with Karen Carney making way for the star striker. Charlton manager Keith Boanas employed three central defenders with Jessica Smith, back after terrible injury problems, anchoring the midfield just in front of them.
Charlton were given the dream start after just two minutes of play, as Eniola Aluko weaved her way into the area and her low cross was slotted in at the far post by Katie Holtham, the Nottingham-born midfielder.
However Charlton's joy lasted just four minutes, Kelly Smith's run being halted by a reckless challenge from Maria Bertelli around 25 yards from goal. Smith picked herself up to curl a delightful free kick past a helpless Toni-Anne Wayne and into the corner of the net for the equaliser.
Katie Chapman put a good chance over the bar from a good cross by Rachel Yankey but Arsenal were in front by the quarter hour after winning a free kick near the corner flag. Jayne Ludlow was quickest to get to Lianne Sanderson's near post cross and she steered her shot underneath Wayne.
Alex Scott almost added a third from a corner but Holtham was on hand to clear her effort off the line. At the other end, a Jo Potter cross was fractionally too high for Natasha Dowie at the far post.
Holtham was unlucky with a stabbed effort which was just over the bar after an Aluko shot had deflected towards her. However Arsenal were to strike a huge blow as the game went into first half injury time.
There seemed no danger to Charlton after Bertelli headed away a Sanderson cross but Ludlow unleashed a fierce shot from 30 yards which sailed past Wayne and into the top corner of the net for her second goal.
Arsenal were back on the attack again from the start of the second half and Wayne needed to pull off a smart save from Sanderson, following a good run into the area from Julie Fleeting. The Charlton goalkeeper then made another fine stop, this time with her legs to foil Fleeting after she had been released by a fine reverse pass from Yankey. The resulting corner was cleared back as far as Yankey who evaded Potter's challenge before her left foot shot hit the outside of the post.
A Charlton breakaway saw Holtham release Aluko on goal but Byrne turned her shot around the post for a corner, from which Dowie headed wide at the near post. The Addicks continued to battle away and it took a clearance from Mary Phillip to avert the danger after Potter had dispossessed Grant.
Gemma Davison almost made an instant impact, just one minute after coming on to replace Fleeting up front. The young striker's first touch saw her put clear on goal by Ludlow but she dragged her shot wide of the far post.
With ten minutes remaining, Arsenal increased their lead as Smith cut inside a challenge in the area and planted a low right foot shot beyond the diving Wayne and into the far corner.
Charlton almost hit back straight away, Dowie releasing Ashlee Hincks on the right where she fired just over. Arsenal kept on pressing though with Chapman having a goalbound header blocked, the England midfielder retrieving the loose ball and crossing for Karen Carney to head just over.
An incisive Arsenal move ended with Ludlow spurning a golden chance for her hat-trick; Carney slid the ball into the path of the overlapping Scott who picked up the Welsh midfielder in front of goal but she shot straight at Wayne.
Arsenal: Emma Byrne, Alex Scott, Mary Phillip, Jayne Ludlow, Ciara Grant, Anita Asante, Katie Chapman, Kelly Smith, Lianne Sanderson (sub Karen Carney 62mins), Julie Fleeting (sub Gemma Davison 75mins), Rachel Yankey. Subs: Faye White, Sian Larkin, Rebecca Spencer.
Charlton Athletic: Toni-Anne Wayne, Casey Stoney, Jessica Smith (sub Ashlee Hincks 68mins), Katie Holtham (sub Natasha Hughes 82mins), Karen Hills, Maria Bertelli, Danielle Murphy, Sinead Boyer, Eniola Aluko, Natasha Dowie (sub Ann Marie Heatherson 82mins), Jo Potter. Subs not used: Michelle Hickmott, Pauline Cope.
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