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Arsenal Reserves stormed into the Final of the F A Premier Reserve Section League Cup with an emphatic 8-0 win over Watford Reserves at Arkley on Sunday.
The game was in doubt for a long time owing to the referee's strong concern about player safety in frozen areas of the pitch but eventually kicked off after a 20-minute delay.
After a tight first half where the visitors had largely matched Arsenal, the floodgates opened with clinical finishing and great attacking teamwork from the young Gunners whose joy was only marred by a straight red card for Natalie Ross. Watford created a number of chances but were unable to take any of them and were picked off by the pace and trickery of Lauren Bruton, Danielle Carter, Ruesha Littlejohn and half time substitute Emily Thompson.
The away team started well and created the first shot on goal from Georgia Kearney-Perry after five minutes. Arsenal used Jennifer Beattie's aerial strength in attack to threaten the Watford goal, but her power on the run also caused danger for the Golden Girls. Carter had a shot well saved, as did Naomi Cole with a 25-yard free kick on 21 minutes. Watford fired long range shots just over and another just wide as they broke with pace.
Carter and Beattie combined superbly on 42 minutes to set up the former for shot just wide but in injury time, Beattie was allowed too much time and space and she buried a 20-yard left foot shot in the bottom corner for a vital interval lead.
There was little sign of the rout to come as Watford pressed for the equaliser in the opening minutes of the second half, forcing Sarah Quantrill to display some clean handling of crosses. However, the introduction of Thompson on the right and Beattie's withdrawal to central defence gave the Gunners great width and Watford's defence could not stem the flow of attacks.
Though Thompson had a goal disallowed, Bruton scored a minute later from a Ruesha Littlejohn cut back, Carter ran through the defence to set up Littlejohn on the hour and Carter made it four with a scorching shot from distance on 64 minutes.
Watford had missed a great chance when Chloe Brown shot wide and were handed a numerical advantage when Natalie Ross was sent off after reacting to a challenge near the touchline on 66 minutes. This proved of little use as the rampant Arsenal attackers simply carried on and Thompson's trickery set up Bruton for a cool finish barely a minute later.
Carter rifled another long range shot home on 77 minutes, sub Lillie Bilson rounded the keeper to tap in the seventh and Thompson beat the offside trap to drive in from close range for the final goal.
The result in no way reflected the effort and commitment of the Watford team who were victims of superb teamwork and finishing and had mounted enough dangerous attacks to have merited at least a couple of goals themselves. In the first half they had kept the Gunners in check but the interval reorganisation gave them just too many pacy attackers to cope with.
The match referee's willingness to give the match a chance was totally justified as, despite some slips in the affected areas, both teams coped with the conditions admirably. Arsenal will therefore contest the Final with Everton who beat Birmingham City 2-1 in the other semi final last week.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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