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Bristol Academy 2 (Natalia 60, Del Rio 81) Lincoln Ladies 0
Bristol Academy reached the F.A.Women's Cup Final for the second time in three years after two second half goals from their Spanish strike force gave them victory over Lincoln Ladies at Ashton Gate.
Academy had been the brighter of the two sides throughout the game and deserved their win but it was marred slightly by a serious injury to Ann Marie Heatherson who sustained a suspected broken ankle during the first half.
Academy went into the game with three straight wins under their belt and were almost ahead in the second minute. Angharad James slid a through ball into the path of Natasha Harding who rounded Karen Bardsley but Sophie Bradley did well to get back and block her shot as she looked poised to score.
Lincoln responded with Precious Hamilton breaking down the right and crossing for Carla Cantrell whose shot was charged down by Loren Dykes. Play continued to switch from end to end during the opening stages, Harding forcing a save from Bardsley after latching on to Laura Del Rio's pass and then Jess Clarke shooting wide after cutting in from the right.
Academy, whose more expansive attacking play has caught the eye this season, began to press hard and Heatherson forced a good save from Bardsley after meeting Natalia's cross with a downward header. Corinne Yorston drove a free kick over the bar and Jemma Rose met a Yorston corner with a glancing header which was held by Bardsley.
However a quick tempo game was brought to a sudden halt as Heatherson stretched to head goalwards and fell awkwardly. The striker was clearly in great pain and was carried off with her leg in a brace and having been given oxygen on the pitch, Nikki Watts coming on to take her place.
The injury clearly affected both teams at that time and, apart from a brief scramble from an Academy corner which was eventually cleared by Bradley, there were not too many opportunities at either end to break the deadlock going into the interval.
The second half started with Watts bringing out a near post save by Bardsley from a stinging shot but Lincoln were to come very close on two occasions after this.
First, good work down the right by Cantrell ended with her sliding a neat pass into the path of Emily Roberts whose shot was inches wide of the far post. Three minutes later, from a Remi Allen free kick, a looping header from Bradley was clawed away by Siobhan Chamberlain.
At the other end, Harding made a strong run down the right and fed Del Rio on the edge of the area where she shot just over, and then Watts, who was having a superb match on the left, drilled in a dangerous low cross which just eluded the oncoming Harding at the far post.
Del Rio was starting to exert her influence on the match and she was heavily involved as Academy took the lead on the hour. She made a strong run towards the edge of the area before finding Natalia whose shot appeared to deceive a wrong footed Bardsley and bounced into the back of the net.
Lucy Staniforth drilled a long range shot wide as Academy sought to build on their lead whilst at the other end, despite their efforts, Lincoln were struggling to make an impression against a well drilled defence in which Rose and Jaz Matthews excelled in the centre.
With nine minutes left on the clock, Academy grabbed a decisive second goal. Rose pumped a long free kick forward and Watts nipped in behind Sophie Walton to keep the ball in play and lay it back for Del Rio to crash a powerful shot which beat Bardsley at her near post.
Staniforth again tried her luck from long range, this time having her shot saved after she had got on the end of Bardsley's punched clearance. From that point, Academy ran the clock down before their celebrations could start on the final whistle as they secured a repeat of the Final against Arsenal two years ago.
Bristol Academy: Siobhan Chamberlain, Loren Dykes, Corinne Yorston, Jaz Matthews, Jemma Rose, Angharad James, Natalia Pablos Sanchon (sub Alex Windell 84mins), Laura Del Rio (sub Ellie Curson 90mins), Ann Marie Heatherson (sub Nikki Watts 34mins), Lucy Staniforth, Natasha Harding. Subs not used: Grace McCatty, Rebekah Kyle.
Lincoln Ladies: Karen Bardsley, Sophie Walton, Martha Harris, Emily Roberts (sub Bonnie Horwood 75mins), Sophie Bradley, Casey Stoney, Megan Harris, Precious Hamilton, Carla Cantrell, Remi Allen, Jess Clarke. Subs not used: Sophie Crosby, Amy Kay.
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