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Gunners stay on course
 Women's Football News 18 Aug 2013
 
Gunners stay on course - 18 Aug 2013 - Women's Football NewsBirmingham City 1 (Potter 53) Arsenal 3 (Houghton 5, White 18, Davison 38)
Arsenal kept their FA WSL title challenge on course as a powerful first half display swept them to victory at Stratford for the first time in the league. 
 
Shelley Kerr's side scored three times to put themselves in control at the break but Birmingham rallied well in the second half and almost got back into the game at times.
 
Arsenal served notice of what was to come as early as the second minute when Jordan Nobbs hit the roof of the net with a shot from just outside the area, but they only had to wait three more minutes for the opening goal of the match.
 
After winning a corner through pressing Birmingham in possession, Kim Little's kick picked out an unmarked Steph Houghton at the far post and the Gunners captain powered home a header which gave Rebecca Spencer no chance.
 
Minutes later a strong run down the right by Ellen White ended with her cutting the ball back for Danielle Carter who fired her shot over the bar.
 
Arsenal continued to dictate matters and soon added a second goal. Following a foul on Carter, Houghton's free kick came back off the post and Gilly Flaherty followed up for the rebound but her shot rattled the bar. Carter picked up the loose ball and floated in a cross and although White's header again hit the post, this time it was on its way into the net.
 
Birmingham produced their first meaningful effort so far when Jo Potter's low cross was driven over the bar by Issy Christiansen but Arsenal should really have gone further ahead as Nobbs dispossessed Kerys Harrop and ran through on goal but slid her shot wide with only Spencer to beat.
 
Karen Carney lifted a free kick over the bar for the Blues but Arsenal further tightened their grip on the match when Emma Mitchell drove a cross into the area and Gemma Davison ran in to neatly sidefoot the ball on the volley and into the far corner.
 
It had been a commanding first half display by the Gunners with skilful Scottish teenage Caroline Weir having a very impressive debut in midfield but although in control of matters, Arsenal remained alert at the back and after a corner was half cleared, Chelsea Weston's shot took a deflection and Little was on hand to bundle the ball off the line under pressure from Jade Moore and Kirsty Linnett.
 
Birmingham introduced 17-year-old Coral Haines as a half time substitute and she almost made an instant impact, receiving the ball on the edge of the area and curling a shot past Emma Byrne which struck the bar.
 
Shortly afterwards though, the Blues found a way back into the game when Potter drilled a right foot shot from 25 yards which took a deflection off Houghton and beyond the dive of Byrne to reduce the arrears.
 
The goal clearly gave Birmingham renewed confidence and they carried the game to Arsenal, Potter going close to a second with a lob which was just off target and then the Gunners needed to survive a goalmouth scramble from a corner, during which Little made her second goal line clearance, this time from an Emily Westwood header.
 
Davison sent a shot over the bar after being fed by Little but Birmingham, driven on in midfield by the tireless Moore and with Haines catching the eye up front, were looking a different side and it needed a couple of good interceptions from Flaherty and Houghton to prevent them from getting in again.
 
Birmingham brought on Rachel Williams as substitute and the England striker went very close to giving her side hope of a late fightback. Westwood clipped a pass to Williams on the edge of the area where she controlled well and hit a shot on the turn which was arrowing into the back of the net but Byrne dived low to her right to pull off a superb save.
 
This was to be the last scare for Arsenal and as the game went into injury time, Weir went close when she fired over from the edge of the area. Then a great pass from White released Nobbs in the area and she cut the ball across for Carter who was denied by a good smothering save by Spencer.
 
There was a late worry for the Gunners though as Mitchell, who once again had a fine match at left back, limped off to be replaced by Ciara Grant but they now have five WSL wins on the trot and can go second with a win in their next game on Wednesday, while Birmingham can take pride in their second half performance. 
 
Birmingham City: Rebecca Spencer, Chelsea Weston, Hannah George (sub Coral Haines 45mins), Jade Moore, Kerys Harrop, Laura Bassett, Issy Christiansen (sub Kate Wilkinson 83mins), Emily Westwood, Kirsty Linnett, Karen Carney (sub Rachel Williams 67mins), Jo Potter. Subs not used: Emily Simpkins, Crissy Torkildsen, Mary Earps, Jess Myers.

Arsenal: Emma Byrne, Alex Scott, Emma Mitchell (sub Ciara Grant 90mins), Steph Houghton, Gilly Flaherty, Caroline Weir, Gemma Davison (sub Rachel Yankey 77mins), Jordan Nobbs, Ellen White, Kim Little, Danielle Carter. Subs not used: Yvonne Tracy, Katie Chapman, Freda Ayisi.

Photos:

(top) Emma Mitchell escapes the attentions of Kirsty Linnett
(middle) Emma Byrne punches away under pressure from Laura Bassett
(bottom) Danielle Carter takes on Kerys Harrop


 
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