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Bristol Academy 1 (Watts 67) Arsenal 1 (Ubogagu 13)
Arsenal were unable to take an opportunity to move to the top of FA WSL 1 after a second half equaliser from Nikki Watts earned Bristol Academy a share of the spoils at Stoke Gifford.
The Gunners had controlled much of the game following Chioma Ubogagu's early goal but were unable to add to their lead and the home side fought back to give new manager Willie Kirk a point in his first game in charge.
Academy were forced into a change with Nadia Lawrence replacing long term injury victim Jaz Matthews and Hayley Ladd lining up in defence. Arsenal were missing a number of players including the likes of Jordan Nobbs, Leah Williamson and Kelly Smith and their line up saw Lianne Sanderson in an unfamiliar role in the centre of midfield.
There was a scare for Arsenal when Angharad James' free kick was flicked on by Grace McCatty to the far post where Jemma Rose sliced her clearance, the ball looking destined for the corner of the net but Emma Byrne pulled off an excellent save.
Arsenal had started the game a little slowly but then burst into life by taking the lead with a brilliant team goal. Things started right from the back and with Byrne and following several passes through defence and midfield, Alex Scott was released on the right where she drew two defenders before her low cross was swept in by Ubogagu at the far post.
James fired a shot over at the other end but Arsenal, buoyed by the goal, were now dominating possession and sought a second. Jade Bailey's deflected shot from the edge of the area was saved at full length by Mary Earps and another Scott cross to the far post saw Ubogagu jump with Ladd and the resulting header was cleared off the line by Frankie Brown.
In first half injury time, Arsenal squandered a great chance to double their lead when Emma Mitchell picked out Sanderson with a fine pass but, with only Earps to beat, the England striker planted her shot past the post.
Early in the second half, Natalia Pablos Sanchon curled a shot wide for the visitors but Academy came into the game much more after the break and fired a warning shot when Watts drove an effort just wide.
Sanderson brought out a save from Earps from Ubogagu's cross but Arsenal's game was lacking tempo and, although Vicky Losada was impressing with some neat touches, they were struggling to get behind the Academy defence.
Academy were growing in confidence and midway through the second half, they were back on level terms. Gabriella Bird found space on the right and her cross broke to Watts just inside the area and her shot beat Byrne's dive and went in off the far post.
Arsenal tried to raise their game with the introduction of Rachel Yankey and Caroline Weir giving them more impetus but a determined home defence continued to keep them at bay. Danielle Carter sent a shot wide after cutting in from the left but Academy otherwise stood firm and, once again, Earps' handling was faultless under pressure.
Weir hit a shot narrowly wide in the dying minutes as Academy held on for a hard earned point which means they will be only one point behind at the bottom going into the break for the World Cup.
Bristol Academy: Mary Earps, Frankie Brown, Loren Dykes, Sophie Ingle, Grace McCatty, Hayley Ladd, Nadia Lawrence (sub Gabriella Bird 62mins), Angharad James, Christie Murray (sub Sharla Passariello 80mins), Nikki Watts (sub Isobel Dalton 86mins), Georgia Evans. Subs not used: Kate Evans, Alice Evans, Fran Davis.
Arsenal: Emma Byrne, Alex Scott, Emma Mitchell, Jade Bailey, Casey Stoney, Jemma Rose, Lianne Sanderson (sub Caroline Weir 67mins), Vicky Losada, Danielle Carter, Natalia Pablos Sanchon (sub Rachel Yankey 62mins), Chioma Ubogagu (sub Carla Humphrey 75mins). Subs not used: Chloe Kelly, Hollie Augustus, Taome Oliver.
(top) Nadia Lawrence gets in a shot under pressure from Alex Scott
(middle) Nikki Watts tries to send in a cross past Casey Stoney
(bottom) Danielle Carter and Frankie Brown battle for the ball
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