Football / Women's FA Cup Final: Arsenal on trail of the treble: Shipp stands firm as the Belles rue lack of a finishing touch: Sam Elliott reports from Oxford - Sport - The Independent

Football / Women's FA Cup Final: Arsenal on trail of the treble: Shipp stands firm as the Belles rue lack of a finishing touch: Sam Elliott reports from Oxford

Arsenal. . . . . . . . . . . .3

Doncaster Belles. . .0

ANOTHER day, another cup for Arsenal - and everyone survived the celebrations intact. Six days after George Graham's men had lifted the Coca-Cola Cup at Wembley, the Gunners' distaff side secured the women's FA version - the first leg of a potential treble - by beating the holders at the Manor Ground yesterday.

The crowd of 3,547 included Graham Kelly, the FA's chief executive, who presented the prizes and will soon take women's football under his wing. 'I enjoyed the game,' Kelly said. 'Obviously there was less concentration on the physical side and they took time to build moves. Doncaster lost because they didn't have the finishing touch.'

How right. Four times in the first 20 minutes, Gail Borman was through but failed to beat Lesley Shipp, the Arsenal goalkeeper, who was adjudged 'Woman of the Match'. Shipp steadied Arsenal time and again in the face of Doncaster's assaults, the majority orchestrated from the heart of midfield by Gillian Coultard, England's most capped international.

Belles' world fell apart in first-half injury time when they lost two goals and, in between, Coultard, who was taken off to hospital after running into her opposite number, Debbie Bampton. Set-pieces have served Highbury well this year and Arsenal took the lead through the simplest of dead-ball strikes - Michelle Curley's in-swinging corner.

Doncaster suffered another setback when Coultard departed on a stretcher with a badly bruised shoulder. Arsenal quickly added insult to injury, Naz Ball maintaining her record of scoring in every round by converting a cross from the excellent Curley.

'People will point to the departure of Gillian Coultard as the turning point,' Bampton said, 'but we deserved it by taking our chances.' Bampton, an England squad member for 10 years, certainly took hers, leaping to knock in a lob from the quick-thinking Ball 10 minutes from time.

The celebrations are set to continue. Bampton's side need only one point to win the national league, not bad going for a team who were founded only six years ago. Then it's a league cup final against Knowsley.

Five cups at Highbury in two months? George Graham had better buy a bulk order of Brasso.

Arsenal: L Shipp; K Pealling (L Spry, 78 min), M Curley, V Slee (K Few, 37 min), G Wylie, S Barber, S Williams, D Bampton, J Churchman, C Couling, N Ball. Subs not used: S Mulligan, M Sneddon, D Smith. Manager: V Akers

Doncaster Belles: T Davidson; J Chipchase, L Ryde, L Hunt, J Broadhurst, M Jackson, A Lisseman, G Coultard (J McQuiggan, 45 min), K Walker, G Borman, J Murray. Subs not used: L Young, S Edmunds, K Skillcorn, Manager: P Edmonds.

Referee: M Cairns (Coventry)

Goals: Curley (45 min) 1-0; Ball (45 min) 2-0; Bampton (80 min) 3-0.

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