Another day, another unrewarded performance for Everton Ladies as a Beth Mead goal condemned the Blue Girls to defeat at Arsenal.
Head Coach Andy Spence spoke of his relief of not having to put up with another “hard luck story” after the resolute display that deservedly beat Reading in his side’s last WSL 1 outing earlier this month - but the reprieve from that regular frustration proved short-lived.
Spence admitted his team sat 10 yards too deep for much of the first half, and that proved costly as England international Mead had time and space to control a loose ball in the box on 33 minutes and lash past Lizzie Durack.
After the break, however, the Toffees were in the ascendancy. Gabby George sparked attacks with precision passing from the back or by marauding forward in a performance that would certainly have caught the eye of the watching England Women’s Head Coach Phil Neville.
Olivia Chance time and again drove forward with real purpose, with the New Zealand international almost levelling matters seconds after the restart. A fine Mollie Green pass into the box was coolly brought down by Courtney Sweetman-Kirk, who in turn slid a pass into Chance’s feet following her darting run into the box, but Gunners keeper Sari van Veenendaal reacted well to tip her shot wide.
Sweetman-Kirk, typically tireless in her work in chasing down every lost cause or errant touch, had the ball in the net on 54 minutes – having intercepted an Angharad James long shot before swivelling and firing low past van Veenendaal – only to have her celebrations cut short by the linesman’s flag.
Durack had only really had picking the ball out of her net to keep her busy at Meadow Park, but she kept Everton in the game with a fine stop to deny Arsenal forward Danielle Carter. But in truth, it was the visitors who were dominating proceedings in a second half display that deserved at least a goal and more so a point.
That almost came in the most spectacular of circumstances. Green, included in the starting line-up minutes before kick off for the unwell Dan Turner, latched onto a loose ball 40 yards from goal and went for a speculative lob with Van Veenendaal off her line. The Dutch keeper scampered back and only just managed to get a touch to tip it onto the bar.
Spence introduced Jodie Brett just past the hour and almost immediately the midfield schemer set up Chloe Kelly with a lovely scooped pass in behind the Gunners rearguard only to see the former Arsenal youngster take a touch when perhaps shooting first-time was a better option.
It proved the final real chance for the visitors, with the Gunners using their experience to see the game out and secure victory.
There was, however, a senior debut for forward Elise Hughes, the 16-year-old’s late cameo a positive moment in an otherwise frustrating evening in Hertfordshire.
Everton now have a week of rest ahead to recharge their batteries ahead of preparing for their FA Women’s Cup quarterfinal against Durham on 18 March.