Toni Duggan’s 13th league goal of the season proved to be in vain as Everton Ladies fell to a 2-1 defeat in their final league game of the WSL season.
Second half strikes from Ellen White and Rachel Yankey ensured all three points would be going back to North London and gave Blues boss Andy Spence a real sense of disappointment as he felt his side’s efforts did not reap the rewards they deserved.
Everton’s preparations were already disrupted with the loss of centre-half Paige Williams in the warm up due to injury, with Alex Greenwood moving to the heart of the defence and Brooke Chaplen filling in at left back. But the enforced personnel changes didn’t hinder a bright opening which saw early efforts from Nikita Parris fail to trouble Arsenal keeper Emma Byrne.
And it was Everton who made the breakthrough with a classic case of turning defence into attack. A Yankey shot was well saved by Blues custodian Rachel Brown Finnis with the rebound eventually finding Chaplen, whose long ball picked out Duggan for the England forward to finish well inside the area.
The second half saw the hosts pushed further and further back and Arsenal’s pressure finally told on 66 minutes when a great solo run from Gemma Davison found White all alone in the area and her confident finish drew the visitors level.
Everton responded well, introducing Chantelle Boye-Hlorkah on 70 minutes, and had efforts from Parris and captain Jill Scott but Yankey was to have the last word when more dangerous wing play from Arsenal saw the ball fed in from the right with the England international finishing well from close range.
“I thought in the first half we were excellent and we were probably a bit disappointed to go in only 1-0 up,” said Spence. “In the second half we sat a lot deeper and invited Arsenal pressure.
“I actually thought we continued to defend quite well in large spells but they were also going to create opportunities which were eventually taken.”
The result means Everton finish fifth in the eight-team WSL.