This was a game too far for us, admits Bristol Academy boss Sampson
MARK Sampson is prepared to write off Bristol Academy's Continental Cup semi-final defeat by holders Arsenal as "one game too many".
The Vixens' 4-0 loss at the Stoke Gifford Stadium on Monday night came at the end of a gruelling stint, which had seen them play two games against the Gunners – and another against Birmingham City – in the space of eight days.
Though Bristol had earned respectable draws in the two away games in the FA Women's Super League, they ran out of steam against the Continental Cup holders and reigning WSL champions, who completed a convincing win to set up a repeat of last season's final against Birmingham next month.
Gemma Davison gave the Gunners an interval lead after firing home from the edge of the penalty area through a crowd of players, and veteran striker Kelly Smith effectively put the tie out of reach when she curled home a superb left-footed strike from a 30-yard free-kick with 20 minutes remaining.
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Rachel Yankey – another of Arsenal's Team GB Olympic stars – promptly forced home the third, and the scoring was completed when substitute Jennifer Beattie rampaged her way through to score number four, just three minutes after she came off the bench.
Though Nikki Watts hit the woodwork for the home side in the closing stages, Bristol didn't manage to convert the chances they created in a more even opening period.
"It was one game too many for us," said boss Sampson. "Their second goal was a quality strike and knocked the stuffing out of us, although the girls stuck at it. But we'd had three games in a week and, although our girls played with their hearts, I think we ran out of energy.
"To play away at Birmingham and Arsenal and then face Arsenal again in a semi-final was asking a lot in the space of a week, and I think this was one game we just have to write off. We made the sort of individual errors we don't normally make.
"Hopefully we will be rested and back to our normal selves when we visit Doncaster on Saturday."
Bristol Academy: Chamberlain; Windell (Curson 76), Rose, Yorston, McCatty; Harding (Cleverly 90)), James, Fishlock, Lawley (Heatherson 83); Del Rio, Watts. Subs (not used): Simkin, Matthews, Leek.
Arsenal: Byrne; Scott, Grant, Houghton, Fahey; Davison (White 83), Chapman, Ludlow (Nobbs 61), Yankey; Smith (Beattie 79), Little. Subs (not used): Tracey, Bragg, Harris.