Arsenal Ladies star feared she might miss out on FA Cup triumph at Wembley

Arsenal's Kelly Smith celebrates with the SSE Women' FA Cup

Arsenal's Kelly Smith celebrates with the SSE Women' FA Cup - Credit: EMPICS Sport

Arsenal striker Kelly Smith admits she feared her opportunity to win another Women’s FA Cup had disappeared this time last year.

The former England star, who had lifted the trophy four times prior to Saturday’s 1-0 victory in the final against Chelsea, missed a large chunk of last season after undergoing ankle surgery.

But the 37-year-old was brought into the starting line-up at Wembley for only the second time this season and led the line in exemplary fashion as the Gunners deservedly secured the cup for a record 14th time.

“To be honest, I wasn’t sure I’d be involved in the squad,” Smith said. “The last two league games I’d been left out, so it kept me on my toes a little bit.

“I tried to run and hold the ball up and do as much as I could for my team. You just want to help your team win on the big occasion and mentally and physically I’m in a good place.

“My team-mates gave me a lot of confidence by saying they wanted me to start. Players look to me to lead by example and I’ve done that my whole career.

“Last year I was questioning whether that would be it for me but I had this fighting mentality – with the experience I’ve had with injuries, I knew I could get back from it.

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“Now I’m on cloud nine, playing at Wembley and winning my fifth FA Cup. This is the stadium where you really want to be involved and it’s a great occasion – it was phenomenal.”

Pedro Martinez Losa’s side took the fight to Chelsea from the outset, denying them space and taking the lead with an eye-catching goal in the 18th minute.

Danielle Carter received the ball out wide and cut inside Blues full-back Hannah Blundell before curling a precision strike beyond goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl and into the far corner.

Asisat Oshoala squandered two opportunities to increase Arsenal’s advantage, as well as supplying a cross that Smith headed against the crossbar early in the second half.

But, although Chelsea – who had beaten Notts County at Wembley to claim the trophy in 2015 – belatedly pressed for an equaliser, the Gunners were worthy winners.

“From the first minute all our players were on it, mentally driven and focused,” Smith added. “We had a game plan and I think we nailed it in the first 30 minutes.

“Chelsea are a great side but we stopped them playing and that was key. We said before the game that we had to start well and get in their faces and we certainly did that.

“The pitch helped us – a lot of our players are quite technical and at Boreham Wood it can be a little bit bumpy sometimes and it takes one or two touches to get the ball under control.

“We were hungry for it and I’m just really proud of the players because we turned up. We’ve struggled early in the league, losing to the two teams that are around us.

“But we’ve shown we can turn up on the big occasion – we’ve played extremely well and now we need to take that confidence and belief into our league campaign.”