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Kelly Smith has given England Head Coach Hope Powell a huge boost ahead of their opening World Cup qualifier against Austria this week, by making her first appearance since the Euro 2005 Finals.
The star striker played the final 25 minutes of Arsenal's 5-1 win away to Bristol Academy on Sunday and gave a virtuoso performance during her time on the field which included a well taken goal, sliding home a left foot shot from 15 yards from an Alex Scott cross.
"I was happy to get on the scoresheet," a smiling Kelly told Women's Soccer Scene after the game. "I'm pleased to have got on really, the goal is an added bonus."
Kelly preferred to remain modest about her display and admitted there is lot more to come from her. "I don't feel sharp at all," she laughs. "I felt a bit tired - I was only on the field for half an hour but haven't played since the European Championships so I'm not too sharp, even if I did look it. But there's still a long way to go, it's only the third game of the season."
So how far away is Kelly from getting back to her best? "You can never tell, because I've been injured so much," she replies. "I would say maybe another month or so, coming on as sub and getting more time - maybe another four or five games and I'll be fully fit."
Arsenal performance as a whole was impressive during the second half but, against a battling Academy side, they needed to come from behind for the second successive week. "It's unlike us to go a goal down, especially two weeks in a row," says Kelly. "We need to stop going behind because you can lose games by going goals down like that. But it was great character from the girls, we got 2-1 up by half time and to be honest I don't think they (Academy) were ever going to get back into it after that.
"They were tiring a little bit near the end and our fitness levels are really high, there's no worries with us tiring at the end of the game. I think we started to keep the ball better and created a lot of chances late on."
Arsenal's winning start to the season has not been without its injury problems, the win on Sunday was achieved without the likes of Julie Fleeting, Jayne Ludlow, Anita Asante and Kirsty Pealling. "A lot of people have said that we've got too many quality players on board, but players have got the opportunity to step in and we're still winning games, and we've still got these four or five players to come back in," she says.
For now though, Kelly's attention will be fully focused on England and she is looking forward to the start of the World Cup qualfying group: "We had a training camp a couple of weeks ago and it was good just to get it under way again. Austria is our first game and we can't afford to lose that, we've got to go out there and get a point, or al three. I know absolutely nothing (about Austria), I think it's going be addressed over the next couple of days.
"We've got two years of games now and only one team qualifies from the group so we can't really slip up, and after the excitement of the Euros and the crowds that it drew, we want to keep that rollercoaster going and qualify for the World Cup.
"Everybody wants to get their name on the team sheet and play. It's a tough fight for places, the quality of the youngsters that we have coming through keeps you on your toes and it looks good for us."
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