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Bristol Academy 2 (Fishlock 70, Heatherson 78)
Birmingham City 3 (Ballard 6, Weston 87, Williams 89)
Two stunning strikes in the dying minutes by Chelsea Weston and Rachel Williams snatched victory from the jaws of defeat for Birmingham City and left them seven points clear at the top of the FA WSL.
The Blues looked to be heading towards their first defeat of the season when two goals in a nine minute spell had seen Bristol Academy turn a pulsating match on its head but the home side were to end up with nothing for their efforts.
Birmingham were forced into making a change ten minutes before kick off when goalkeeper Marie Hourihan pulled out with an injury, to be replaced by Leanne Hall. The Blues almost found themselves a goal behind in the third minute as Academy won a free kick 25 yards from goal and Jemma Rose thumped her shot against the bar.
Three minutes later, Birmingham took the lead with their first meaningful attack. Karen Carney sprang the Academy offside trap and ran through on goal, Siobhan Chamberlain blocked her shot but Marie Ballard was on hand to coolly slot home the loose ball.
Corinne Yorston pulled a shot wide of the far post as Academy sought a quick reply but Birmingham were looking sharp going forward and, after Ballard won possession, Williams sent in a shot which was deflected over.
Academy produced their best move of the match so far as Katie Daley's pass was laid off by Jessica Fishlock for Ann Marie Heatherson whose far post cross was headed just wide by Anouk Hoogendijk.
The game continued to flow from end to end at a hectic pace and Birmingham were next to go close, Williams latching onto Carney's pass and Alex Culvin did well to clear from her low cross under pressure from Dunia Susi. The resulting Carney corner was headed over from close range by Williams.
Hoogendijk sent a long range effort over the bar after being fed by Jaz Matthews but Birmingham passed up a great opportunity to double their lead as Carney produced a great piece of skill to trick her way to the goal line and crossed for Williams who, for once, did not show her usual reliability in front of goal and sent a free header over the bar.
Academy produced their closest effort so far when Matthews' pass was nodded down by Heatherson into the path of Fishlock but the Welsh international found the angle too tight and her effort hit the side netting. Jo Potter flashed a free kick just wide at the other end as an action packed first half came to a close.
Birmingham were forced into a half time substitution as Carney could not carry on because of a knee injury and former Academy striker Stef Curtis took her place. The Blues were to go close twice in the opening three minutes though, firstly as Potter's pass released Williams who shrugged off two defenders before Chamberlain came off her line to make a good save. Chamberlain again denied Birmingham moments later, this time with an excellent diving stop from Susi's 25-yard drive.
The game went into a lull for the first time as the two teams could not keep up the pace of the first half and Birmingham became more content to sit on their one-goal lead. The introduction of Helen Bleazard as substitute on the hour mark changed things around though and the winger played a huge part as her side turned matters around completely.
After a Culvin cross had been punched away by Hall, Bleazard returned the ball into the area and, although Hall blocked her first attempt, Fishlock managed to bundle the ball over the line to put her side level.
Academy's tails were up and Fishlock tried her luck again with a shot on the turn but it was charged down by Laura Bassett. The home side came forward in waves and Birmingham were finding it hard to keep possession and Academy's persistence was rewarded with a second goal.
Bleazard was again heavily involved as she got past Faye Cardin on the left and sent in a delightful cross to the far post where Heatherson powered a header past Hall.
Academy still kept pressing forward in search of more goals and looked to be on their way to victory but Birmingham managed to summon up two moments of inspiration.
They won a couple of corners, the second of which was cleared away as far as Weston who unleashed a piledriver from around 25 yards which soared into the top corner past a helpless Chamberlain and her defenders.
With Academy still reeling from Weston's wonder strike, Birmingham struck a fatal blow just over a minute later. Potter found space in midfield to clip a shrewd pass over the defence and into the path of Williams who neatly flicked the ball over Chamberlain and into the far corner.
Academy tried hard to level again during just five minutes of injury time but a Grace McCatty shot, which flew over the bar, was the closest they came. The Academy players sank to their knees on the final whistle after their efforts but Birmingham celebrated a win which could be of great significance come the end of the season.
Bristol Academy: Siobhan Chamberlain, Grace McCatty, Alex Culvin, Corinne Yorston, Jade Radburn, Jemma Rose, Anouk Hoogendijk, Katie Daley (sub Molly Clark 60mins), Ann Marie Heatherson (sub Loren Dykes 81mins), Jessica Fishlock, Jaz Matthews (sub Helen Bleazard 60mins).
Birmingham City: Leanne Hall, Chelsea Weston, Kerys Harrop, Sally Stanton, Emily Westwood, Laura Bassett, Dunia Susi, Rachel Williams, Marie Ballard (sub Faye Cardin 68mins), Karen Carney (sub Stef Curtis 45mins), Jo Potter. Subs not used: Jess Wright, Eartha Pond.
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