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Birmingham City 1 (Taylor 18)
Bristol Academy 1 (Harding 21)
The battle for the runners-up position in the FA WSL got even closer after two of the challengers fought out a fiercely competitive draw in wet conditions in Stratford.
Birmingham took a first half lead after pounding their opponents in the opening twenty minutes but, following a somewhat fortuitous equaliser, Bristol Academy produced a fine second half display which saw them as the likelier to take the points.
Although it was Academy who had the first effort on goal, a left footed effort from Jessica Fishlock which was off target, Birmingham made their now accustomed fast start and forced the visitors onto the back foot.
The Blues almost took the lead on ten minutes after Karen Carney found Jade Moore on the edge of the area and the midfielder's shot looked destined for the corner of the net, only for Siobhan Chamberlain to deny her with a superb save.
Jodie Taylor was unlucky not to put Birmingham ahead with a neat chip which was headed off the line by Jemma Rose but the pressure told in the 18th minute as a long ball forward from Chelsea Weston saw Taylor react quickest and she gave Chamberlain no chance with an exquisite finish which found the far corner of the net.
Rachel Williams could have added to Birmingham's lead a minute later when she headed a Carney cross wide at the far post but Academy got the boost they needed shortly afterwards.
A pass from Angharad James was chased down by Natasha Harding and although Kerys Harrop got to the ball first and won the challenge, the ball cannoned off Harding and over a stranded Marie Hourihan before bouncing into the back of the net.
The stroke of fortune settled Academy down after their unfortunate start and, although Birmingham twice struck the bar through a cross-cum-shot from Weston and a Jo Potter chip, the visitors grew in confidence and began to look more assured in possession.
Fishlock tried her luck from outside the area but was off target and Rose had a free kick charged down as the scores were level going into the half time break.
The second half saw Academy pick up the pace and they carried the game towards the home side from the restart. They won a series of corners and one kick, taken by Fishlock, was not cleared and Harding's shot was blocked on the line by Weston.
Birmingham did pass up a glorious opportunity on the break as Taylor latched onto a long ball from Weston and raced into the area but surprisingly elected to pass instead of shooting and the chance was lost.
Academy hit back with James finding Laura Del Rio on the right and the Spaniard cut in past Harrop before unleashing a shot which crashed against the post and away to safety.
Williams went close as she chested down a Potter cross and volleyed just wide but chances for Birmingham were scarce in the second half as the Academy back four defended strongly, well marshalled by Corinne Yorston and the excellent Rose in the centre.
At the other end, Melissa Lawley had a good chance after being found by Harding but her shot from the edge of the area flew straight at Hourihan.
Academy continued to attack as the game went into the late stages with Del Rio a constant threat when running at the Birmingham defence, although she may have squandered their best opportunity when breaking down the right and electing to shoot from a tight angle when three team mates were well placed in the area.
Despite the efforts of the tireless Moore in midfield, Birmingham needed to hold on in the dying minutes but Hourihan's handling was excellent under pressure and Academy could not find a telling pass to find a breakthrough.
Academy will be the happier with the result on the night but, although Birmingham have replaced them in second, Everton may well be the most satisfied team whilst the draw has brought Chelsea back into the running for the runners-up spot.
Birmingham City: Marie Hourihan, Chelsea Weston, Kerys Harrop, Jade Moore, Emily Westwood, Laura Bassett, Eniola Aluko, Rachel Williams, Jodie Taylor, Karen Carney (sub Isobel Christiansen 90mins), Jo Potter. Subs not used: Emily Simpkins, Anna Wilcox, Hannah George, Harley Simpson, Marie Ballard, Cristina Torkildsen.
Bristol Academy: Siobhan Chamberlain, Alex Windell, Loren Dykes, Angharad James, Corinne Yorston, Jemma Rose, Laura Del Rio Garcia, Nikki Watts, Natasha Harding, Jessica Fishlock, Melissa Lawley (sub Grace McCatty 78mins). Subs not used: Ann Marie Heatherson, Molly Clarke, Jaz Matthews, Ellie Curson, Rhian Cleverly, Ellie Leek.
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