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Birmingham City 1 (Lawley 82) Doncaster Rovers Belles 0
A late goal from Melissa Lawley lifted Birmingham City into the top half of the WSL table but Doncaster Rovers Belles were once again left frustrated at another narrow defeat.
Birmingham tried to make a typically fast start with Lawley trying her luck with a dipping shot which dropped just over the bar but the Belles settled down and started competing very well with Kasia Lipka showing up in midfield.
Indeed it was Doncaster who came close to taking the lead when the ball broke to Jess Sigsworth in the area and her curling effort brought out a good diving save from former Belles keeper Mary Earps. Sue Smith then tested Earps with a free kick just outside the area but her shot was held comfortably.
Birmingham's best moments were coming from the lively Lawley on the right and Kate Wilkinson was showing some neat touches up front but Doncaster were defending well, with Leandra Little and Victoria Williams strong in the centre. When the Blues did get into good positions, they took the wrong options and a number of good situations broke down.
Midway through the first half, the Belles produced a great move and were desperately unlucky not to take the lead. Lauren Cresswell and Beth England helped set up Smith who sent a delightful cross over to the far post for Ashleigh Mills whose first time volley came back off the inside of the post and back into the grateful arms of Earps.
Millie Bright drove a shot wide from distance and Mills had an effort deflected wide after Bright had flicked on Cresswell's cross, but Doncaster could not make their good spell count and the scoreline was goalless at half time.
Birmingham introduced Rachel Williams and Karen Carney as substitutes during the interval to try and inject more impetus into the side and, after Bright was just off target with a lob early on, the changes did the trick.
Hannah George broke down the left and crossed and although Little managed to get her head to the ball, it fell for Carney but she appeared to lose her footing and blazed her shot over.
Jo Potter had had a largely quiet first half by her standards, due to good pressing from the Belles, but she began to exert her influence on the game as it wore on. A Potter free kick near the corner flag was half cleared beyond the far post to Williams who retrieved and returned the ball into the centre, Cresswell won the header to clear as far as Kirsty Linnett whose volley was well held by Nicola Davies.
Potter herself then made a strong run towards the penalty area and unleashed a 25-yard shot which swerved viciously at the last moment but Davies did well to save and grab at the second attempt.
Belles attacks were more sporadic in the second half but they came very close to taking the lead when Smith whipped in a superb cross beyond the far post as far as Mills, who drove the ball across goal but Emily Westwood made an important interception and cleared as Sigsworth looked poised to score.
Although the game remaining interesting, it did not flow quite as well in the second half and this was not helped by a series of baffling decisions from a poor referee.
Carney curled a shot over at the other end and as the half wore on, Birmingham began to assume control and they were rewarded with eight minutes left on the clock.
Kerys Harrop's ball forward was latched onto by Laura Bassett who held the ball up and squared it across the edge of the area for Lawley who drilled a low shot across Davies and into the far corner of the net.
It could have been two as the game went into injury time when Potter's pass released Lawley on goal but this time she was denied by a good save from Davies, who blocked her shot with an outstretched leg.
Birmingham therefore keep alive their outside chance of a top two place but the Belles will once more be left wondering what might have been.
Birmingham City: Mary Earps, Chelsea Weston, Hannah George, Jade Moore, Kerys Harrop, Emily Westwood, Issy Christiansen (sub Karen Carney 45mins), Kate Wilkinson (sub Rachel Williams 45mins), Kirsty Linnett (sub Laura Bassett 76mins), Melissa Lawley, Jo Potter. Subs not used: Emily Simpkins, Aoife Mannion, Coral Haines, Jessica Myers.
Doncaster Rovers Belles: Nicola Davies, Lyndsey Cunningham, Lauren Cresswell, Leandra Little, Victoria Williams, Kasia Lipka, Ashleigh Mills (sub Rhiannon Roberts 83mins), Sue Smith, Jess Sigsworth, Millie Bright, Beth England (sub Katie Brussel 76mins). Subs not used: Naomi Chadwick, Jemma Purfield, Danielle Cox, Emma Johnson, Emma Higgins.
(top) Lauren Cresswell tries to escape the attentions of Kate Wilkinson
(middle) Ashleigh Mills flicks the ball past Issy Christiansen
(bottom) Beth England tries to head past Kerys Harrop and Mary Earps
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