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Blues go four points clear
 Women's Football News 30 Jun 2014
 
Blues go four points clear - 30 Jun 2014 - Women's Football NewsBirmingham City 2 (Linnett 47, Harrop 87) Manchester City 0
Birmingham City have opened up a four point lead at the top of WSL1 after two second half goals earned them victory at the Autotech Stadium. 
 
After a largely uneventful first half, Kirsty Linnett moved to the top of the league goalscoring charts when giving the Blues the lead and Kerys Harrop sewed up the points late on. Manchester City were never at their best on the day although they struck the woodwork twice as well as having a first half goal controversially disallowed.
 
The game took a long time to get going with the visitors sorely missing injured star striker Toni Duggan whilst Birmingham were forced to re-organise their starting line up and Jade Moore started on the left of midfield in place of the absent Melissa Lawley.
 
Things came to life when Jo Potter fired a free kick over and Hannah Keryakoplis saw a shot deflected wide following a scramble in the area. The resulting corner was cleared as far as Chelsea Weston whose left foot strike narrowly cleared the bar.
 
Birmingham produced the best move so far, just after the half hour, when Keryakoplis picked out Linnett on the right with a good pass. The striker whipped the ball into the area but Keryakopis sent a free header over the bar.
 
Manchester City had shown little as an attacking force, one Jill Scott run and shot apart, but they were robbed of the lead five minutes before the break through a poor refereeing decision. Issy Christiansen's inswinging corner evaded all and found the far corner of the net but a foul on Rebecca Spencer had been awarded, presumably by Emma Lipman, although any contact was minimal at the very least.
 
Karen Carney drilled a shot wide at the other end but a tame first half ended goalless.
 
It took just two minutes after the restart to break the deadlock, thanks to a fine piece of opportunism from Linnett. Potter charged down a clearance and Linnett seized on the loose ball to skip past a challenge from Steph Houghton before coolly planting her shot past Karen Bardsley to open the scoring.
 
Carney tried an ambitious lob from distance but did not quite get enough height on her shot and Bardsley was able to save comfortably. Manchester City tried a long range effort of her own minutes later, Jess Holbrook trying her luck from around 30 yards but her strike was well held by Spencer.
 
The game was then held up after unfortunate referee Sian Piret fell awkwardly and left the pitch in pain, with what appeared to be an injury. After a seven minute break, fourth official Mark Billingham took her place and play was able to resume.
 
Manchester City were the quicker side to settle back down after the break and created a good chance when Christiansen laid off Abbie McManus' pass but Scott sliced her shot wide when well placed.
 
Back came Birmingham with Weston and Jade Moore both firing shots wide but it was the visitors who were inches away from levelling the scores. Scott found space on the right and her cross was palmed away by Spencer, Betsy Hassett latched onto the loose ball but her left foot strike clattered against the bar.
 
Much of Manchester City's good play had come from impressive youngster Natasha Flint and she made a good run towards the edge of the area before her shot took a wicked deflection off Aoife Mannion and wrongfooted the keeper, however the ball bounced against the post and a relieved Spencer was able to gather.
 
Birmingham managed to ride out the visitors' good spell and made the game safe with three minutes of normal time remaining. The Manchester City defence were unable to fully clear a corner and, following good work by Keryakoplis, Weston whipped in a superb cross for Harrop to score with a downward header from six yards.
 
Despite eleven minutes of injury time, Manchester City could not find a way back into the game and Birmingham expertly closed out the match to keep their great start to the season going. 
 
Birmingham City: Rebecca Spencer, Chelsea Weston, Meaghan Sargeant, Jade Moore, Aoife Mannion, Kerys Harrop, Hannah Keryakoplis (sub Emily Westwood 89mins), Remi Allen, Kirsty Linnett, Karen Carney, Jo Potter. Subs not used: Sophie Baggaley, Emily Simpkins, Charlie Wellings, Hannah George, Cristina Torkildsen, Coral Haines.

Manchester City: Karen Bardsley, Abbie McManus, Emma Lipman, Jess Holbrook, Chelsea Nightingale, Steph Houghton, Krystle Johnston, Jill Scott, Issy Christiansen (sub Danni Young 87mins), Betsy Hassett, Natasha Flint. Subs not used: Georgia Brougham, Kim Turner, Alex Brooks, Nicki Harding.

Photos:

(top) Manchester City's first half 'goal' is controversially disallowed for a foul
(middle) Kirsty Linnett beats Karen Bardsley to give Birmingham the lead
(bottom) Kerys Harrop heads home the match clinching second goal


 
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