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Birmingham City 0 Notts County 2 (Clarke 78, Corsie 90)
Notts County took themselves to the brink of reaching the Continental Cup semi finals as two second half goals lifted them above Birmingham City to the top of their group.
Both strikes came late in the game as Rick Passmoor's side became the first to beat the Blues at the Autotech Stadium and the win was deserved in what was a mostly scrappy game of few chances.
Birmingham went into the game without in-form striker Kirsty Linnett, who was ruled out with a suspected stress fracture, and she was sorely missed as they tried to break down a well organised County defence. The visitors, who were playing their first game following the break, gave a debut to new signing Danielle Brogan and Aileen Whelan was handed a lone role up front.
The Blues did create chances early on, Jo Potter firing a free kick wide and then Karen Carney produced a fine cross which was headed over the bar by Hannah Keryakoplis.
With Remi Allen and Jade Moore in midfield for Birmingham, pitched up against County duo Desiree Scott and Katie Hoyle, the two sides battled for supremacy in that area with a number of tigerish tackles from the combative foursome - most of which were honest challenges and referee Akil Howson, who had a good match, was able to keep on top of things.
County were growing stronger as the half wore on and went close to going in front when Dunia Susi's strike deflected off Chelsea Weston and dipped narrowly over the bar. Birmingham hit back with Remi Allen having a shot saved by Carly Telford following a corner but opportunities at either end of the park were scarce ahead of the interval.
The pattern of the match continued from the restart but the introduction of Melissa Lawley as a substitute gave the home side an extra spark. The winger, making her return from injury, got on the end of a free kick by Karen Carney which was played beyond the far post just after the hour but she was unable to get any power in her shot and Telford gathered comfortably.
Lawley produced another effort on goal just three minutes later with a dipping shot from 30 yards which was well held by Telford, whilst Moore headed over the bar from a Carney cross.
Just as Birmingham were having their best spell of the game, they were stunned as County produced a fine move to open the scoring. Susi split the Blues defence open with a pass that released Emily Roberts on goal and she set up Jess Clarke to neatly clip the ball over Spencer to put her side ahead. The England winger had had a largely quiet game until that point but her classy finish underlined her fine early season form.
Birmingham tried to respond with Carney dragging a free kick wide from the edge of the area and, after showing a neat piece of control, Kerys Harrop had a shot deflected past the post. However they could not find their way past County's central defensive duo Sophie Bradley and Rachel Corsie and it was fitting that one of them was to sew the game up in injury time.
Scott made a driving run towards the Birmingham area, battling through a number of challenges before the midfield powerhouse was brought down on the edge of the box. Corsie stepped up to drill a low shot into the corner of the net to seal a fine victory for County who will secure a place in the last four if they win away to Yeovil Town next Saturday.
Birmingham City: Rebecca Spencer, Chelsea Weston, Jess Carter (sub Meaghan Sargeant 45mins), Jade Moore, Aoife Mannion, Kerys Harrop, Hannah Keryakoplis (sub Melissa Lawley 48mins), Remi Allen, Emily Westwood, Karen Carney, Jo Potter. Subs not used: Sophie Baggaley, Emily Simpkins, Charlie Wellings, Cristina Torkildsen, Coral Haines.
Notts County: Carly Telford, Amy Turner, Danielle Brogan (sub Emily Roberts 65mins), Katie Hoyle, Sophie Bradley, Rachel Corsie, Jess Clarke, Sophie Walton, Aileen Whelan (sub Caitlin Friend 61mins), Dunia Susi, Desiree Scott. Subs not used: Jules Draycott, Rachel Unitt, Sophie Haywood, Laura-Jane O'Neill.
(top) Jess Clarke attempts an overhead kick on goal, guarded by Chelsea Weston
(middle) Aileen Whelan holds off the attentions of Jo Potter
(bottom) Sophie Bradley clears away from Melissa Lawley
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