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Birmingham maintain advantage
 Women's Football News 17 Jul 2014
 
Birmingham maintain advantage - 17 Jul 2014 - Women's Football NewsBirmingham City 2 (Carney 10, Westwood 54) Bristol Academy 1 (George og 71)
Birmingham maintained their lead at the top of the WSL as a goal in each half earned them the points against Bristol Academy. 
 
The Blues returned to near full strength after their 5-0 thrashing by the same opponents three days earlier in the Continental Cup whilst Academy, unsurprisingly, were unchanged.
 
It was Academy who created the first opportunity with Nikki Watts whipping in a cross from the right for an unmarked Natasha Harding who sent her shot wide of the goal.
 
Birmingham came back with Jade Moore heading wide from a corner and Emily Westwood getting in a shot which was saved by Mary Earps. However the latter saw Jemma Rose penalised for her challenge on Westwood at the same time and a free kick was awarded on the edge of the area. Karen Carney stepped up to lift a delightful shot over the bar and into the corner of the net, giving Earps no chance.
 
Academy responded well to the setback with Rose heading over the bar from an Angharad James corner and then, after latching onto a good ball from Nikki Watts, Natalia Pablos Sanchon cut inside past Kerys Harrop before her shot brought out a good save from Rebecca Spencer.
 
Harding also went close as she hit the side netting but Birmingham rode out the spell of pressure and started creating good chances of their own. Moore turned a shot wide from Westwood's pass and it was Westwood herself who had the next opportunity, shooting just over at full stretch.
 
Carney lifted a cross-cum-shot narrowly over the bar and, five minutes before the break, Birmingham should really have doubled their lead when Chelsea Weston broke down the right and drilled a low centre across the face of goal for Melissa Lawley at the far post but the winger scuffed her shot and the chance was lost.
 
The last move of an entertaining first half came from Academy, Corinne Yorston burst into the area down the left and her cross was cut back from beyond the far post by Harding but Watts was unable to control her shot and could only hit it over the bar.
 
Rainfall had freshened up the pitch at Solihull, increasing the pace of the game, and Birmingham were to start the second half in the same way as the first by finding the net once again.
 
Rose underhit a back pass and this was seized upon by Jo Potter, who kept her cool to square the ball across for Westwood to slide into the empty net and double her side's lead.
 
Watts sent a volley narrowly wide at the other end whilst at the other end, Carney tried her luck from long range with a speculative effort which was just off target. Westwood then went very close to a second goal via a well struck shot from the edge of the area but was denied by an excellent save by Earps.
 
Earps' save was made even more important two minutes later as her team got back into the game. Laura Del Rio floated the ball into the area where Hannah George attempted to head clear but the ball looped over Spencer and in off the underside of the bar.
 
The goal injected fresh life into the Academy players and they almost levelled when Harding got down the right and cut the ball back from the goal line for Watts whose shot was saved by Spencer.
 
Carney went close late on but was unable to divert a Potter free kick on target at the far post. The visitors tried hard to find a way to level the scores late on but Birmingham, well marshalled by the excellent Harrop, kept them at bay and closed the game out to secure three valuable points. 
 
Birmingham City: Rebecca Spencer, Chelsea Weston, Hannah George, Jade Moore, Aoife Mannion, Kerys Harrop, Melissa Lawley, Remi Allen, Emily Westwood (sub Hannah Keryakoplis 80mins), Karen Carney, Jo Potter. Subs not used: Emily Simpkins, Cristina Torkildsen, Abbey-Leigh Stringer.

Bristol Academy: Mary Earps, Grace McCatty, Corinne Yorston (sub Jaz Matthews 68mins), Loren Dykes, Jemma Rose, Sophie Ingle, Natalia Pablos Sanchon, Angharad James, Natasha Harding, Nikki Watts (sub Frankie Brown 80mins), Laura Del Rio. Subs not used: Cristina Vega Leandro, Alex Windell, Rhian Cleverly.

Photos:

(top) Chelsea Weston is pursued by Laura Del Rio
(middle) Emily Westwood scores Birmingham's second goal
(bottom) Grace McCatty under pressure from Melissa Lawley


 
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