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Birmingham reinvigorate title challenge
 Women's Football News 6 Sep 2014
Birmingham reinvigorate title challenge - 6 Sep 2014 - Women's Football NewsBristol Academy 1 (James 75) Birmingham City 3 (Weston 48, Potter 59, Carney 62)
Birmingham City got their WSL title challenge back on track with a stunning second half display at Stoke Gifford. 
The Blues overcame an early onslaught from Bristol Academy to take charge of matters and they now trail leaders Chelsea by three points and have a game in hand.
Birmingham went into the game on the back of two defeats and things could well have got worse in the opening minute when their defence failed to deal with a cross and Melissa Lawley caught Natasha Harding with a high boot. Natalia Pablos Sanchon stepped up to take the resulting penalty but Rebecca Spencer guessed correctly and dived the right way to make a save.
The visitors created their first opportunity when Chelsea Weston's deep cross was headed wide at the far post by Remi Allen and Mary Earps did well to stop a Karen Carney shot which swerved viciously in the air but Academy were passing the ball around confidently and remained in the ascendancy at this point.
A scramble in the Birmingham area almost led to Academy making a breakthrough but after Natalia turned the ball across the face of goal, Sophie Ingle was unable to turn and was denied by a great saving tackle from Aoife Mannion.
A good run into the area took Loren Dykes past two challenges but she elected to pass instead of shooting and Harding was flagged offside. The pace of Harding down the right was causing a threat to the Birmingham defence but they grew in confidence as the half wore on and became more of a force in the match.
Potter forced a fine diving save from Earps following a good run and pass from Carney and Kirsty Linnett curled a shot wide after Potter had intercepted a clearance but a first half played a frantic pace ended goalless.
The second half was a different story as Birmingham took control of matters and carried the game towards the home side. They were rewarded three minutes after the restart when Lawley's cross was headed away by Jemma Rose but Weston latched onto the loose ball and drilled a superb 25-yard left foot shot into the corner of the net, giving Earps no chance.
Potter was having a superb match in midfield, well supported by Jade Moore and Remi Allen and they went two goals ahead just before the hour. Potter slipped a fine pass to Linnett down the right and the striker sped to the line and cut the ball back for Potter to sweep a right foot shot home from 15 yards.
Before Academy could recover, they found themselves three goals behind. Birmingham were awarded a free kick on the left, 20 yards out, and Carney's inswinging kick evaded everyone in the area before finding the far corner, Kerys Harrop and Mannion narrowly failing to reach the ball and distracting Earps in the process.
Academy were in danger of being overrun at this stage as they were being swamped in midfield and a fourth almost came when Mannion laid the ball back for Carney to fire a shot inches over.
Carney, who was showing her best form, went close once again with another strike which brought out a tremendous save from Earps who palmed the ball over the bar. The resulting corner was met by Harrop but her header was charged down and Jaz Matthews was able to clear.
Two minutes later, Academy grabbed themselves a lifeline. Matthews' low cross from the left was not cleared and Angharad James pounced to drive a shot past the diving Spencer to reduce the arrears.
The goal galvanised the home side and they almost pulled another back when Ingle fired straight at Spencer and Harding also had a shot saved.
But it was too little, too late for Academy who left the field disappointed whilst Birmingham rekindled their Championship hopes. 
Bristol Academy: Mary Earps, Grace McCatty (sub Frankie Brown 73mins), Loren Dykes, Jaz Matthews, Jemma Rose, Sophie Ingle, Natalia Pablos Sanchon, Angharad James, Natasha Harding, Nikki Watts, Corinne Yorston (sub Gabrielle Bird 62mins). Subs not used: Alice Evans, Alex Windell, Georgia Evans.

Birmingham City: Rebecca Spencer, Chelsea Weston, Jess Carter, Jade Moore, Aoife Mannion, Kerys Harrop, Melissa Lawley, Remi Allen, Kirsty Linnett, Karen Carney, Jo Potter. Subs not used: Sophie Baggaley, Meaghan Sargeant, Hannah Keryakoplis, Charlie Wellings, Emily Westwood, Cristina Torkildsen, Abbey Leigh Stringer.


(top) Kerys Harrop is closed down by Natasha Harding
(middle) Chelsea Weston (partially hidden) scores the opening goal for Birmingham
(bottom) Mary Earps manages to palm away a free kick under pressure

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