The Blues last home game of 2018 ended with a win after they beat Birmingham City 1-0 thanks to a valuable goal from Georgia Stanway. Nick Cushing’s side now sit joint top of the WSL table over Christmas, level on 27 points alongside Arsenal Women and only behind on goal difference.
City started positively, as Steph Houghton’s long ball found Stanway, Birmingham keeper Hannah Hampton doing well to clear away with her feet. Less than two minutes later, another long pass from Houghton saw Caroline Weir collect and play in Nikita Parris, Hampton once again coming out to clear the ball from the forward’s feet.
A spell of Birmingham possession saw Hayley Ladd play a long pass into Charlie Wellings, the youngster who has been on form lately, looking to play in Emma Follis, also on form for the club however Ellie Roebuck collected calmly.
Jill Scott’s ball wide was picked up by Weir, the Scottish midfielder’s pass intercepted by Meaghan Sargeant before Parris picked it back up. Aoife Mannion dispossessed the forward, Parris winning it back and playing in Caroline, her effort cleared by Sargeant.
Around the ten minute mark, third in the table Birmingham took hold of possession with Sargeant collecting Jen Beattie’s long ball. The defender found Wellings, in turn playing in Chloe Arthur who showed skill to avoid the City players. Mannion plated in captain Kerys Harrop, her through ball finding the run of Emma Follis; Abbie McManus tracking back to dispossess the midfielder.
City went ahead a minute later as Harriet Scott’s back pass to Hannah Hampton was misjudged by the keeper, Hampton unable to clear successfully as Stanway took advantage, rounding the keeper and slotting the ball home to put the hosts 1-0 up. The visitors could have an almost instant reply in the following minutes and they were unlucky not to as Scott’s chance, Lucy Staniforth’s free kick and the midfielder’s shot from range all caught by the City keeper.
Parris found Tessa Wullaert with the Belgian playing in Jill, the midfielder laying it off to Weir on the wing, the twenty three year old’s shot caught but fumbled by Hampton; the youngster keeping a tight grip on the ball.
A foul on Ladd by Stanway led to a Birmingham free kick taken by Ladd but passed back to Harrop, the defender going long with Lucy Quinn picking up the ball. She made a dangerous run behind however City captain Steph Houghton covered the danger well.
Quinn was involved again on the half hour mark, collecting Kerys Harrop’s wide ball, only to be dispossessed by Jill, the midfielder making a well timed challenge. Steph played in a lovely ball to Caroline, Georgia picking it up from Weir, but her shot was blocked by Hannah Hampton. New centurion McManus played it wide to Nikita on the left, Harriet Scott pulling back the forward for the foul, the ball falling to Weir and had her shot counted, Hampton’s uncommon way of saving the effort would have been praised.
With one minute of normal time remaining, referee Rebecca Welch awarded Birmingham a free kick after Wullaert fouled Follis. Staniforth stepped up however her effort went well over Roebuck’s bar. The visitors had one last chance in the one added minute, a Staniforth corner connecting with Charlie Wellings head but it went wide.
The Blues came out fighting early in the second half with both Stanway and Weir pressurising the Solihull outfit for the ball.
A Demi Stokes throw in was collected by Georgia, the youngster playing a one touch sequence with Caroline before running in behind; Harriet Scott knocking it out. City’s change of corner taker saw Tessa Wullaert step up, her cross meeting Jill Scott’s head before Birmingham defender Scott cleared.
Three minutes later, the visitors broke with Charlie Wellings and Emma Follis, the referee deeming Jill to have pulled Follis back; awarding Birmingham a free kick. Kerys Harrop took the set piece and played it to Lucy Quinn, the forward’s run halted by Wullaert’s excellent tackle. Lucy Staniforth’s corner was collected by Chloe Arthur, the former Bristol midfielder turning with the ball however she couldn’t find the target and fired over.
The visitors had a large spell of passing play ten minutes in, Harriet Scott losing out to Jen before Staniforth dispossessed the defender. The England international took a shot on goal but Ellie Roebuck saved comfortably.
City changed tactics just before the hour, Caroline stepping up to take the corner, Abbie McManus’s volley forcing a great reaction save from Hannah Hampton. Beattie headed away while Keira Walsh’s follow up shot from range went wide of the post as Weir made way for Claire Emslie.
Tessa played in Georgia Stanway, the forward making a run and sending in a cross that Hampton came to collect. The keeper fumbled slightly but managed to hold on, Marc Skinner’s side building up from the back with Lucy Quinn running to meet Hayley Ladd’s pass. The forward’s cross was originally cleared by captain Steph Houghton with the ball falling to Charlie Wellings, the England youth international playing a one touch sequence with senior player Staniforth; Wellings shot saved comfortably by Roebuck.
Substitute Emslie was played in by Jill Scott, the Scotland forward pulled back and City were awarded a free kick. Lucy Staniforth collected and attempted a shot from range, but it went wide of the post and hit the side netting.
The Blues broke from the back, Georgia playing in Wullaert only for the Belgian’s low shot to be saved by Hampton. Birmingham’s keeper would be called into action a minute or so later as she saved Stanway’s effort with her feet, came out to claim Tessa’s deflected cross off Quinn; beating Parris to the ball.
With twenty minutes to go, the Solihull side had two free kicks, five minutes apart and two chances to equalise as Lucy Staniforth’s first set piece found Kerys Harrop’s head but Ellie saved while the second was headed clear by Steph Houghton. City’s number six stayed own, holding her head as both the Blues captain and Meaghan Sargeant received treatment before gingerly getting back to their feet.
Wullaert made way for Janine Beckie with just under ten minutes of normal time left, City getting back to clear Staniforth’s corner down the pitch. The Birmingham midfielder’s free kick 30 seconds or so later, was then denied by the bar keeping the home side in front.
Keeper Roebuck did well to save Lucy Quinn’s long range effort, parrying the ball behind before watching Staniforth’s corner out for a goal kick.
The Blues were desperate to score again in the final minutes, Claire Emslie’s first corner headed over everyone and her second cleared by Quinn, ending the hosts 2018 at home with a tough fought three points.
Man City Women next play Aston Villa Ladies in their last Continental Cup group game on Thursday at Boldmere St Michael. The club then breaks for the festive period, returning to WSL action on January 6th away at Bristol City.
Man City Women
Ellie Roebuck, Demi Stokes, Jen Beattie, Steph Houghton ©, Jill Scott, Georgia Stanway, Nikita Parris (Gemma Bonner 90’), Caroline Weir (Claire Emslie 58’), Abbie McManus, Keira Walsh and Tessa Wullaert (Janine Beckie 77’)
Subs (not used): Karen Bardsley, Pauline Bremer, Esme Morgan and Jess Park
Goals: Stanway 12’
Bookings: Walsh 17’ and Stanway 90+1’
Birmingham City Women
Hannah Hampton, Meaghan Sargeant, Hayley Ladd (Connie Scofield 87’), Kerys Harrop ©, Chloe Arthur, Lucy Quinn, Emma Follis (Sarah Mayling 73’), Charlie Wellings, Harriet Scott, Aoife Mannion and Lucy Staniforth
Subs (not used): Ann-Katrin Berger, Paige Williams and Shania Hayles
MCWFC OSC POTM: Georgia Stanway
Referee: Rebecca Welch