City Women battled tough conditions to earn a 2-0 victory over Birmingham City Ladies in their first away league game of the season.
The Blues took the lead in the first half after Daphne Corboz calmly delivered from close range, and Jane Ross sealed the win with a neat header right at the death.
City’s lineup saw a change in midfield, with Jen Beattie returning to the starting XI in place of Toni Duggan, who was forced to watch from the sidelines as a precautionary measure following a slight injury. Don’t panic, though – manager Nick Cushing expects her to be back in time for City’s next league game at Sunderland on Friday.
City started the first half brightly, with Parris dragging her shot just wide of the post following a clever interchange of passes in the box with Corboz in the opening minutes.
Both teams struggled to create chances, but Birmingham found themselves through on goal after a great break through the middle; Charlie Wellings almost put the hosts 1-0 up after Ellie Brazil’s tenacious work in the middle sent her through, but her finish was poor.
As the half progressed, the Blues found it increasingly difficult to dominate play in the manner they’d have liked, with pitch conditions impacting on City’s usually-slick passing. City tried to build from the back countless times, but the ball just didn’t want to stick, and the game started to become scrappy.
Despite this, City broke the deadlock after 35 minutes. Jill Scott demonstrated some great skill in the box, back-heeling the ball into the path of Nikita Parris, whose measured shot ricocheted back into the area off the far post. Fortunately for City, Daphne Corboz took advantage of her more advanced role, slotting the ball through a sea of players to give City the lead after making a late run into the box.
With the goal giving City confidence, the Blues pushed on and nearly found themselves through on goal again just before half time. Nikita Parris, facing her own goal, flicked the ball past her defender with ease, but a professional foul from experienced England international Jade Moore saved the Solihull side from potentially being two goals down at half time.
City emerged from the break looking more relaxed on the ball and started to dominate possession and play, but still couldn’t create any concrete chances – Jen Beattie going the closest within the opening half an hour, rising high in the six-yard box, but saw her header disappointingly land wide of the keeper’s right post.
A foul by Remi Allen on Jane Ross gave Steph Houghton the opportunity to curl a long-range free-kick towards goal, but Baggaley kept Birmingham in the game with a brilliant one-handed stop to prevent City from doubling their lead.
A lengthy delay in proceedings saw 5 minutes of time added on. City, a team always hungry for goals, went searching for another and were rewarded in the final minute of additional time.
Parris went on a run down the right wing, her pace taking her past Harrop easily, and delivered a pinpoint cross to the awaiting Jane Ross, whose near-post header secured a deserved victory – her sixth goal in five games for City and Scotland.
City didn’t produce a vintage performance, but returned home with a vital win that sees them maintain their 100% league win and clean sheet record. More importantly, the three points means that City retake the top spot in the WSL 1 table once again, overtaking rivals Chelsea Ladies.
City: Bardsley, Bronze, Houghton (C), McManus, Stokes, Beattie, Corboz, Scott, Asllani (Stanway ’79), Parris, Ross.
Unused: Hourihan, Paul, Tynan, Kemp.
Birmingham: Baggaley, Carter, Harrop, Potter, Moore (Yellow Card ’43) (Ayisi ’45), Lawley, Wellings (Allen ’45), Peplow (Davies ’83), Westwood (C), Mannion, Brazil.
Unused: Stringer, Edwards, Brown, Johnson.
WOTM: Daphne Corboz. Not known for her prolific goalscoring, the attacking midfielder slotted home City’s winner in the first half. Started to pull the strings a bit more in the second half after City started to settle and was still tracking back to help out City’s defence late in the game.