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Birmingham City 1 (Harrop 72) Lincoln Ladies 0
Full back Kerys Harrop scored the only goal of the game as Birmingham City defeated Lincoln Ladies 1-0 to go three points clear at the top of the FA WSL.
The Blues had the better of much of the game, going close to scoring on several occasions, but Lincoln were left to rue a late missed chance by striker Carla Cantrell which would have earned them a hard earned point.
Birmingham were quickly out of the traps and inflicted severe pressure on the Lady Imps during the opening stages. Karen Carney drove a shot inches over the bar after Rachel Williams had won the ball from Casey Stoney and Williams then went even closer, her header from a Dunia Susi free kick being brilliantly touched onto the bar by Kay Hawke. Susi was next to try her luck with a 20-yard effort which was saved.
Lincoln managed to weather the early storm and then produced their first chance, Sue Smith finding Jess Clarke on the right where her cross was won by Lucy Staniforth but Cantrell, at full stretch, could not direct her shot on target.
Back came Birmingham with a long ball from Chelsea Weston which produced a great first touch from Williams whose shot was tipped past the post by a diving Hawke. Emily Westwood then broke into the box and her left foot shot was narrowly wide.
Williams was in outstanding form and firmly pressing home her claims for an England squad place, a strong driving run from the halfway line taking her past two opponents before her shot was just past the post.
Lincoln had come more into the game as the half wore on without creating any clear cut chances, but early in the second half they were grateful to Rachel Daly for a great headed clearance to deny Williams the chance of nodding in a Susi cross.
Lucy Staniforth forced a save from Marie Hourihan and Sophie Walton fired wide from the edge of the area after being set up by Cantrell, as Lincoln grew in confidence going forward.
However just as Lincoln were becoming a threat, Birmingham came up with the goal that they craved. Jo Potter's corner on the right swung towards the far post where Harrop rose highest to plant a downward header past Hawke and into the back of the net.
The game was highly entertaining but also very fiercely contested and both sides put in a number of physical, fully committed challenges to try and gain control. Lincoln responded well to going behind but were finding it difficult to break through a powerful and well organised Blues defence.
Remi Allen was just off target with a shot from outside the area, an effort which caused great amusement to the crowd as it injured a photographer beside the goal, but moments later Lincoln were to create their best chance of the game. Daly found Walton who clipped a great pass over the Birmingham defence and into the path of an unmarked Cantrell who blazed her shot over with only Hourihan to beat. The Lincoln striker was visibly upset by the miss.
Isobel Christiansen almost sewed up the points for Birmingham in injury time as she latched on to Carney's pass but her shot was cleared off the line by the covering Walton. It was the last chance of the game and the Blues were soon celebrating their third straight win while Lincoln were left frustrated by another odd-goal defeat.
Birmingham City: Marie Hourihan, Chelsea Weston, Kerys Harrop, Jade Moore, Sally Stanton, Laura Bassett, Dunia Susi (sub Marie Ballard 90mins), Rachel Williams (sub Isobel Christiansen 84mins), Emily Westwood, Karen Carney, Jo Potter. Subs not used: Jess Wright, Laura Watts, Faye Cardin.
Lincoln Ladies: Kay Hawke, Mel Sutcliffe, Rachel Daly, Sophie Walton, Sophie Bradley, Casey Stoney, Megan Harris, Sue Smith (sub Remi Allen 62mins), Carla Cantrell, Lucy Staniforth (sub Sophie Barker 81mins), Jess Clarke. Subs not used: Bonnie Horwood, Stacey Aisthorpe, Nicola Hobbs.
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