It doesn’t get much bigger than this for Bristol City and Matt Beard. If the Robins are to finally end their poor run of form, this relegation matchup against Brighton & Hove Albion is their best opportunity to do so. Hope Powell’s Brighton currently sit a healthy seven points ahead of bottom side Bristol City, in 9th place, but the Robins do have a game in hand.
The first task for interim coach, Matt Beard, will be to inspire a change in fortunes when playing at home. In a strange quirk of form, Bristol City have lost every one of their four home matches this season 0-4. This will be Beard’s first match in charge at Twerton Park since taking over as interim manager whilst Tanya Oxtoby is away on maternity leave.
Therefore, be cautious before expecting a goal fest on Saturday. Not only is this a meeting of the two teams bottom of the WSL form table, but they have also scored the least amount of goals so far this season. All six of Bristol’s goals this season have come away from home and in Brighton’s six away matches this season they average just 0.66 goals per game.
The match kicks off Saturday 30th January at Twerton Park at 14:00 GMT.
This week Australian international Chloe Logarzo left Bristol City for KC Woso in the NWSL for an undisclosed fee. In the other direction Matt Beard has added Kiera Skeels, from Reading, and Molly Pike, from Everton. However don’t expect either of the England U21 players to come straight into the starting line up this week.
In his first game in charge, Beard chose to prudently stick with the five player defense that Bristol had implemented all season. It will be interesting to see if he decides to change things up in a must win game like this one.
Due to an injury crisis, Powell has had to patch her Brighton side together the past two weeks. In their 1-7 loss to Manchester City last weekend, Danique Kirkdijk was the only defensive player to feature in her natural position. The former England manager will hope to see a few players return this weekend and boost her chances of starting a revitalised XI. Whatever the line up, expect a 4-4-1-1.
Bristol City: Baggaley (GK), Bryson, Evans, Rafferty, Palmer, Allen, Bissell, Daniels, Harrison, Wellings, Salmon
Brighton: Fiskerstrand (GK), Gibbons, Kirkdijk, Williams, Le Tissier, Brazil, Bowman, Whelan, Green, Kaagman, Jarrett
Ones to watch
Ebony Salmon, up front on her own for Bristol, is sure to draw a lot of attention from both the media and the Brighton defence. Be sure to keep an eye on midfielder Charlie Wellings. Bristol City already boasted the youngest squad in the WSL, with an average age of 23. So now with relative veteran Chloe Logarzo, 26, departing in the transfer window, it will be players like Charlie Wellings, 22, who will be left to pick up the slack. Wellings, despite her age, has played over 70 times in the WSL. If Brighton get sucked in by Bristol’s counter attacking style, then Wellings will be the first player to spark the breakaway and attempt to supply Salmon.
The obstinate Maya Le Tissier has arguably been Brighton’s standout player this season. At just 18 the England U19 defender plays with a maturity far beyond her years. Brilliant defensive footwork is matched with a tireless approach to defensive duels. With manager Hope Powell not often asking Le Tissier to join attacks from the full back position, we are yet to see how much she can offer going forward. Perhaps this changes against lowly Bristol?
Bristol City have never lost to Brighton in the WSL in their history (W1, D2). The last time these two sides met, in the WSL, was on the opening day of the 2019/20 season. Despite a dominant Brighton display - where they took 20 shots - the match finished 0-0.
In front of over 3,000 fans a feisty contest climaxed when the outstanding Sophie Baggaley came to the Robins’ rescue. After Fern Whelan had been brought down in the box by the outstretched leg of Gemma Evans, the experienced Victoria Williams stepped up to take the penalty kick awarded to the Seagulls. A confident and true strike, from the Brighton defender, was whisked away by a blur in purple. Baggaley had guessed the right way. She dived to her left and met the shot with two firm palms.
How to watch
This match will be broadcasted on the FA Player worldwide.