Birmingham City Women 1-1 Bristol City: Relegation stalemate
Photo by Andrew Maddox

Birmingham City Women celebrated their return to Damson Park as captain Christie Murray grabbed a crucial goal to secure a point against fellow strugglers Bristol City.

The Blues were forced to play their last three home games at St George's Park due to issues with the pitch at their home ground, and this was their first home point since their previous game in Solihull. Both sides had long spells of dominance, but ultimately neither could capitalise to secure the win.

Story of the match

It was a strong start to the game for the hosts who looked to capitalise on their last-gasp draw with West Ham United last time out. The first chance of the game fell to the hosts within two minutes of the first whistle, arriving at the feet of Lucy Whipp. The move started with a Sarah Mayling ball that was fired across the face of goal. The ball was cleared, but only as far as Whipp on the edge of the box. She had to lean back while shooting, but was the ball still had enough venom in it to win a corner from Sophie Baggaley’s save.

The Bristol City goalkeeper was forced into another great save just a few minutes later from a long-range Ruesha Littlejohn shot. The Irish international found the ball behind her and in mid-air and awkwardly clawed her foot under the ball to strike. The volley went high into the air, but the dip was deceptive enough to put off Baggaley and forced her to parry it away for a corner.

Despite having so much early dominance, Blues couldn’t make any of it count. Instead, the visitors seized the initiative and took the lead just three minutes after Littlejohn’s volley. Following a slick attack by Matt Beard’s side, a cross was fired in towards Carla Humphrey at the back post. The midfielder had her shot blocked, but the rebound fell to the feet of Charlie Wellings who graciously slammed the ball home.

Following this setback, one might have expected Blues to come back fighting. Instead, they seemed to lose all attacking desire and let their heads drop. They seemed content to pass the ball between Ruby Mace and Georgia Brougham instead of launching any real attacks of their own. Carla Ward’s side showed defensive fight at least, with both Holloway and Littlejohn picking up bookings.

The visitors came close to doubling their lead on the 30 minute mark through Ebony Salmon. Cutting in from the left wing, she fired in a low shot towards Hannah Hampton’s near post. The effort was spilled, but Brougham was there to mop up and clear.

Birmingham regained some attacking confidence towards the end of the half, coming within inches of levelling just before the break. Sarah Mayling fizzed in a wicked ball across the face of goal, forcing Yana Daniels into making a heroic last-ditch tackle to deny Blues a tap in. The Blues finished the half the stronger side but were unable to convert it into a goal.

The second half began at a frantic pace as a fired-up Birmingham looked to carry their momentum and find the leveller. The Blues had much of the ball and were largely camped around Bristol City’s penalty area and had their big chance towards the hour mark. Sarah Mayling caught a loose ball on the volley and thumped a powerful shot towards goal. However, Baggaley made a marvellous save to tip it onto the bar.

However, the Blues’ persistence paid off just a few minutes later as their captain came to the rescue. A corner bounced around the Bristol City box before finding Christie Murray on the edge of the area. The Blues’ skipper floated a beautifully struck effort into the top corner and sent her team into raptures. Murray charged straight to the dugouts to celebrate with her manager in a great display of unity.

From here, the game became an entertaining midfield battle, with Blues having most of the ball. The visitors picked up a string of bookings towards the end, but neither side found the goal. On balance, a draw was the fair result and both sides could take positives from the game.

Takeaways from the match

Bristol City's recovery has been nothing short of extraordinary

While the Vixens are by no means out of the relegation battle, their improvement under Matt Beard has been fantastic. All you need to do is compare this performance to their last showing against Birmingham. Instead of a battling, brave performance where every player was fighting for their lives, they put in a limp and lifeless performance as they sunk to a 4-0 defeat. The difference between Bristol City in the first and second halves of the season is night and day and they have their new manager to thank for that.

Birmingham are quite possibly the most united squad in the league

Christie Murray's celebration to the outside world might just have been a nice show of respect to her boss, but to those in the know it reinforced what they already knew. That being that the Blues have a remarkable amount of unity and belief. It has been a difficult season for Carla Ward's side, seeing them be temporarily moved from their home and having their squad decimated by injury. Yet through it all, the squad have never lost belief in themselves and they continue to fight for Ward. 

Stars of the match

Birmingham's star player wasn't difficult to pick at all. It is of course Christie Murray. Their captain fantastic came up with a special goal to salvage a crucial point for Blues and put in a battling display worthy of a captain.

As for the visitors, their best player was also their goal scorer. Charlie Wellings put in an assured performance on the right flank and never stopped working for her team. She could have had a tap in to win the game at the death if Molly Pike chose to square it to her instead of shooting. An honourable mention should also go to Sophie Baggaley for her string of impressive saves to keep her side in the tie.