Bristol got off to a dream start when Chelsea loanee Jodie Brett opened the scoring just six minutes into the match. The hosts had dictated play from the off and, after a scramble in the away box, the ball dropped to the captain who lashed her shot from 25 yards out, which nested into the back of the net off of the woodwork.
With their opponents still sleeping Bristol launched attack after attack and unsurprisingly were celebrating once again five minutes later. With the Bees stretched and unable to keep their opponents at bay, Brett teed up Claire Emslie who sent the ball into the mix. Rebecca Anderson got a firm head to the ball but could only knock it past Sophie Harris and once again the net was rippling.
Two goals to the good and still the home side didn’t let up, whether from the left, right or centrally they continued their onslaught as the Bees sagged under the pressure. When the visitors finally found their footing in the game and managed to trouble the defence the new-look back line stood firm and didn’t bend under pressure.
Whilst Bristol always looked like creating through the likes of Brett, Emslie, Chloe Arthur and Olivia Ferguson (et all) – and frequently had the returning Emma Beckett and Aoife Hurley scrambling – the Bees were still too rushed in attack, happy to get the ball out of feet but with no real purpose.
Despite their chances the Vixens were unable to stretch their lead and only went into the break with a two goal lead when the game could have easily already been put to bed.
After the break the visitors seemed to spark into life and saw their best chance of the game just three minutes after the restart. Jo Wilson’s pressing caught Caitlin Leach out as she was forced to concede a throw under pressure. Eva Popadinova got the Bees moving with a quick throw to find Wilson who returned the ball to the Bulgarian international for her to send a smart cross into the box for the waiting Ashleigh Goddard who rose well under pressure but could only nod her close-range header over the bar.
The well worked moved should have been a warning for Bristol who looked a little off the pace in the second-half as the ball was frequently recycled in midfield. However even with the visitors showing more attacking intent, Leach was only called on to claim hopeful crosses and Bristol still looked at ease going forward when they had the ball.
One of the main talking points in a dour second-half was a nasty coming together in the Bristol box, Leach, Goddard, Wilson and Frankie Brown all jumping for the same ball with the latter two coming off worse. Although appearing to suffer a head injury Wilson was happy to continue after a brief period of treatment although Brown’s race was run and she was duly replaced by Hayley Ladd who reclaimed the armband from a faultless Brett.
With the game winding down the hosts finally put the game to bed after a little pinball in the box the ball fell to Reading loanee Charlie Estcourt whose sublime volley caught Harris off guard and she could only watch on as the ball looped over the defence and slipped in under the bar.
Still the visitors tried to carve an opening but with the game long over substitute Evie Clarke was left to rue her late miss as she swept a Popadinova cross over the bar from point-blank range.
Vixens vying for promotion
The three points were no less than Bristol deserved. Despite not being as commanding after the restart, the Vixens stayed strong at the back with Leach largely untroubled. If Willie Kirk was worried about lacking a goal-threat with Millie Farrow expected to be out for the rest of the season he’ll be delighted at the variety in attack on show. Although other teams will be harder to break down, the Vixens shouldn’t be left wanting for goals.
Whilst Bristol’s away form hasn’t always been perfect they’ve only not suffered a league defeat at the Stoke Gifford this year. With three of their final six games due to take place at home the pressure will be on Everton, Watford and Durham to figuratively break into Fort Knox.
In spite of a marked improvement in the second-half, it was another poor showing from the London side who’d been riding high earlier this month. The Bees ultimately paid the price for not being switched on right from the off and despite going two goals down earlier on they did rally and start asserting themselves more into the game. The lack of quality in the final third and a rushed, as opposed to measured, attack left them wanting in front of goal.