Villa Park lit up a grey November afternoon as it played host to the first Second City Derby in Barclays FAWSL history. It was a historic occasion to mark Women’s Football Weekend.
The hosts started the quicker out of the blocks, pressing Birmingham’s defence and pouncing on their lapses in concentration. Early chances fell the way of Stine Larsen and Ramona Petzelberger before Shania Hayles had a clear-cut opportunity stopped by one glove of Hannah Hampton.
The visitors, however, grew into the half with the runs of Harriet Scott and Mollie Green giving Villa’s defence plenty to think about. The latter created two good chances herself, firing wide before seeing a lifted effort saved by Lisa Weiss.
And it was Birmingham who carried on pushing in the second half as Villa’s energy began to wane. The hosts did have a brilliant opportunity to take the lead through Nadine Hanssen, who forced a vital block from Rachel Corsie with practically her first touch of the ball.
Minutes later, Birmingham were ahead. Claudia Walker had been feeding on scraps most of the afternoon but the ball sat up perfectly for her in the box. In the form she is currently in, she wasn’t going to miss.
Villa pushed for an equaliser but Carla Ward’s side didn’t fold, holding on to seal a vital 3 points.
Player of the Match
Harriet Scott: The Birmingham right back produces consistently strong performance for her side week in, week out. Once again, she was full of energy throughout the game. Resolute at the back, she produced several marauding runs down the flank that put her side right in the mix. Her effort epitomised the work rate of this Birmingham side to pull themselves back into the match and come away with the victory.
Moment of the Match
Claudia Walker’s goal: The only goal of the game came in the 72nd minute. Substitute Lucy Whipp illustrated exactly why you should never give up, chasing down a ball forward and keeping it in at the by-line when others had given up. Her cross into the danger zone was headed out by Elisha N’Dow straight into the path of the lurking Walker. She made no mistake with her finish, rifling her shot into the roof of the net.
“Claudia is growing week in, week out. She works so hard to improve her game, always wants to do the extras and is always asking questions on how to improve. She’s been a pleasure to work with, and I think now the goals she’s getting are a testament to that.”
CARLA WARD, BIRMINGHAM CITY MANAGER
- Birmingham’s resilience: It can’t be overstated how impressive Birmingham have been this season. With Carla Ward arriving late in the summer and barely a squad left, there was very little time to pull things together. For this game, the injury crisis was such that the Blues manager could only name two substitutes on the day. But, against the odds, they have performed, and sit comfortably mid-table after this victory. A testament to the character of this team.
- Villa’s stop/start season: You can see that Gemma Davies’ Villa side have plenty about them but they aren’t quite clicking so far this season. There have been positives in the early stages despite them sitting 10th in the table. Buoyed by their first league win against Brighton, they started this game on the front foot. But their lack of clinical finishing cost them and allowed the visitors back into the game. The signs are there that they could come good; they just need everything to start falling into place.
- Claudia Walker’s form: The Birmingham striker is in flying form, showing exactly how a bit of confidence can transform your fortunes. She is the sort of forward player that managers dream of – full of hard work and running off the ball with the ability to convert her chances, even if she only has a handful in a game. Having moved permanently from Everton in 2019, she is starting to flourish with 5 league goals so far this season. At only 24, she is definitely one to watch in the future.
Quote of the Day
“It was a tough week after the West Ham game; mainly due to the fact we lost a few players through injury and, with a small squad as it is, that was always going to hurt us. But the mindset and mentality of the group is that they’re simply not going to roll over. Those injured played a huge part off the pitch and you could hear them on Saturday trying to help the team. So, it’s a group that I would call a proper team; together through thick and thin, which is most impressive.”
CARLA WARD, BIRMINGHAM CITY MANAGER