Monday, 12 March 2012

Pair central to Birmingham's hopes of success

There was some eye opening results in the 5th round of the FA Womens Cup, including Bristol Academy's 3-0 victory over Leeds, with debutant's Nikki Watts and Laura Del Rio getting their first goals for the club, and Everton's 5-1 demolition of Manchester City, with Toni Duggan getting her season off to a flying start by grabbing a hat trick, but perhaps the most notable result of the round was Birmingham Ladies's 3-0 win over fellow WSL side Liverpool.

The side that ran Arsenal closest last season for trophies started off their season in supreme style, showing qualities in attack and defence that will be sure to send shockwaves through to North London. The Blues have added to their squad with the acquisitions of England internationals Rachel Unitt and Eni Aluko, and these two came in for their debuts at the expense of the injured Kerys Harrop and the suspended Rachel Williams. Other than these two changes, it was a similar outfit that played most of the club's successful season last term. The team may have lost Sally Stanton for the season due to her being pregnant with her second child, and players such as Dunia Susi and Stef Curtis have moved on, but this side know eachother very well, and it showed in their performance.
A back 5 which, with the exception of Harrop, will be the main first choice defensive line up showed experience and strength, the aerial abilities of Emily Westwood and captain Laura Bassett should not overlook their capabilites with the ball at their feet, and they often looked for the advancing runs of full backs Unitt and Chelsea Weston, who attacked at will.
Jade Moore
Birmingham will certainly cause opposing teams lots of problems with the attacking quality at their disposal, and against The Reds, they set up initially with England winger Karen Carney on the right side of midfield, Izzy Christiansen left, and Aluko and Jodie Taylor up front, but as the game went on it was easy to see how flexible that system could be, with the wide players switching wings frequently and the two strikers working the channels and pulling their markers wide plenty of times. The quality of crosses into the box was another major positive, with Carney, Unitt, Weston and Jo Potter all delivering balls which led to goal scoring opportunities, and no doubt they will continue to cause other teams problems as the season goes on. The front four played with such flair, linking up seamlessly as though they had played together for years, but it was not just their attacking threat that impressed. A good team defends from the front, and the front four worked incredibly hard pressing and closing down the Liverpool defence and midfield, battling back to assist their team mates at every opportunity, which must have delighted manager David Parker, and all this without last season's top WSL scorer Williams, who will surely be pushing for a start on her return. The midlands outfit certainly look to have a stronger looking depth to their squad this season.
Jo Potter

But for me, the main strength of this side, and any team, is the midfield pair of Jo Potter and Jade Moore. The duo played the majority of last season together and have built a partnership full of understanding in the middle of the park. So comfortable and confident on either foot whilst in possession, every move seems to involve the lively pair, keeping the ball and spreading it either to one of the wingers to start an attack, or threading precision through balls into the path of the strikers. Never rushed or panicked with the ball at their feet, the patient build up play displayed vs the merseyside club paid dividends as they gradually broke down a determined defence, and the central pair were pivotal in keeping the attacking momentum going, and not giving the Liverpool midfield any time on the ball. The fact Potter produces consistently devilish set pieces just adds another string to their bow, and they showed a real desire and will to win, which was mirrored by the rest of the side. They controlled the game from start to finish, and dictated the pace at which the hosts played, which was too much for Robbie Johnson's side.

Whilst England were involved in their World Cup campaign last year, Potter was a pundit for the BBC coverage, and Moore wasn't considered either, although the latter has recently been involved in the squad, grabbing her first international goal in this year's Cyprus Cup. Surely if they continue to play as well as they have been in the past year, they will both be heavily involved in the upcoming European Championships and the impending Olympic Games.

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