Sunday, 6 May 2012

FA Cup - Birmingham Ladies V Bristol Academy

Birmingham Ladies made history on Sunday as they defeated Bristol Academy 4-1 in the semi-final of the FA Women’s Cup, reaching the final for the very first time in their history. The win was much deserved, with Rachel Williams and Karen Carney grabbing a brace apiece, and the rise and rise of the Midlands’ outfit is there for all to see, being runners-up in last season’s inaugural FAWSL and Continental Cup, and this season hoping for even more achievements.

Blues were 3-0 up before half time, Williams scoring her first goal of the season early on, before a Carney corner was kept out by the hand of Bristol defender Alex Culvin, who was sent off, and despite Williams missing the resultant spot kick, England winger Carney scored two very neat finishes to put Birmingham fully in control at half time. Blues were the designated home side, with the game being played at Tamworth FC’s The Lamb ground, and they had a good backing from the fans that had made the trip north, and they certainly would have enjoyed a first half performance that displayed great confidence and quality.

Carney makes it 2-0
Half time: Birmingham 3 - 0 Bristol 

Bristol gave their all in the second half, but with 10 players it was always going to be difficult for them to get back into the game, and despite long range shots from Laura Del Rio, it was the “hosts” who increased their lead, Williams nodding home for her second and Blues’ fourth, and although Del Rio managed a consolation goal, Birmingham were through to their first FA Women’s Cup final in their history.

Williams wraps up the scoring for the hosts

Much is said of Birmingham’s ability to score goals, with a threatening attacking line up headed by the likes of Williams, Carney, Eni Aluko and Jodie Taylor, and in the first half, these talents were there for all to see, but in the second half, Bristol came out and were always going to attack, but Blues showed why they have a great chance of success this season with a commanding display of resilience and defensive strength coupled with their attacking threats. Last season Kerys Harrop was one of the star players of the season playing at left full back, but since the acquisition of Rachel Unitt, the youngster has not played as much as she would like, which is testament to the start England international Unitt has had. Originally from Walsall, the former Everton star has showed her class since arriving at the club she calls home, and her experience and coolness under pressure has certainly helped those around her, but not only has she added much defensively, but she has also contributed assists already this season, one coming in the semi final for Williams’ opener, and her delivery from wide areas will be an invaluable asset for her side. The same can be said on the opposite side of the pitch, with Chelsea Weston continuously improving, cementing her role as first choice right back with similar outstanding performances, and the England under 23 international also provided an assist in the 4-1 win over Bristol, and linking up well with the midfield.

As previously mentioned, this season may turn out to be very fruitful for David Parker’s side, and should they manage to win a trophy, no one would epitomise the spirit the side has more than the woman who would be lifting the trophy, captain Laura Bassett.

The England international led her side all through last year’s campaign, and again this year she is showing the leadership qualities and desire that is spreading through the rest of her team. Strong and commanding, be it in the air or using her feet, Bassett exhumes a confidence in herself and her team mates that has ensured Blues are currently unbeaten in all games this season so far, and the semi final was no exception to the rule. Up against in form strikers Nikki Watts and Laura Del Rio, Bassett marshalled the defence superbly, especially in a tricky second half period where Bristol tried to get back into the game. Emily Westwood is a player who is benefitting from playing alongside the former Coventry, Arsenal and Leeds defender, making the centre back position her own with fellow defender Sally Stanton on pregnancy leave, but Bassett is a calming influence in the captain’s role, and her teammates can only improve playing alongside her, but Bassett can also be a tough tackling centre back, an example of which was displayed by a crunching last gasp tackle at the front post when it seemed certain Bristol were about to get a shot away, and this determination to succeed is driving the team along.

Bassett is in her second spell at Blues, and at 28 she is now reaching her peak, and the skipper will be desperate to not only enjoy success at club level, but also international level, where she must surely be considered for the upcoming Olympic Games. Bassett became the first player to represent Birmingham Ladies at international level, and she deserves to be the first Birmingham Ladies players to lift the FA Women’s Cup at Ashton Gate come May 26th.

Full time: Birmingham 4 - 1 Bristol Academy 

For photos of this game please visit:

Blues: Spencer (Hourihan 63) Unitt, Bassett, Westwood, Weston, Aluko (Christiansen 67) Potter, Moore (Torkildsen 76) Carney, Taylor, Williams.

Bristol Academy: Chamberlain, Windell, Green (James 67) Del Rio, Fishlock, Dykes, Lawley (Curson 77) Watts (Heatherson 67) Culvin, Rose, Harding.

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