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Blues set up with a very strong starting eleven, with wingers Izzy Christiansen and Mel Lawley, returning to Bristol for the first time since her pre-season switch to Blues, supporting Rachel Williams and Kirsty Linnett in attack, whilst Jo Potter and Jade Moore sat and patrolled the midfield. The biggest danger for Blues was the threat of Bristol’s Spanish duo Natalia Sanchon and Laura Del Rio, who had started the season in scintillating form. Blues began the game on the front foot, pressing their opponents hard and keeping them in their own half, and working incredibly hard off the ball to make it difficult for Bristol. Flair players Staniforth, Del Rio and Natalia were struggling to get into the game as Moore, Potter and Christiansen broke up the play and began to dictate the flow of the match. Kirsty Linnett showed a number of clever touches in possession, and was showing the abilities which have so cruelly been kept hidden over the last two years with her long spells on the sidelines. Rachel Williams came close to opening the scoring after ten minutes, a devilish Chelsea Weston cross narrowly evading the head of the England striker. Christiansen was next to go close, clever work from Linnett in the Bristol area led to her pulling the ball back to Christiansen whose fiercely struck shot was blocked by McCatty, and Potter’s follow up was deflected for a corner. Natalia was a peripheral figure for the majority of the half, but she did create a chance for herself following a Nikki Watts cross, getting ahead of Bassett but the Blues centre half did enough to put the Spaniard off her header and the ball sailed harmlessly over. The deadlock was broken on the half hour mark, and it was no surprise that Williams was the one to finish it. Jade Moore sent over an inviting cross, and Williams found space in between McCatty and Rose to head past a helpless Chamberlain for her fifth goal of the season.
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Bristol began the second half with more urgency, clearly a sign of boss Mark Sampson’s half time team talk taking effect, but Blues stood strong and kept their shape well. Reports of Parker keeping his side in the dressing room after the Lincoln draw last week suggested he was not happy with the start to the season his side had made, and there was certainly a change in the girls, a more determined, battling performance, something that has been a major characteristic of this Blues team over the last two years. Moore and Potter soon dragged the dynamic back in favour of the visitors, and before long it was clear Bristol were struggling to make any impact on this stubborn Midlands outfit. Linnett continued to cause the Bristol back line problems, and it was from a corner which she earned that the second and decisive goal came about. Potter swung the ball in from the right, and as the ball fell to the back post, Kerys Harrop helped it back into the danger area, where the impressive Linnett prodded home for her second goal in successive games, following her deflected equaliser against the Lady Imps in the previous game. Shortly after the goal, Bristol made a triple substitution, with Del Rio being replaced after being carefully shackled by Bassett and Moore all game. A significant change came from Blues at the same time, with Linnett being replaced following her superb performance by youngster Coral Haines, who came on for her Blues Ladies debut, having come through the ranks at the club’s centre of excellence. Despite the changes, the second goal knocked the stuffing out of Bristol, and it was always going to be a tough task to come back from that, and Blues went on to control the game, and if anyone was going to score next Blues had the chances. Potter sent a lofted pass through to Haines, but her sweetly executed volley whistled just over, and Williams was put through one on one, but Chamberlain ensured her international colleague would have to settle with just the one goal for her evenings work.
It was a much improved performance from
Blues, and it was clear to see that the focus was to go back to the drawing
board in terms of effort and pressing. After the mauling at the hands of
Arsenal and the disappointment of the home draw against Lincoln, Blues appeared
to have been shaken by these results, and Bristol felt the wrath of a wounded side
that were determined not to let their incredible efforts over the last two
years to become serious challengers for trophies go to waste, and teams will
surely be looking at Blues as a fierce opponent once again.
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Blues’ next fixture is on May 11th, and is their second Continental Cup group game, away to Arsenal Ladies in a fixture which the girls will be desperate to eradicate the memories of their 6-0 defeat last month. The next home game is the third and final Continental Cup group game, against Lincoln Ladies on May 19th. Blues currently top the group ahead after Lincoln and Arsenal shared a 1-1 draw in their group game.
Bristol: Chamberlain, Dykes, Rose (Matthews 69), McCatty, Yorston (c), Harding, Windell (James 69), Staniforth, Watts, Natalia, Del Rio (Curson 69). Subs not used: Hignett, Cleverly
Blues: Earps, Weston, Bassett (c), Harrop, Unitt, Christiansen, Moore, Potter, Lawley, Linnett (Haines 69), Williams. Subs not used: Hourihan, Simpkins, Torkildsen, Wilkinson, George, Westwood
Player of the match: Izzy Christiansen