Sunday, 4 June 2017

Birmingham City Ladies 0 v 2 Chelsea Ladies

Saturday 2nd June 2017
FA Women’s Super League 1 Spring Series
Damson Park, Solihull
Admission: £7.00 in advance, £8.00 on the gate
Programme: £2.50
Attendance: 1171
Match Rating: 3

For what will be my last game of the 2016/17 season, I decided to tick off a National League National Division ground, for what would be a title-deciding match in the top flight of the Women’s game.

Damson Park is about a two and a half mile, 45 minute walk north eastwards from Solihull train station and as well as hosting Birmingham City Ladies matched, is also the home of Solihull Moors FC. The ground is adjacent to the very large Land Rover plant and not far from Birmingham Airport, and spectators enter the ground in one corner. Having only hosted Step 1 mens football for two seasons, it is no surprise that facilities here are modest, and have clearly been added to as ground grading requirements have demanded as Solihull Moors have progressed. The result is a rather hotch-potch look, but this makes it an interesting venue which is more than adequate for non league football. Just inside the turnstile there is a portakabin painted in club colours selling merchandise and programmes, and beyond a burger van and backing onto the large clubhouse building (which contains several different bar area) there is covered seating, with a floor above which is not available to the general public. Some attractive club signage is placed on the lower roof to the sides of the upper tier. Towards the far corner along this length is a temporary looking all-seater stand which is uncovered and is the most recent addition, opened in March this year. Behind the goal a low modern black metallic stand covering steps to stand on stretches between corner flags, whilst behind the other closest to the entrance there is a more attractive stand between corner flags, with a mixture of seating and standing. A “tuck shop” is situated in the rear wall. Along the remaining length there is mainly just hard standing, but there is another temporary looking all seater stand which is half uncovered, half has a tarpaulin type roof to it. The 24 page programme was an interesting read although rather over priced and did not contain basic information such as league table and season’s results.

On the last day of this Spring Series, Chelsea were in pole position to be crowned champions, just needing to win this game as they led the table on goal difference by 18 goals. Any slip up today could let in any of the three teams below them. They were certainly in great form, scoring 11 goals in their last two games, including seven against leaders at the time Liverpool. The highlight of Birmingham's season was a trip to Wembley for the FA Women’s Cup Final, which they lost. Their Spring Series campaign has been rather unremarkable and came into this game in sixth place, having won just one and drawn four of their seven games. Today’s teams met in Solihull in April, with Birmingham winning the FA Cup semi final on penalties after a 1-1 draw.

On a mainly sunny afternoon, this match started quite evenly, with Chelsea playing a patient game whilst Birmingham remained solid but always looked for the forward ball. However, Chelsea were awarded a penalty on 21 minutes when Fran Kirby ran onto a ball over the top, only to be rammed into by the keeper. Karen Carney struck the ball down the middle to give the visitors the lead. Chelsea went on to dominate thereafter, coming close to scoring on several occasions, but the scoreline remained goalless at the break and with work still to do, with two of the club’s below them, Manchester City and Arsenal, winning.

Chelsea’s dominance continued after the break, and on 57 minutes, they added a second. Gemma Davison crossed the ball low in the box and under no real pressure, the Birmingham keeper spilt the ball, which bounced gently against the post and Kirby took a touch from the byline before tapping home. That very much seemed like the title winning moment, and in some ways it was a shame that it came about thanks to a goalkeeping error. Chelsea saw the game out quite comfortably, although Birmingham did keep battling away to their credit right up to the end. So it was Chelsea who won the league on goal difference, as Manchester City also won, and they were awarded the trophy and medals on the pitch shortly after the final whistle. Birmingham finished in seventh place in the nine team division, and will certainly need to win more games to have a better campaign when the winter season starts in September.

Video footage of the goals can be viewed by clicking here

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