Birmingham City Ladies 1-0 Sunderland Ladies
Charlie Wellings netted a late strike as Birmingham City snatched all three points and ensured Sunderland Ladies returned to Wearside empty handed on Sunday afternoon.
Birmingham controlled large spells of the game but rarely threatened as Kerys Harrop’s first-half header remained their best sight of goal.
Sunderland were resolute throughout but just as they looked to have secured a valuable point, Wellings rewrote all the headlines as she tapped home from close range to leave the Lasses deflated.
Having tasted victory in the FA Women’s Super League for the first time this season last weekend after a fine win over Doncaster Rovers Belles, the Lady Black Cats headed to the West Midlands on a mission to build a head of steam.
While humid conditions weren’t ideal going into the game, Carlton Fairweather rallied his troops and named a regimented formation to try and counter Birmingham’s strengths.
With three central defenders named in the starting XI, Fairweather deployed Abby Holmes and Danielle Brown in more advanced roles down either flank.
That proved to be a worthy decision as the Lasses crowded out the middle of the park and forced the hosts to play wide and get crosses into the box.
With seven minutes on the clock, Birmingham were presented with their first chance of the game, however, Chloe Peplow blazed her effort high over the bar from 18-yards out.
As the half wore on the Lasses grew into the game and did well to frustrate the visitors for large spells.
While the scorching heat continued to play havoc with the general ebb and flow of the game, the hosts continued to carve out the better openings as Mel Lawley’s mazy run from the half-way line ended with her dragging her attempt wide.
Harrop then saw her header well-saved by Laws after she rose well to connect with a floated free-kick from the middle of the park.
Sunderland to their credit hung on in there and gradually gained a foot hold in the game as Rachel Furness drilled an arrowed strike towards the bottom corner which was comfortably gathered in the end.
Moments later, a high-octane break from the Blues saw Hayley Sharp put her body on the line as she blocked Andrine Hegerberg’s thunderous strike.
The second 45 continued in a similar fashion as the hosts attempted to turn the screw and really stretch Sunderland’s resolve.
Steph Bannon was spared her blushes as her attempt to cut out a cross saw her divert the ball towards goal, fortunately though Laws was alert to display a fine reflex stop and avert the danger.
Sunderland were ruthless in their defensive efforts and waited patiently as Birmingham continued to move the ball from side to side without creating any meaningful efforts.
But just as the game looked to have petered out into a goalless draw, Wellings stole the show as Maddie Hill’s header looped over a helpless Laws before rebounding off crossbar and into Wellings’ on-rushing path.
It was a cruel, cruel goal on Sunderland who had done exceptionally well to limit the hosts to minimal chances thoughout, but it was a game-changing strike and Birmingham snatched a valuable three points.
Sunderland Ladies starting XI: Laws, Sharp, Bannon, Williams, Holmes (Beer,82), Brown, Furness (Potts, 72), Chaplen, Staniforth (Ramshaw, 77), Hill, Mead.
Unused subs: Olsen, Roche, Kelly, McDougall