25 Feb Match Report: Birmingham City 0-1 Bristol City
It has been a horrible week and personally my worst as a Vixens fan after a shambolic performance against a decent Everton team, the 5-0 loss saw us exit the Women’s FA Cup. This should have been a marquee game at a bustling Ashton Gate in front of a decent crowd of just under two thousand. There was much anger aimed at the club after this latest debacle and many, myself included wondered whether head coach Tanya Oxtoby was the right person to continue leading the team.
A small number of Bristol City fans made their way to Solihull for the match that could only be described as a relegation six-pointer.
After the all now traditional bag search, we swiftly made our way into the stadium and found ourselves inside with plenty of time to buy a programme from a cheery young lady who was also selling merchandise on a table from Birmingham City pens and postcards featuring the players. We made our way into the now crammed clubhouse to discuss the team sheet that had just been announced over a pre-match drink and many of us were baffled to learn that striker Ebony Salmon was only starting on the bench but at the same time delighted to hear that inspirational defender Jas Mathews was back in the team after missing Mondays horror show as an injury precaution.
Once inside the compact home of men’s National League club Solihull Moors I noticed a number of changes had been made from our visit last season when we won a thriller 1-0 thanks to a headed goal by the now-injured Gemma Evans. The main one being a brand new stand decked in shiny blue seats covering the length of the pitch. We positioned ourselves in these seats just behind the away dugout.
The match started at a lively pace in blustery conditions with Bristol City initially playing into the wind. Birmingham City started the brighter but the Vixens defence marshalled by the ever-dependable Mathews were equal to it. The new Australian signing, Chloe Logarzo, fresh from Matildas duty and making her debut was linking up well with South Korean veteran Jeon Gae-ul in the midfield and it was good to see the youthful pacey attacker Katie Robinson now getting a run of games in the Bristol team and now causing the Blues problems on the right-hand side and Birmingham were limited to half-chances from Visalli and the vastly experienced Rachel Williams.
We were joined in the second half by Faye Bryson’s parents who has recently joined Bristol from Everton but this didn’t stop us from singing among other songs ‘Always look on the Bryson of Life’ in homage to there daughter who was having a superb game at right-back. It was also particularly pleasing to see a group of young Birmingham fans trying to out-sing us and have a bit of banter with us.
The game seemed to be drifting towards a stalemate and with no sign of Salmon entering the game. A few of us decided to prompt the issue by shouting over to Bristol City assistant manager Marco Chiavetta who was leading operations in the technical area as head coach, Tanya was watching proceedings from up in the stands. We sang ‘ooh Ebony Salmon’ and shortly afterwards our talismanic striker was brought on with just over 20 minutes to go and made an immediate impact. On 75 minutes Salmon raced onto a through ball and calmly and collectively slotted the ball past Hannah Hampton in the Blues goal to rapturous applause from us Vixens fans.
Olivia Chance almost doubled the lead with a shot that rattled the crossbar and when referee Stacey Pearson blew the final whistle there were euphoric celebrations with a large dose of relief from everyone connected with Bristol City, players and fans alike. Just to emphasise how much winning this particular relegation dogfight meant we even burst into a rendition of ‘Staying up, staying up.’ It was especially sweet as we go into the international break out of the relegation zone.
Even though there is much work to do in the final three months of season, the most joyous part of the day was meeting up with the players pitchside after the game who all thanked us for our support and some of them even giving us hugs and posing for a group photograph with us which really meant a lot. Its something I will personally remember for a very long time! It was an enjoyable and highly memorable afternoon and ends the week on a real high.
Birmingham City: Hampton, Jordan, Harrop, Brougham, Scott (Walker 59), Visalli (Scofield 79), Whipp, Kelly, Grant, Mayling, Williams.
Unused subs: Holloway, Brooks.
Bristol City: Baggaley, Pattinson, Matthews, Brown, Bryson, Chance (Allen 87), Logarzo, Daniels, Jeon (Wynne h-t), Wellings, Robinson (Salmon 65).
Unused subs: Jones, Collis, Sanford, Cumings