As there is an uneven number of teams in the Women’s Super League it was Bristol City‘s turn to miss out on playing on the league’s final day on May 11th. So we made our way to Stoke Gifford to see our Vixens play their final game of the season against FA cup finalists West Ham United.
Before the match as has been tradition this season some of us supporters met up in our friendly local pub, The Beaufort Arms, near the ground for a few drinks before the game. A section of us recently set up an unofficial supporters club and even set a group page on Facebook which is going well and constantly growing. Today we unveiled a flag which was arranged by one of our members. Today was a big day as we were with the consent of the club allowed to present our player of the season on the pitch which we had voted for in the preceding weeks.
On arrival at the ground we noticed there was a very good crowd which was nice to see for a game that had little bearing on the league. We were hoping to finish the season on high after recent struggles and Bristol started well with Abi Harrison who hadn’t scored since early February, after her move from Hibernian, but she tested Rebecca Spencer in the West Ham goal. The Hammers had their chances but two time WSL player of the month Sophie Baggaley and the Vixens defence were equal to it.
It was all square at the break and Bristol City coach Tanya Oxtoby made an inspired substitution by bringing on young Irish winger Heather Payne who almost immediately latched on to a Harrison pass to put Bristol 1-0 up.
Just 10 minutes later West Ham equalised through Leanne Keirnan. The Vixens pressed on trying to find a winner, buoyed on by our witty songs using every tune imaginable from ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ by The Beatles to ‘Mrs Robinson’ by Simon & Garfunkel about the Bristol players. It was to no avail as Jane Ross headed in the winner for West Ham in the 90th minute to end a good game and a frustrating end to the season.
Immediately after the game our supporter’s group rushed to give our player of the season award to its recipient, Sophie Baggaley. She had to dash as she had a car was waiting to take her to London for the PFA awards as she was in the WSL team of the season after her outstanding campaign.
We bestowed the duty of presenting the trophy to longtime Vixens supporter Martin Radford who had once again had impressively attended every Bristol City game this season, in addition to being an ardent Lionesses supporter, we also gave midfielder Ella Rutherford a cake as today was her birthday. She was very appreciative of it and before we left the Stoke Gifford Stadium for the final time this season we were invited into the player’s lounge to have a slice with her and some of the players which was a lovely gesture to say goodbye to the girls before they dispersed for the summer.
In summary, it was a very good season even if we did tail off in the second half of the campaign after superb draws against Chelsea and Manchester City (twice). Not to forget the brilliant victories against Liverpool and at Birmingham City, especially seen as the club was in turmoil in the summer when Tanya Oxtoby arrived as manager and had to completely rebuild the squad after a mass exodus. She thoroughly deserved her two WSL Manager of the Month awards for the way she got our new young squad to gel so quickly. My only concern going forward and its something that must be addressed in the summer is our lack of threat in front of goal. Our two main two strikers, Kempi and Harrison, have struggled to test opposition defences and only Scottish midfielder Lucy Graham (who had a brilliant debut season) was able to score over ten goals. It is imperative to keep her next season in what will be a much tougher division with no easy games!
Many thanks to you all for reading my Bristol City match reports and thanks to all the wonderful people I’ve met at Vixens games. I hope you all have a great summer!
Bristol City Women: Baggaley, Allen, Evans, Brown, Pattinson, Humphrey, Biesmans, Rutherford (Robinson 85’), Graham, Ayane (Payne 56’), Harrison
Subs: Cumings, Kerkdijk, Wilson, Woolley
West Ham United: Spencer, Percival, Simon, Hendrix, Lehmann, Keirnan (Kmita 81), Ross, (C), Rafferty, Sampson, Visalli, Leon