It was a tale of two halves as the Birmingham Women’s 2nds overcame a spirited Sheffield 1sts team to win 3-1 on a cold afternoon on the Metchley 3G.
Birmingham entered the match with patchy form, having taken 9 points from their first five games of the season, and were hoping to progress to the last 16 of the BUCS Trophy by beating a relatively unknown quantity in Sheffield.
It wasn’t the start Birmingham would have hoped for. They found themselves 1-0 down within two minutes of play. Their defence could only stand and watch as a piercing through ball left the Sheffield striker bearing down on goal and she expertly placed the ball under the keeper from an acute angle to put them ahead.
However, this was the turning point for UoB, a wake-up call for the Lions who were now about to have their mettle tested by a strong opponent. However, instead of capitulating under pressure, they rose up and got back into the game by having the majority of the chances in a half that was hallmarked by a lack of clear-cut opportunities.
Going in at half-time trailing, there was a sense that this may just not be Birmingham’s day. But, after some words from their coach, they went back out onto the pitch with the confidence that they could turn this match around.
Undeterred, their bright start to the second half was almost rewarded with an equaliser after their striker cut the ball back to the edge of the box but the on-rushing midfielder blazed the ball narrowly over the bar. However, just minutes later, they were finally rewarded for their sustained pressure as they finally managed to get an equaliser through their mercurial winger, Jo Butler-Williams. After some excellent footwork, she smartly beat the Sheffield goalkeeper at her near-post.
After their equaliser, Birmingham really seemed to have their tails up as the momentum swung in their favour and were unlucky not to get ahead following a good corner. Unfortunately, the header from their unmarked defender was straight at the keeper who gratefully gathered the ball to avert the danger.
Following this miss, Birmingham didn’t have to wait too long to get into a winning position after another excellent run by Butler-Williams led to a shot cannoning back off the crossbar and Birmingham’s striker, Aimee Taylor, was the quickest to react and bundled the ball into the net at the far post. This goal put Birmingham in the ascendancy and they just needed to keep a resolute defence to see the game out.
Towards the end of the game there were slightly surreal scenes as, after landing awkwardly on her shoulder, the Sheffield goalkeeper was substituted and replaced with an outfield player for the remainder of the match. In the dying moments, the Lions managed to put the icing on the cake with a third goal, scored by substitute Lucy Hearn, after she was played through and managed a smart finish under the keeper to round off what was an excellent second half team performance.
Birmingham showed great character in trying circumstances to turn this game around and this experience will stand them in good stead for the rest of the competition. Their next cup game is away against Sheffield Hallam 1sts and they will be hoping they can see them off with less drama than in this match.