BIRMINGHAM City Ladies left it late but eventually found a way past a stubborn Sunderland side two minutes from time to extend their unbeaten run in all competitions to nine matches, reports Steve Carpenter.
Charlie Wellings scored what proved to be the only goal of the game as David Parker’s side picked up a seventh clean sheet in eight matches to move within three points of second-placed Chelsea in the Women’s Super League.
The first opportunity of the match came in the fifth minute when after Andrine Hegerberg had been fouled, the Norwegian drilled in a dangerous free kick into the box which was just too high for Wellings.
Blues continued to dominate proceedings early on with Peplow hitting a half-volley over the bar and Kerys Harrop did superbly well to put Jess Carter through down the left but her dangerous first time ball was well cleared by the Sunderland defence.
Shortly after Mel Lawley went on a mazy run which took her to the edge of the area before unleashing a low shot right-footed shot which drifted narrowly wide of the target.
David Parker’s side continued to create chances in search of the all important breakthrough but they lacked that clinical edge in front of goal in what prove to be frustrating opening 45 minutes.
Shortly before the half-hour mark Wellings was put through on goal by Hegerberg and made room for a powerful shot but Sunderland goalkeeper Rachael Laws made a smart low save.
Hegerberg came close to scoring herself moments later but after being picked out by Lawley on the edge of the area after a neat run and pull back, the Norwegian midfielder volleyed over the bar.
With half-time nearing the Blues went close again through Wellings seven minutes from half-time but she could only guide her close range header straight into the arms of Laws.
Sunderland registered their first effort on goal with three minutes of the half remaining. Rachel Furness was given time and space on the edge of the area and she hit a low effort which sailed along the ground but it was a comfortable take for Ann-Katrin Berger in the Blues goal.
The visitors threatened again in first half stoppage time but Hayley Sharp’s deflected volley from the edge of the area dropped the wrong side of the bar.
Striker Isabelle Linden was introduced at the break as the hosts stepped up their search for the opener but it was a Sunderland defender who almost gifted Parker’s side the lead.
Lawley did well to bet her marker down the left before crossing dangerously and Stephanie Bannon stuck out a leg which forced the ball back towards her goal but Laws was alert to make the save.
The hosts then had strong shouts for a penalty turned down on the hour mark after it appeared as though Abby Holmes handled the ball inside the area.
Five minutes later Wellings linked well with Freda Ayisi on the edge of the area but the pass back to Welling was just too long and Laws was quick off her line to make the save.
You could sense the frustration from the home support as the Blues dominated possession but they could not find a way past a stubborn Sunderland side who seemed happy to take a point back with them on the long journey home.
However with just two minutes of normal time remaining Wellings finally found the back of the net although the home side were handed a large slice of luck.
A long throw into the box saw the ball come off a Sunderland defender’s head before bouncing off the bar and falling kindly to Wellings who volleyed the ball home into an empty net.
That proved to be the only goal of the game as the Blues held out for a fifth win in nine matches.
Team: Berger, Windell, Carter, Harrop (c), Ayisi (Ewers 90), Hegerberg, Stringer, Lawley, Wellings, Peplow (Linden 45), Mannion
Subs not used – Baggaley, Linnett, Schofield, Johnson