FOOTBALL: IT WAS a winning start for Marc Skinner as his Birmingham City Ladies side booked their place in the quarter-final of the Women’s FA Cup, and the new manager insists his side are not just in it to make up the numbers this season.
England striker Ellen White scored on her Blues debut and Jess Carter also got her name on the scoresheet as Birmingham beat West Brom 2-0 at the Automated Technology Group Stadium on Sunday.
It means the Blues are now just two games away from an appearance at Wembley in the final, but they must overcome Arsenal this weekend to progress to the final four.
“Obviously we are two steps away from that – and that’s two potentially very difficult games as well – but we are extremely determined to reach the final,” said Skinner.
“I’ve got a fiercely determined set of players in that dressing room and aren’t entering any competition to make up the numbers.
“I’m trying to change the mentality at this club somewhat. We have a tag of being the underdogs, but I don’t see it like that. We are not here to make up the numbers in any competition.”
It was the visitors who came close to taking the lead with 17 minutes played. Abi Cottam unleashed an audacious 30-yard shot which looked destined for the top corner but Ann-Katrin Berger did well to push the ball onto the post.
That was the wake up call the hosts needed and soon after Freda Ayisi found space in the penalty and did well to pull the ball back for White but her volley went high over the bar, while Ayisi came close with a header shortly after the half-hour mark.
Ayisi was close again with a header at the near post and White headed a Paige Williams corner narrowly wide.
It was almost a debut to remember for Williams when she let fly from 30-yards out but despite beating goalkeeper Bec Thomas the ball came back off the bar.
The warning signs had been there for Albion and it was no surprise to see the hosts take the lead two minutes before the break when Jess Carter sent a glancing header past Thomas in the Albion goal.
Blues picked up where they left off at the re-start and twice came close to doubling their lead. First Ayisi saw her shot well saved by Thomas before Jess Carter’s 25-yard strike was also well saved.
A second goal eventually came on the hour mark when White headed home from close range with Williams getting the assist.
It could have been three soon after following a neat bit of play that ended with Mayling sending in an excellent cross that was met by Ayisi but she directed her header straight at Thomas in the West Brom goal.
Skinner introduced young striker Ellie Brazil with 20 minutes remaining and she came close to scoring her first senior goal for Birmingham in the 73rd minute but Thomas did well to keep out her close range effort.
Blues had several chances to extend their lead but a plucky West Brom did well not to concede again as Skinner’s side progressed through to the final eight.
“It was great to see Ellen get a goal which gets her up and running,” Skinner added. “She’s worked hard and is going to be a key player for us. She’s an England international with proven pedigree and we are delighted to have her on board.
“Both Sarah and Paige produced some tremendous deliveries and gave us a threat on both flanks. They both put in an excellent shift and were always a threat to the opposition.”