It was a tale of two set-pieces at the Hive yesterday, as honours ended even between Tottenham Hotspur and Bristol City. Siri Worm’s superb free-kick gave Spurs a 3rd minute lead. Matt Beard’s side were level seven minutes after the break when Vixens captain Gemma Evans headed in from a corner. The result lifts Bristol City out of the relegation zone, although they have played two more matches than West Ham. Spurs remain eighth in the table, five points clear of the drop.
Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Bristol City
“I feel like I’m saying the same thing every week. We’re creating good quality chances and we’re just not finishing the ones that come our way. You know we’ve had a chance to go 2-0 up in the game which would have put us in a really good position, not taken it. We’ve got to be better in front of goal. Bottom line.”Rehanne Skinner, Manager, Tottenham Hotspur, via tottenhamhotspur.com
Spurs boss Rehanne Skinner made three changes to the side that drew at Reading, bringing back centre forward Rianna Dean for Josie Green and swapping Gemma Davison out for Kit Graham. Becky Spencer returned in goal, making her first appearance since Week 12. Rosella Ayane shifted to a left wing role.
There were four changes to the Bristol City side that lost to Manchester City in midweek. Gemma Evans returned at the heart of the defence for Laura Rafferty and took the captain’s armband. Carla Humphrey, Yana Daniëls and Ebony Salmon replaced Aimee Palmer, Emma Bissell and Ellen Jones.
Tottenham took the lead inside three minutes. Dean was clumsily fouled 25-yards from goal and Siri Worm couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity, curling her free-kick around the wall and inside the keeper’s right-hand post.
As a bonus, Spurs’ fans could tick the eminently predictable “wand of a left foot” off their commentary bingo card.
Dean had a good chance to extend Tottenham’s lead in the 16th but blazed over five yards out after Baggaley could only parry a dangerous cross from Worm on the left by-line.
Graham was the next to try her luck, spinning away from her marker outside the penalty area and hitting a low, right-footed drive that whisked just past the upright. The free-role attacking midfielder showed great skill a few minutes later on her more accustomed left-foot, beating two defenders before drilling another distance effort the wrong side of the same post.
The visitor’s had toiled to make good first half chances. Only Harrison and Humphrey got a sight of goal but Spencer gathered both efforts comfortably.
Spurs, meanwhile, continued to push for a second. They won a free-kick on the left near the by-line; Percival swung it in and Graham’s instinctive flick was cleared off the line by Daniëls. As the clock ticked into injury time Alanna Kennedy ballooned an effort over the cross bar.
Matt Beard must have been relieved to get his troops back to the changing room just a goal down. Whatever he said to them in the interval, it immediately raised their performance levels.
Three minutes into the second period Ebony Salmon hit the post with an audacious volley after Spurs could only half clear Ella Mastrantonio’s free kick.
Australian midfielder Mastrantonio was then instrumental in the Vixens’ equaliser on 52 minutes, swirling in a corner from the left that Evans powered home at the back post.
Now, we had a more competitive game with City looking to wrest control and starting to turn the hosts’ back line around more. Two minutes after the goal Salmon got space down the left, cut inside but her shot took a slight deflection off the covering defender and drifted wide of the target.
Spurs failed to clear their lines from another corner but Jemma Purfield’s cushioned volley was easily dealt with by Spencer.
Skinner started making substitutions just after the hour. Gemma Davision and Rachel Williams came into the fray with both having a pattern-altering (if not result-changing) impact.
Davison’s desire to run with the ball and take defenders on gave a new dimension to Tottenham’s attacking. She brought the save of the match out of Sophie Baggaley in the 67th minute, driving for the top left hand from 20-yards only to see the keeper acrobatically paw it over the bar.
Williams then brilliantly shook off defender Kiera Skeels, but blasted over the bar when a square ball to Davison was on. She’d arrived in the box untracked.
With four minutes left, Baggaley scrambled across goal to save Williams’ far post header with her legs. Then Kennedy met Percival’s corner from the left, but substitute Faye Bryson was well placed to clear the danger.
Their first-half profligacy probably deprived Spurs three points here, as much as anything Bristol City did. Finding a second goal before the break may have been too much for the visitors to claw back.
Getting an ever-changing front four firing, then, is still the puzzle that Skinner needs to solve. No one has scored more than two league goals this year. Take a player like London-born attacker Rinsola Babajide – who’s currently looking for a way out of Liverpool – you have to wonder if she could add at least five league goals per season to this team.
But there are positives to take from the impact of the manager’s substitutions that enabled her team to regain a footing in the contest amidst City’s second half improvement. If not for Baggaley’s and Daniëls’ key interventions Spurs probably would have won this.
“I’m really pleased with the performance and the way that we have finished the game considering this is our third game in seven days. We have had some really great chances to win the game but on the balance of play with one or two of their chances, maybe a draw was a fair result. We can be really proud of the performance – they have left nothing out there today, worked really hard and run their socks off. I have got no issues with us conceding because it happened against Reading, but the main thing is that we have reacted. This is a fantastic group. They won’t give up on anything and this is a big point on the road.”Matt Beard, Interim Manager, Bristol City, via bcfc.co.uk
For the Vixens, well it’s another game unbeaten and a good response to what was a tepid first half – certainly in terms of attacking.
They’ve accrued eight points from their last six fixtures which might not appear particularly awe-inspiring but let’s not forget they picked up just two from eleven at the start of the campaign.
If Matt Beard’s side go close to mirroring that tally in their final five matches WSL survival is achievable. Even with a goal difference of -47.
Two of their next three games include road trips to Birmingham City and Aston Villa. If they are to complete ‘mission-utterly-unthinkable-at-week-12’ a minimum of four points surely has to be gained in those…
Last year, we charted on the Feedspot Top 40 list of Women’s football blogs. No one was more surprised than us here at D2B Towers; there’s so much other good stuff out there. Anyhoo, check out the link above or our Links page, there’s a heap of great blogs and websites written by people who really know their stuff and have an infectious passion for the women’s game…