Women’s Super League mid-season review: No 7, Birmingham City
Birmingham City came into the 2020-21 Women’s Super League campaign having narrowly avoided relegation the previous season.
The club showed faith in manager Carla Ward as they stuck with her in the hope she could improve on their 11th place finish in 2019-20.
And things did not get off to the ideal start as the Blues began their campaign by suffering three straight defeats, including a 5-2 drubbing at the hands of Manchester United.
But since then they have bounced back with wins over Reading, Bristol City and arch rivals Aston Villa to lift them to seventh in the table at the end of 2020.
Forward Claudia Walker has been the highlight of their season so far as she has netted five of the team’s nine goals, scoring crucial winners in two of their three victories so far.
Let’s take a more in-depth look at Birmingham’s season up to this point and what they have to do to impress in 2021.
League position (last season at Christmas in brackets): 7th - 9 points (9th - 7 points)
WSL record so far this season: P: 10, W: 3, D: 0, L: 5
Season highlights: 1-0 v Aston Villa
Aston Villa’s promotion from the Women’s Championship last season meant there would be a first ever Midlands derby in the WSL between themselves and Birmingham in 2020.
The match itself took place on November 14, with Villa knowing a victory over their local rivals would move the two sides level on points with one another.
It was a hard-fought, close game with very few clear-cut chances throughout as the match looked to be creeping towards a goalless draw.
But 17 minutes from time it was Birmingham who stole the spoils thanks to a sensational strike from the in-form Walker as she won the game for the Blues with a venomous effort which crashed in off the underside of the bar.
Key player: Claudia Walker
Walker has undoubtedly been the success story of Birmingham’s season so far.
The 24 year-old failed to net a single goal in 13 WSL appearances last season but has burst onto the scene in the 2020-21 campaign by already netting five times for the Blues, making her the top scorer of any side outside the top three.
After scoring in Birmingham’s 5-2 defeat to Manchester United back in September, it was in October and November that Walker went on a hot streak of four goals in consecutive WSL matches.
She began her fine run of form with a neat second half finish as Birmingham picked up their first win of the season in a 1-0 victory over Reading.
But it was seven days later when Walker’s best goal of the season came as she curled a magnificent effort into the top corner from outside the box in a 4-0 win against Bristol City.
Another goal followed in their defeat to West Ham and she then rounded off a brilliant purple patch with an accomplished finish away at rivals Aston Villa.
Biggest test to come?
The biggest challenge for Ward’s side will be to avoid their form dropping off a cliff in the way that it did after Christmas during the last campaign.
In the 2019-20 season, Birmingham lost all five games after the festive break before the competition was abandoned due to the coronavirus pandemic.
When the season was ended prematurely they were just one point ahead of Liverpool, who were relegated as a result.
If results slip through their fingers again in 2021 then they could quickly be staring down the barrel of another relegation dogfight.
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