REACTION: Blues Women 2 Reading Women 1
Birmingham City Women manager Marc Skinner praised his side’s endeavour in the second half as a late Meaghan Sargeant header gave them a 2-1 win over Reading Women.
After a tough first half in which Reading had the lion share of possession, Skinner had an important team talk to make at half time with the scores goalless.
In the 71st minute the deadlock was broken, as captain Kerys Harrop powered home a bullet header. They were pegged back by former Blue Remi Allen’s six-yard finish before Sargeant popped up with her second goal against the Royals this season to seal all three points.
He said: “I have a lot of respect for Reading. In some ways, they are the most difficult opponent that we face because they know how to do both sides of the game. They know how to defend, scrap and win the game but they also know how to play with good quality and technical ability.
“In the first half I was quite calm because we were controlled. But in the second half we adapted and that’s the one thing I always say to the girls – adaptability is your greatest skill set. If you can adapt, you can be chameleonic and affect any game. We have affected that game and won it.
“Hannah’s [Hampton] not really had much to do while Grace [Maloney] has had a couple of saves to make and we deserved it in the second half. It was always going to be a close game, but we’ve had two defenders coming up to score two good goals.”
Challenges flew in throughout the game with six bookings in total as the two teams battled it out in the middle of the park. Skinner had to remind his team of their positioning, which not only controlled the tackles in the game but also improved Blues’ style of play as it created the space needed.
He said: “We had to look at the positioning when we were challenging for the ball. If you position yourself in the right place for a tackle, you see the ball better and I don’t think people look at those finer details.
“If you watch the first 15 minutes of the second half, we pressed and picked up all the second balls because we were in better positions. If you can’t control the ball because of the pitch, you have to control the space which we did. Credit to the girls because they did what we asked them to at full time and they’ve come away with the result.
“It was a totally different performance in the second half. Sometimes you have to win ugly and we’ve done that today. Now we’re seven points clear of Reading who are a wonderful team, so to do that at this stage of the season what a great position to be in. Birmingham now have to push on.”
Late goal scorer Sargeant was brought on by Skinner and his back room staff in the second half, in which the manager explained why.
He said: “Paige [Williams] picked up a booking and we didn’t want to get her sent off. We couldn’t afford to lose her or drop down to 10 players and credit to my staff for suggesting that we should make that change.
“Obviously, Meg [Sargeant] has come on and scored. While Kez [Harrop], who then switched to left-back, freed her up and got the goal. It wasn’t a miracle decision, it was just circumstance, but it paid off.”