Thursday 28 July 2011

Toughest test yet

Birmingham boss David Parker believed last night’s dramatic win over Bristol Academy was their toughest test of the season so far.

The Blues were staring defeat right in the face with three minutes to play, but a heroic effort meant Parker’s side somehow grabbed all three points to keep their title bid on track.

“Mentally that was definitely our toughest test. The way the game unfolded and how we had to change goalkeepers just before the game; I think that was a massive task for the players and I think they’ve come out with flying colours.” The manager said.

“We were one down against Arsenal and behind against Chelsea as well. We obviously had to battle back again last night. It just shows the true character of the team and everyone’s desire to win and push for each other. It’s just an incredible atmosphere in the group.”

He continued: “In terms of Chelsea (Weston), she hits shots like that all the time in training and when it fell to Rachel over the top, the second the ball left her foot you know it’s in. Just looking at the celebrations on the bench and among the players it was a terrific night.”

Marie Hourihan couldn’t take her place between the sticks due to a reoccurrence of the shoulder injury she picked up against Doncaster Rovers Belles, and Parker had no hesitation of handing Leanne Hall her debut.

“Leanne is a fantastic goalkeeper and whether we went with Lee or Marg then that was the way it would be. Marg was really honest last night when she went to the warm up. Her injury on Sunday had carried over and she said that she would be letting her team down if anything happened, so there was just a little niggle there. We were just being precautious.”

He added: “I think she (Hall) did very, very well. She would have been disappointed conceding them two goals, with one bouncing around her and the header at the far post, but apart from that she did very well and showed her experience and true ability.”

Another Blues player to impress against the Vixens was Rachel Williams. The England international’s stock continues to rise after scoring the winner in the 89th minute last night, taking her tally to nine goals for the season.

Whilst Parker is well aware of her playing abilities, he was keen to point out her role in the dressing room.

“She’s an absolutely fantastic player and what people really don’t get is how wonderful a girl she is and how great it is to have her in and around the group. Her character came through last night, which is great to for us all to see – not just her playing ability.”

The boss will be relieved to see that Williams has stayed injury free for the past few games. However, the season seems to be taking its toll on other members of the squad.

Along with the injured Hourihan, Karen Carney’s knee problem flared up once again against Bristol and the 23-year-old had to be replaced at half-time, while Izzy Christiansen and Jade Moore weren’t fit enough to even make the bench.

“With Marie and Karen it’s just going to be a little bit of an assessment to protect them. With Jade and Izzy, we probably need to do a few more assessments on that front to see when they can return. I think it’s just taking it on a game by game basis now.”

By Paddy Day