London City Lionesses v Bristol City
London City Lionesses put on a stout display against top of the table rivals Bristol City to close the gap to just three points with a 2-0 win.
Midfielder Atlanta Primus netted a five-minute brace in the early stage of the second half, rewarding the Pride for their first half efforts which had the Robins on the ropes more than once.
Winger Jamie-Lee Napier had come the closest to opening the scoring before the 45' mark with two almost identical chances created by Amy Rodgers. The holding midfielder played a spectacular game and showed off her illustrious skillset both defensively, with quick feet and adroit ball shielding, and in attack by providing sublime through balls that cut through Bristol's backline like a knife through butter.
Goalkeeper Fran Bentley was also called up into action to put a stop to Shanade Hopcroft's excellent deadball deliveries, notably when captain Harley Bennett was the one getting on the end of them. Bentley made a number of good saves throughout the match and did well to deny the Pride's flurry of efforts that might have earned them a third goal.
Bristol did work a few chances over the course of the 90' but never quite found their stride despite some nice runs and clever movement from the usually deadly Grace Clinton, Abi Harrison and Shania Hayles.
The downfall of the Robins did not necessarily lie in their quality on the ball nor in their attacking passages of play (in fact, both of these were far more well executed than London City), but with their inability to win duels - most apparently in midfield - and possession miscues which allowed London City to easily win back balls.
Bristol also did not use London City's weaker areas to their advantage, including the Pride's extremely narrow formation of play. With centre-forward Sarah Ewens playing on the right wing and right-footed Jamie-Lee Napier on the left, London City were constantly holding the ball up and cutting in centrally. This meant wide areas were left exposed and could have been exploited more aggressively. Bristol did not make good enough use of the wings to stretch their opposition out towards the touchlines once possession had been gained in their own half.
Instead, the Robins also largely relied on playing through central lanes, however the Pride's midfield trio of Primus, Hopcroft and Rodgers physically made it difficult to progress much further and flying Robins were grounded to a halt.
This result means the top of the Championship is mighty close leading into the final weeks of the season and things have just gotten a whole lot more interesting.
Words by Charlotte Stacey