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Monday, 9 April 2012

Lincoln ladies 2-2 Birmingham City Ladies

The last couple of weeks have seen the Lady Imps in Cup action. Today was the start of the highly anticipated  League campaign. The last week or so has been a busy one for all the teams in the League as the women's game has received a decent amount of coverage and debate over the last week or so. I do get the feeling that the women's game is certainly on the up and interest is growing. Although coverage of the women's game isn't anywhere near that of what the men's receives, it is getting better. And with a few more games like this i am sure that Lincoln Ladies crowds will continue to grow.
Birmingham finished as runners up to Arsenal last season and have got off to a flyer this time around having won two matches in the FA Cup and one in the Continental cup. So basically they are no mugs. However Lincoln's form has also been good as the girls recorded a good 2-1 away win at Chelsea in their last game. Arriving at the ground it was good to see quite a few people around even though it was a good 45 minutes or so before the kick off.  The matchday programme was on sale for £2.50 included with the programme was a copy of the latest issue of She Kicks, the women's football magazine which is a decent read and covered all aspects of the women's game. The club merchandising department have been busy it the last couple of weeks with new scarves also on sale. The girls were also playing in the new home strip for the first time. Its a bit different to the last couple of home shirt as it is a white shirt with a  red and  black horizontal strip across the top. As a life long Inter fan i don't normally like anything red, black, and white but i must say that it is a rather smart outfit. Hopefully i will purchase one, but when i do it will be sods law that the first thing i will do will be to spill beer down it before a game, thus looking like a total prat for the rest of the day.

First port of call as always was the tea stall for a brew. As we were doing that the Lincoln players were going through a series of  gruelling looking exercises with some large elastic bands. Then followed a series of sprints and ball work. As we supped our brew a charming young lady came round asking us if we wanted to sign up to a free WSL loyalty card. Basically every home league match you attend you get your card stamped and you receive various freebies. As if this wasn't good enough the girl taking them round was a fellow Panthers fan (she spotted my cap) Its always nice to chat to a fellow fan of Nottingham's most successful sports side. Its an exciting time for us Panthers fans as today we were in the playoff final and on the verge of another double which means we have won more in the last two years than Forest and Notts County have in about 15 seasons combined, but going back to the loyalty card its great to see the League being pro active with stuff like this and encouraging more spectators to attend regularly.

We viewed the first half of the game from the end that the Imps were attacking. Blues were fast out of the blocks and had their hosts on the back foot early on. The last time i watched the Imps Laura Alleway was a rock at the back for the Imps but she was unavailable today and it looked as if they were missing her early on. Lincoln weathered the early storm and came back into the game, with Remi Allen making a couple of good runs from midfield. Which were ended by some cynical Birmingham defending. Lincoln did force a couple of corners which resulted in Jess Clarke going close.
Lincoln did take the lead in the 10th minute with an excellent goal from Precious Hamilton when she lobbed the keeper from the edge of the box. The goal gave the game even more intensity which resulted in some heavy challenges flying in. Blues were really struggling to deal with Jess Clarke's pace and so resorted to chopping her down at every opportunity.
Precious Hamilton. Scorer of the Lady Imps first goal.

There was a huge let off for the Imps on the half hour when Birmingham attacked and unleashed a shot from about 25 yards which was swirling and dipping. Hobbs in the Lincoln goal parried it out to a Birmingham attacker who thankfully managed to blast the ball out of the ground from about 3 yards out.  
Blues did equalise though shortly after, when a ball from the right was headed in by Kaz Carney. Lincoln were rattled by this and had Hobbs to thank for keeping the scores level when she tipped over a effort from Williams. Thankfully they wasted the following corner by curling it straight out of play. It was the last chance of the first half. Lincoln were playing the better football of the two sides with Birmingham being more direct.
The ref was letting quite a few heavy challenges go unpunished which was playing into the visitors hands.
 HT 1-1

Lincoln retook the lead just after halftime when Clarke was brought down in the box by Kerys Harrop who was having a bit of a mare up against Jess all day. Midfield dynamo Remi Allen step up and converted the penalty. All of a sudden Lincoln had got their spark back and were dictating the game. They could have gone further infront when Hamilton on the counter fired a cross in for the on rushing Lucy Staniforth to direct her diving header wide and get her nice new shiny white shirt covered in muck in the process.
The ref was starting to lose control of the game and kept his cards in his pocket when perhaps a yellow or two would have calmed the game down a bit as some of the Birmingham tackling was a little over the top. Birmingham got their second goal on 68 minutes through a great finish by Eniola Aluko which gave Hobbs no chance. Although it was a good finish Lincoln did have a couple of chances to clear the ball before she stuck it in the back of the net. The move first started form a long clearance from the Blues half so i think the Lady Imps management will feel the goal could have been avoided.

After that the game kind of petered out. Lincoln kept getting free kicks but didn't really do anything with them. The best chance to win the game fell to the visitors but Hobbs saved well from Aluko a minute or two before time.
 FT 2-2

On the face of it a draw at home to the a side like Birmingham isn't to bad a result although after taking the lead twice the Lady Imps will be disappointed not to have taken the points by giving Blues two sloppy goals. On the plus side though Lincoln really stood up to them and kept playing their football despite the visitors physical approach to the game. Lincoln have a very young side but Casey Stoney lead them brilliantly and kept a lid on things. Lincoln certainly created much more than we did against Arsenal although without Alleways height they didn't look quite as deadly at corners. Remi Allen thoroughly deserved her Lady of the Match award for her battling in midfield. In my view all of the girls played well but special mentions also go to Clarke and Hobbs.
Off the field the day was a success as well with a decent crowd of 310 watching the game. It was also pleasing to see there was a good mixture of fans young and old. Quite a few of the youngsters from the Club's centre of excellence were on duty helping out here and there. As the season goes on and word gets out how good this Lincoln side is (and how good the cups of tea are) i am sure the crowds will rise even more.

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