FOOTBALL: BIRMINGHAM City Ladies ended their 2016/17 Women’s Super League campaign with a seven-goal performance on the road at Sunderland on Sunday as Kirsty Linnett helped herself to a hat-trick.
The Blues striker helped herself to three goals in what was a hugely convincing performance by David Parker’s side which saw Kerys Harrop, Charlie Wellings, Freda Ayisi and Coral Haines also get their names on the scoresheet.
The visitors started the match brightly but for all of their possession it took until the tenth minute for them to create the first opportunity.
Chloe Peplow picked out Jess Carter down the right with a neat long ball and Carter easily beat her marker before crossing for Haines but her effort at goal was comfortably saved by Hilde Gunn Olsen.
The hosts had been fairly quiet in the opening exchanges but they burst into life after the quarter-of-an-hour mark.
Beth Mead had strong claims for a penalty turned down after being bundled over by Meaghan Sargeant and on 19 minutes Mead set up Emma Kelly but her powerful shot was well blocked by Marisa Ewers.
Just minutes later Mead threaded Madelaine Hill clear one-on-one with Sophie Baggaley but the Blues goalkeeper was quick off her line to make an important block.
Blues themselves had a penalty shout for a handball turned down and both Mead and Kerys Harrop exchanged shots at goal before the visitors went ahead with 35 minutes on the clock.
Lawley delivered a dangerous free kick it from the right which dropped nicely for Harrop who turned and shot at goal, her effort taking a big deflection its way into he back of the net.
Less than a minute later the Blues were handed a gift of a second Olsen failed to control a pass from Peplow and Kirsty Linnett had the simple task of placing the ball into an empty net.
Baggaley was forced into another superb stop in first half injury time as she pushed Kelly’s shot away for a corner and there was still time for Parker’s side to score a third as Charlie Wellings converted a Lawley free kick at the far post.
The Blues picked up where they left off after the break and it took just five minutes for them to add to their tally when Linnett saw Olsen off her line and hit an audacious 35-yard shot which drifted into the back of the net.
At the other end Mead was proving to be a constant threat and she made space for a shot on the edge of the area before testing Baggaley again but the Blues keeper produced another excellent full stretch save.
It was not long before Linnett bagged what was a deserved hat-trick as she was picked out unmarked by a Lawley corner and the Blues striker made no mistake with her header to bag a third.
Sunderland managed to pull one goal back and it was the impressive Mead who deservedly got her name on the scoresheet in the 67th minute.
The Sunderland striker showed quick feet to fool two Blues players before finally beating Baggeley with a powerful drive.
Home joy lasted just two minutes however as Ayisi burst into the box to score a sixth with a low shot past the helpless Olsen.
Ayisi came close to scoring a second on 72 minutes after showing great skill to turn her marker but her low effort from the edge of the area brushed the wrong side of the side netting.
The visitors went on to dominate the final 15 minutes and they added one further goal to their tally following an excellent passing move which ended with Coral Haines converting Alex Windell’s cross from the right in the 77th minute.
A seventh win of the season means Parker’s side finish fourth in the table, five points behind third-placed Arsenal.
Team: Baggeley, Windell, Ewers (Hegerber 82), Sargeant, Harrop, Carter (Stringer 59), Haines, Peplow, Lawley, Linnett, Wellings (Ayisi 59)
Subs not used – Berger, Mannion