It’s difficult to call Tottenham Hotspur Women’s 2020-21 WSL season anything but a disappointment, but they certainly ended their campaign on a high note. Spurs snapped a four match losing streak on Sunday as striker Kit Graham scored the match’s only goal in a 1-0 away win over Birmingham City Women at Damson Park in Solihull.
The win was mostly for pride — Tottenham were safe from relegation — but there was a chance that with a loss they could have finished as low as 11th. The win was just their fifth of the season in eighth place, four points behind Reading. Birmingham, by contrast, finished a miserable campaign without a home win all season, and without any win at all in 2021.
Australian central midfielder Alanna Kennedy missed the match after sustaining an injury in training that required minor surgery; on-loan Cho So-Hyun stepped into the starting XI in Kennedy’s place. Jessica Naz also got another start, and while Canadian central defender Shelina Zadorsky, who recently signed a new contract that will keep her at the club until 2022 got the nod alongside Abbie McManus in central defense, the other contract extendee, Rosella Ayane, started on the bench. Former Birmingham City captain Kerys Harrop also started against her old club.
This was the first time these two clubs faced each other this season after Birmingham were forced to forfeit the match at the Hive due to a COVID outbreak among the Blues squad. Birmingham still had the potential to be relegated with a loss and a Bristol City win, but it was Spurs that came out with a greater sense of urgency in the first half. Tottenham had more of the ball in the first period, though it was a half with very few chances for either side. Spurs looked content to try and keep possession and probe Birmingham’s defenses, but rarely got a clear look on target.
With manager Rehanne Skinner audibly barking orders on the sidelines, Spurs looked patient in possession in the opening 45 minutes, but weren’t able to contribute anything significant or dangerous for much of the first half, which ended scoreless.
Birmingham’s best chance of the match came two minutes into the second half after Claudia Walker was able to latch onto a ball into space and dashed 20 yards towards Tottenham keeper Becky Spencer before flashing a shot across the face of goal that went inches wide of the left post.
Tottenham had more chances, especially in the second half, but as has been the case all season were stymied by some wayward midfield passing and their finishing. Ten minutes into the half, Spurs made a double substitution, bringing on Angela Addison and Ayane Chloe Peplow and Lucy Quinn to inject some pace and wide attacking ability. Addison won a free kick just outside of the Birmingham area minutes after coming in and had several threatening runs in the Birmingham half over the course of her shift.
Spurs’ breakthrough didn’t come until the 71st minute and came courtesy of Graham. Zadorsky, who wore the armband for Spurs in this match, picked up the ball in possession just beyond the halfway line and picked a through ball to the feet of Graham near the top of the box. Graham executed a nifty turn, dribbled past a defender, and slotted a left footed shot past keeper Hannah Hampton to give Spurs the lead. It was Graham’s first WSL goal of the season, coming in the last league match of the year.
Birmingham ratcheted up the pressure in the last 20 minutes, pushing forward on numerous occasions and trying to force an equalizer but rarely tested Spencer. Spurs had a couple of half-chances including a lovely run by Addison into space that was flagged for offside and a couple of blocked shots. Spurs were able to easily see off the Birmingham threat and finished the match as 1-0 away winners.
Highlights of the match are below. We’ll be back later with a wrap-up of Spurs’ sophomore WSL season.