West Ham United Women climbed to sixth position in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League table with a narrow 1-0 victory over Birmingham City.
In a hotly contested match at St Andrew’s, Adriana Leon’s second goal of the season was enough to claim victory - her first goal since returning from her long-term absence.
The Hammers didn’t have it all their own way, though, with the Blues making it difficult for Olli Harder’s side at times in the match.
However, it was one stand-out piece of quality in the match that proved the difference as Kateřina Svitková’s superb delivery from a corner found Leon in the box just before the break.
Irons boss Harder made four changes to the side that lost 4-1 to Chelsea on Thursday evening – with Anna Leat, Abbey-Leigh Stringer, Emma Snerle and Adriana Leon all coming in.
The Hammers looked to sound out their opponents in the opening exchanges with Kate Longhurst playing balls in behind for both Snerle and Leon to run onto, but both were just overhit and collected by Marie Hourihan in the Birmingham goal.
There was very little to separate either side in the opening 15 minutes, with Harder’s team looking to play their way out, and the hosts pressing from the front, squeezing West Ham at every opportunity.
The first real moment of quality came from Dagný Brynjarsdóttir on 21 minutes. The midfielder flicked the ball in behind the Birmingham defence, but it was just beyond the reaching Snerle and Hourihan was able to claim.
A stoppage in play then followed immediately after as the assistant referee, Stacey Fullicks required treatment after falling. She left the field on a stretcher and play resumed.
Leat was called into action moments later for the first time in the game, denying Lucy Quinn from close range – pushing the ball behind for a corner.
The Hammers took the lead with 41 minutes on the clock. A wonderful corner-kick delivery from Svitková fell straight into the path of Leon, who notched her second goal of the season – and her first since returning from injury.
Eleven minutes of injury time were needed at the end of the first half, mostly due to the injury to the assistant referee. Birmingham nearly levelled during this period, but Lucy Quinn couldn’t keep her effort down after a misplaced pass from Brynjarsdóttir.
Svitková then had an opportunity to double the lead just before the break, but her shot from the edge of the area was charged down well by the home side defence.
The second half began in similar style to the first, with little in the way of chances for either side – with both teams struggling to maintain possession for long spells.
And that was how it remained for some time – as Harder went to the bench to bring on Yui Hasegawa and Tameka Yallop to inject some more energy in the middle of the park.
Svitková delivered a lovely ball into the area that looked destined to be met by Claudia Walker, but the ball evaded the forward at the vital moment.
Tameka Yallop was next up to try and double the lead, but her driven strike was well saved by Hourihan, who was certainly the busier of the two goalkeepers throughout the afternoon.
But Birmingham were by no means out of the contest themselves, and Hawa Cissoko had to be alert to make sure that Emily Whelan didn’t connect with a cross from the far side.
Cissoko was again involved, as she atoned for a mistake by making a goal saving challenge to deny Christie Murray. Play resumed and the Hammers broke away, but Lisa Evans’ shot flew wide of the post from the subsequent counter attack.
In an end-to-end game, Leon’s goal proved to be the difference, as the Hammers climbed to sixth in the WSL standings.
Birmingham City: Hourihan, Scott, Quinn (c), Sarri, Robertson, Murray, Smith (Ryan-Doyle 74), Finn, Quinn (Whelan 74), Holloway, Lawley.
Unused Subs: Jones, Simkin, Jenner, Cowie, Timms, Cole.
West Ham United: Leat, Flaherty (c), Cissoko (Joel 83), Parker; Svitková, Longhurst, Brynjarsdóttir, Stringer (Filis 83), Snerle (Hasegawa 60), Leon (Yallop 60), Walker (Evans 70).
Unused Subs: Arnold, Houssein.
Y/C: Stringer 45+9, Yallop 88, Longhurst 90, Svitková 90
Goals: Leon 41