Southampton FC Women kicked off their April with a 2-1 defeat at Birmingham City's St Andrew’s Stadium.
A penalty each end converted by Jade Pennock and Ella Pusey kept the game at equals for the majority of the encounter at St Andrew's, with the home side able to sneak the win through an Ashley Hodson counter goal.
It could have been a nightmare start for Saints within the first minute as a poorly weighted pass unleashed Jade Pennock down the right hand-side, who was able to find her teammate in the box.
Kayla Rendell was out to collect quickly, but had the ball kicked from her hands into the back of the net; the referee was quick to blow his whistle in Saints’ favour.
Birmingham threatened again in the 9th minute as Rosie Parnell allowed her player too much time on the ball after believing it was out, the Blues player delivering to Pennock in the middle, whose header flew narrowly over the crossbar.
The home side looked the brighter in the opening 15, with Saints struggling to get a hold of the ball on the damp St Andrew’s turf.
There was an extended stoppage to play in the 18th minute as Birmingham City’s Siobhan Wilson received treatment before being carried off the field before play resumed.
Saints had their best opportunity of the game less than ten minutes later, as they worked the ball well around the back of the opposition box, fashioning space and time for Lucia Kendall to strike - her effort skimming off the top of the crossbar and away.
Captain Rosie Parnell was on hand to keep things level in the 29th minute, heading off the line as Rendell went out to shut down her player unsuccessfully.
However, Blues were awarded a penalty for a challenge on the very edge of the box; Pennock stepping up to convert, despite Rendell going the correct way.
Beth Lumsden tested the keeper not long after, forcing Lucy Thomas into a low save to not only deny the number 10, but also an onrushing Megan Collett at the back post.
With Saints getting in and around the danger zone, it was Birmingham who were next to slip up with some last-ditch defending. A melee in the box saw the referee once again point to the spot, but this time in the visiting side’s favour.With penalty taking Paige Peake on the bench, it was Ella Pusey who stepped up to take, sending the keeper the wrong way and bringing Saints back equal just before half time.
Marieanne Spacey-Cale made two half time changes to provide different options in attack, with Sophia Pharoah and Katie Wilkinson replacing Alice Griffiths and Beth Lumsden.
Despite the injection of fresh legs, the first 15 minutes of the second half were somewhat flat for both sides.
Birmingham City were unlucky not to be ahead in the 62nd minute however, as a stray Peplow ball saw Abbi Jenner turn Laura Rafferty and slide a ball across the box. An onrushing Pennock was left with her head in her hands as she sent her shot well over the crossbar.
The end to end nature of the game was highlighted as some neat play from Pusey saw her twist and turn past her player before being brought down in the box. The referee waved away any call, much to the disapproval of the travelling Saints contingent.
It was Birmingham City who were able to make their opportunity back up the other end count though, as substitute Ashley Hodson raced forward and slotted low and hard into the bottom corner past Rendell in the 73rd minute.
Another change for Spacey-Cale's side saw Lexi Lloyd-Smith replace Rafferty in another attacking throw of the dice, with Saints searching for that late equaliser.
Birmingham City were content with a slim lead, starting to hold the ball in the corner from just after the 80th minute, before bringing on a full contingent of substitutes to see out the game.
Megan Wynne was the next Saints player to enter the fray, replacing Pusey with less than five minutes of normal time to play.
The Welsh international went agonisingly close to getting the equaliser too, heading high onto the crossbar from a well-placed Lexi Lloyd-Smith cross in injury time.
However, it was not to be for Saints, who suffered defeat at the hands of an experienced Birmingham City.
Marieanne Spacey-Cale's side will have time to rebuild over the international break, ready to go again against London City Lionesses.