A goal either side of half-time – one an own-goal and another an exquisite chip from Jill Scott – were enough for the three points, as the Blues clinched their second successive league victory following their triumph at Arsenal Ladies on Sunday.
For this encounter, Cushing opted to field the same team that won at Meadow Park, as his side sought to climb to the summit of the FA Women’s Super League. As it happened though, Birmingham City Ladies’ win at Arsenal in the later kick-off meant they instead pipped the Blues to top spot.
City headed into the clash full of confidence but struggled to gain a foothold in what started out as a scrappy contest.
Bar a couple of dangerous crosses from Isobel Christiansen for the home side, the opening exchanges brought little in terms of real chances until the 9th minute – and that opportunity fell to the visitors. When Everton’s Nikita Parris broke away down the left, she crossed for Simone Magill whose first-time effort was well-parried by Karen Bardsley.
City’s best chance of the first half didn’t arrive until 23 minutes. Betsy Hassett won possession in midfield, heading forward to Toni Duggan. The striker then fed Scott who unleashed an effort that was tipped over the bar by Rachel Brown-Finnis.
A minute later, Steph Houghton's free-kick was pushed wide but from the resulting corner, the hosts opened the scoring. Christiansen's lofted cross to the far post found Krystle Johnston and the forward controlled well before firing a shot across goal which somehow deflected into the back of the net.
With the lead, the Blues took control of the game and looked to double their advantage but Christiansen’s effort flew over and Hassett’s shot trickled wide.
As was the case in the Continental Cup fixture at the Etihad Stadium earlier this month, Parris proved to be the Toffees’ main threat and she almost found an equaliser with some quick-thinking, but her long-range attempt bounced wide of the target.
That was the last of the visitors' attempts in the first-half though and five minutes before the break, Johnston – at the heart of City's attacking prowess throughout – was involved again, crossing for Duggan who planted a header towards goal but into the hands of Brown-Finnis.
The Blues continued where they left off after the break, securing the perfect start after just a minute. Typically, Houghton fought well in the centre to win a tackle, which flew up in the air. As the ball bounced, it bypassed the Everton defender and fell perfectly for Scott, who expertly lobbed the ball over the goalkeeper to give the home side a two-goal cushion against her former club.
The visitors responded well though and almost pulled a goal back immediately. After regaining possession, Kelly Jones bore down on goal but with only Bardsley to beat, the midfielder chose to set up Magill. Once again, Bardsley was equal to it but the ball fell back into the path of Jones, whose shot cannoned off the crossbar.
Cushing’s side heeded the warning. Pressing high and keeping tight to the opposition from then on, Everton were unable to string passes together as they had done for periods of the first half. Restricted to long-range efforts, Danielle Turner fired an effort towards goal but it was comfortable for Bardsley.
Houghton, Hassett and Johnston then tried their luck as City pushed for a third before Scott almost sealed the victory in the dying minutes. Although those in the crowd thought it had gone in, the midfielder's drive had in fact hit the side netting, after she had been put through by Johnston.
The Blues hung on for the three points and another clean sheet, propelling them to second in the FA WSL. On the back of four wins now and four fine performances to boot, City look to have turned their season around after a difficult start.
With so much momentum behind them, perhaps the season break has come at the wrong time for our high-flying side. The next fixture on the calendar is an away trip to Birmingham on Sunday 29 June.
If they can carry their current form into that clash though, a fifth win on the bounce could well be achieved...