(Image via Sheffield United Women)
Aston Villa Women have set the pace in the FA Women’s Championship, as they now gear up to face two strong sides in the cup.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
With Aston Villa’s win against Sheffield United Women yesterday, they have set the pace in the FA Women’s Championship with eight games left to play.
Gemma Davies’ brave side are still unbeaten in the league this season and the win against their closest rivals for promotion leaves them now six points ahead of the South Yorkshire outfit who sit in second.
In their first game back after a winter break, the Aston Villa Women started strong with a counter-attack which was shut down well by Sheffield’s Tierney in the first ten minutes, before Emma Follis struck the crossbar with an effort from a free-kick on the ten-minute mark.
Sheffield United also had an opportunity to go ahead via a free-kick a quarter of an hour later, but it was saved comfortably by goalkeeper Sian Rogers – who has grown into an exceptionally confident ‘keeper this season.
Before the end of the first half, Marisa Ewers played in Emily Syme – but her low cross was saved by United’s Flaherty before Aston Villa could capitalise, and Shania Hayles broke on the counter before cutting the ball back for Nadine Hanssen, who struck a long-range effort which was saved.
On the brink of the whistle, both sides had shouts for penalties at either end – which could have turned the tide of the game, but neither was given by the referee.
Twelve minutes into the second half, it was Shania Hayles who proved to be the spark for the Aston Villa Women, with the striker breaking forward again – before she squared the ball to the exceptional Emma Follis, who finished well to put the visitors ahead.
Substitutions came thick and fast in the second half, with Amy West, Sophie Haywood and Jade Richards all getting game time under their belts at the expense of Shania Hayles, Emily Syme and goalscorer Follis.
Fifteen minutes from time, Sheffield United Women put a fright up Aston Villa as they scrambled in the box to try and net an equaliser, but the visitors managed to put the ball out for a throw.
Sian Rogers made an exceptional save two minutes from the end of the regular ninety to keep Villa ahead before the league leaders attempted to keep the ball in the opposition half until the final whistle.
Post-game, match winner Emma Follis was quick to praise the opposition, saying:
“They are a good team and they made it difficult for us to play our football”
“They congest the areas that we want to play in and they really did make it hard for us”
“In the end our quality shone through and we were able to hit them on the break and win”
“It means everything to see all the girls celebrate at the end.”
Aston Villa Women will now be preparing for two important cup games against Women’s Super League sides, with the first coming next weekend as they face a strong Chelsea Women in the Quarter-Final of the Continental Cup – the first-ever game at this stage of the competition for Gemma Davies’ ladies.
They then face Brighton & Hove Albion Women at home in the Fourth Round of the FA Women’s Cup, before turning their attention back to the final eight games of the league campaign.
With tough tests against stronger opposition before the most important run-in of the season,