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Bristol Academy 2 (Harding 58, McCatty 73) Aston Villa 1 (Davies 40)
Two second half goals kept alive Bristol Academy's chances of reaching the Continental Cup semi finals after they were given a scare by Aston Villa.
The home side were playing their first match following the break and took a long time to get going against a plucky Villa side which included several 17-year-olds and were without Sherry McCue and cup tied Katie Wilkinson.
Sarah Mayling had been moved into a central striker role and she tested Mary Earps with a strike early on but Villa were dealt a blow when Hayley Crackle was stretchered off with an ankle injury.
The reshuffle did not affect Villa though and they also looked dangerous going forward with the strong running Carly Davies breaking into the area before her shot hit the side netting.
Academy finally started to carve out chances themselves though and a good run down the left by Natalia saw her low cross pick out an unmarked Nikki Watts but she sidefooted her effort wide. Natalia herself produced a snap shot after receiving the ball from a throw in but Caitlin Leach was on hand to save at the near post.
The home side were continually being frustrated by the Villa offside trap, getting caught on a number of occasions, but a break led to them setting up their best chance so far. Laura Del Rio threaded a neat pass into the path of Sophie Ingle whose shot brought out a good save from Leach.
Grace McCatty had a shot deflected wide but just as Academy had enjoyed their best spell so far, it was Villa who opened the scoring. Leach's clearance was flicked on by Mayling and into the path of Davies who unleashed a strike from 25 yards which appeared to catch out Earps and sailed into the corner of the net.
The home defence were finding it hard to cope with Villa's lively strikers and both Mayling and Davies had shots saved as they tried to increase their lead. Leach made a good stop from Watts at the other end as Villa took their advantage into the interval.
Academy stepped up their game after the break and moved the ball quicker when in possession but at the other end it was Mayling who produced the first effort on goal, a 25-yard strike which was held by Earps.
As the hour mark approached, a good move led to Academy getting back on level terms. Del Rio carried the ball towards the Villa defence and into the area and her pass was cleverly dummied by Angharad James, allowing Natasha Harding to sweep home a right foot shot from ten yards.
Harding was almost in for a second shortly afterwards but was denied by an excellent smothering save from the impressive Leach, who also saved well from Natalia. The Villa side were tiring rapidly and struggling to clear under pressure as the home side further stepped up their game with Natalia just missing the target after evading two defenders.
A free kick led to Academy going in front for the first time; Del Rio's kick was not cleared and the ball bobbled around in front of goal before McCatty made sure from six yards via a deflection off a Villa defender.
Academy sought a third but it would not come as Villa, marshalled by Jade Richards in defence and Elisha N'Dow in front of the back four, fought until the end. Substitutes Frankie Brown and Georgia Evans both had shots which were off target as Academy finished on top and still in Cup contention.
Bristol Academy: Mary Earps, Grace McCatty, Corinne Yorston (sub Frankie Brown 85mins), Loren Dykes, Jemma Rose, Sophie Ingle, Natalia Pablos Sanchon (sub Georgia Evans 88mins), Angharad James, Laura Del Rio, Nikki Watts, Natasha Harding. Subs not used: Cristina Vega Leandro, Rhina Cleverly.
Aston Villa: Caitlin Leach, Hayley Crackle (sub Dani Petrovic 12mins), Lauren Walker, Elisha N'Dow, Maisie Baker (sub Chloe Harper 77mins), Jade Richards, Beth Merrick (sub Emma Baptiste 56mins), Maddy Cusack, Carly Davies, Sarah Mayling, Alicia Robinson. Subs not used: Leanne Bryant, Jess Myers, Amy West, Natasha Baptiste.
(top) Loren Dykes holds off Carly Davies
(middle) Natasha Harding takes on Jade Richards
(bottom) Grace McCatty scores Bristol Academy's winning goal
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