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Aston Villa 1 (Wilkinson 12) Watford 0
Aston Villa produced an awesomely assured performance to see off Watford and beat them 1-0 at Sutton Coldfield.
Katie Wilkinson's goal was the decisive moment as she charged down keeper Lauren Davey with the ball flying directly into the net. The 1-0 scoreline, however, doesn't really do Joe Hunt's side justice as they played slick, incisive football for long periods with Emma Follis a constant menace on the wing.
It could have been a very different story if referee Simon Barrow had awarded a goal to the visitors on five minutes. Kim Farrow crossed from the right and Stacie Donnelly produced a stunning drive which cracked against the bar and down to the ground. The Hornets players and management screamed for a goal but the referee waved away the protests.
The hosts shifted gear from that moment and produced a mighty display. On 12 minutes, Follis headed wide while well placed but that disappointment was short lived.
Seconds later, Wilkinson took a chance by attacking a Davey clearance - it worked beautifully as the ball ricocheted home.
The hosts should have extended their lead before the break but a catalogue of chances went begging. On 20 minutes Wilkinson collected the ball in the middle ground and deliciously found Follis but the wing wonder's shot was straight at the keeper. Two minutes later, Villa had a double chance - Jade Richards miskicked in the box six yards out and then Wilkinson's follow up was brilliantly blocked by Chloe Gunn.
Wilkinson and Follis were proving to be double trouble for the visitors at this point as their pace, poise and power reigned supreme. Wilkinson's throughball to Follis on 28 minutes was too strong as the wide player flew forward while the striker fired over from ten yards out a moment later.
Keeper Davey had to be at her athletic best to tip over Follis's left foot curling drive on 36 minutes and just before the half time whistle, Wilkinson's free kick from 25 yards crashed against the crossbar and over. In between times, Watford's Emma Beckett tried her luck with a stunning strike from just outside the box but Caitlin Leach made a fine stop.
John Salomon, the visitors' boss, had his players in a huddle just before the restart - perhaps evidence of his desire to see them impose themselves more on the contest. It worked as the Hornets came back strongly after the break.
It was a much more even contest although the best opportunities still fell to the hosts. Wikinson's shot from the left side of the box was expertly saved just after the hour mark while moments before the final whistle, Dani Petrovic should have doubled the advantage, heading wide at the back post with the goal at her mercy.
The skipper won't have been too concerned though as the maximum haul ensured the team's fourth win on the spin.
Aston Villa: Caitlin Leach, Hayley Crackle, Chloe Jones, Sherry McCue, Dani Petrovic, Jade Richards, Emma Follis, Maddy Cusack, Katie Wilkinson, Sarah Mayling (sub Lauren Walker 64mins)], Alicia Robinson. Subs not used: Carly Davies, Chloe Beattie, Elisha N'Dow, Olivia Fergusson, Beth Merrick, Natasha Baptiste.
Watford: Lauren Davey, Ellie Butterwick, Chloe Gunn, Josie Green, Renee Hector, Leighanne Robe, Emma Beckett (sub Ella Hill 68mins), Stacie Donnelly (sub Paige Logie 62mins), Kate Natkiel (sub Hollie Wride 79mins), Megan Wynne, Kim Farrow. Subs not used: Shayla Burgess.
(Report by www.fawsl.com)
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