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Aston Villa 1 (Cusack 47) Durham Women 0
Aston Villa recorded their third consecutive victory after a hard fought battle with Durham Women at Coles Lane.
Maddy Cusack's strike early in the second half proved to be the difference on a sunny afternoon in the Sutton.
Manager Ron Mellor and head coach Joe Hunt named an unchanged starting line-up from the side that comprehensively beat Reading a week ago. Villa started in similar fashion - enjoying plenty of possession and putting their opponents on the back foot.
After just five minutes, top scorer Katie Wilkinson danced around the Durham centre halves but her shot was well held by former Everton goalkeeper Danielle Hill. Defender Jade Richards excelled once more as a defensive and attacking outlet and almost earned an assist but Emma Follis could only drag her shot wide.
Only a last ditch block in the Durham box prevented Hayley Crackle from getting on the scoresheet following her sweet volley. Wilkinson had a glorious opportunity to give her side a half time lead just before the break but she uncharacteristically glanced her header wide.
Whatever the management team said at half time proved effective as Villa were not only out on the field before their opponents but also out of the traps once the second period was underway.
They took the lead in fine style on 47 minutes when Cusack picked up the ball, ran into the box and fired a crisp shot past Hill.
With their tails up and momentum clearly in claret and blue favour Villa almost doubled their lead moments later. An inch perfect free kick headed goalwards by Wilkinson was marginally wide of the target.
To their credit, the visitors quickly realised they had to take the game to their opponents. Villa were indebted to goalkeeper Caitlin Leach who made two stunning saves in quick succession - the first from Jemma Purfield and the second, another close range effort from Beth Hepple after a crisp attacking move down the left flank.
The home side brought on Sarah Mayling and her tireless running and endeavour put Villa back on the front foot.
The points were almost secured on two occasions via Wilkinson. The first attempt - a perfectly hit volley from the edge of the area - drifted inches over and another fine strike crashed off the bar to earn a rapturous applause from the supporters in the stands.
Sherry McCue led example and tracked back when needed. Her well timed tackle thwarted Zoe Ness with the Wildcats striker through on goal.
Villa were almost made to rue those missed opportunities as substitute Meg Lawson struck the bar with a stunning 30-yard effort which in truth would have been harsh on the hosts had it rippled the net.
Aston Villa: Caitlin Leach, Hayley Crackle, Chloe Jones, Sherry McCue, Maisie Baker, Jade Richards, Emma Follis, Katy Moran (sub Elisha N'Dow 25mins), Katie Wilkinson, Maddy Cusack (sub Lauren Walker 75mins), Olivia Fergusson (sub Sarah Mayling 56mins). Subs not used: Natalie Courtney, Dani Petrovic, Carly Davies.
Durham Women: Danielle Hill, Jen King, Jennifer Jennings, Victoria Linsley, Gemma Wilson, Beth Jennings, Beth Hepple, Emily Scott (sub Meg Lawson 85mins), Zoe Ness, Jessica White (sub Courtney Corrie 51mins), Jemma Purfield. Sub not used: Caroline Dixon.
(Report by www.fawsl.com)
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