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Women's Football News
Aston Villa 1 (Cottam 88) Everton 2 (N'Dow og 15, Turner 59)
A goal in each half gave Everton the points from a well contested match at Sutton Coldfield to open the WSL 2 season.
Andy Spence's new look team had to withstand a late rally from a spirited Aston Villa side before they could finally celebrate their first league victory since beating Lincoln Ladies 1-0 in September 2013, and their first win of any kind since the semi finals of the FA Women's Cup last year.
Villa went on the attack from the start with Katie Wilkinson forcing a save from debutant goalkeeper Kirstie Levell with a shot from the edge of the area. The resulting corner was headed goalwards by Maddy Cusack but Vicky Jones was well positioned to clear off the line.
Villa had looked lively in the early stages but Everton weathered the storm and produced their first opportunity when Michelle Hinnigan shot wide following a good cut back by Kelly Jones.
The deadlock was broken on the quarter hour, but it was a massive stroke of luck for the visitors. Paige Williams drilled a cross into the area and Jade Richards rose to head away but her clearance cannoned off an unlucky Elisha N'Dow and past a helpless Caitlin Leach on its way into the net.
The goal gave a large boost of confidence to the Everton side and they began to pass the ball around in slick fashion, with Hinnigan at the heart of matters and Lucy Whipp looking sharp up front. One good run from Whipp took her to the goal line where she set up Kelly Jones in front of goal but Emily Owen reacted well to intercept and avert the danger for her side.
Villa also had chances as the half drew to a close, Alicia Robinson driving a long range effort wide and Richards going close with a header from a corner, but Everton closed the half out to take their lead into the interval.
Wilkinson saw a free kick deflected wide early in the second half but Everton began to look dangerous again and their efforts were rewarded just before the hour mark.
Danielle Turner picked the ball up on the edge of the area and drove into the box, going past two defenders before hitting a rising shot into the roof of the net, Leach being beaten by the pace of the strike.
Villa were now committed to pushing forward to try and get themselves back into the game and Everton looked content to hit on the counter attack. This tactic almost paid dividends for the Toffees with Kelly Jones having a shot saved by Leach and Turner going close once again.
The introduction of Kerri Welsh gave Villa some more impetus up front and they never gave up, trying hard to find a way back into the game with Sherry McCue and Robinson working tirelessly in midfield. For Everton, Williams was revelling in an anchor role in front of the back four and displayed an impressive range of passing to instigate a number of attacks throughout the game.
Villa grabbed themselves a lifeline with two minutes left on the clock. Wilkinson's pass released Abi Cottam who broke through on goal and although her initial shot was saved by Levell, the substitute kept her composure to tuck home the rebound and mark her WSL debut with a goal.
Out of the habit of winning matches, Everton understandably looked nervous as Villa launched a desperate attempt to try and salvage a point, and they were grateful to the experience of Lindsay Johnson who kept a cool head to steer her side home. There was a scare for Villa during injury time when the influential McCue hobbled off but she was able to return and complete the game.
Everton's quest to return to the top flight at the first attempt has started well at one of the toughest away games they are likely to play this season and look a useful side on this first showing. Villa meanwhile also showed that they have the potential to be promotion contenders and should not be disheartened by the result.
Aston Villa: Caitlin Leach, Elisha N'Dow (sub Hayley Crackle 73mins), Hannah George, Sherry McCue, Emily Owen, Jade Richards, Olivia Fergusson (sub Abi Cottam 59mins), Maddy Cusack (sub Kerri Welsh 63mins), Katie Wilkinson, Sarah Mayling, Alicia Robinson. Subs not used: Jess Myers, Katy Moran, Beth Merrick.
Everton: Kirstie Levell, Vicky Jones, Danielle Turner, Paige Williams, Ellie Stewart, Gabby George, Danielle Lea (sub Lindsay Johnson 54mins), Michelle Hinnigan (sub Millie Turner 84mins), Lucy Whipp, Claudia Walker (sub Jess King 63mins), Kelly Jones. Subs not used: Megan Walsh, Megan Alexander, Dani Young, Faye Bryson.
(top) Jade Richards goes close with a first half header
(middle) Danielle Turner tries to close down Olivia Fergusson
(bottom) Lucy Whipp shields the ball from Hannah George
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