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Villa eclipse steely Sheffield
 Women's Football News 23 Mar 2015
Villa eclipse steely Sheffield - 23 Mar 2015 - Women's Football NewsAston Villa 2 Sheffield FC 0
A very impressive team display saw FA WSL 2 Aston Villa safely into the last eight of the FA Women's Cup at the expense of FAWPL Northern Division Sheffield FC at Sutton Coldfield. 
Two quickfire strikes midway through the second half broke the dogged resistance of the South Yorkshire visitors who had seen plenty of possession but were unable to find way past the well organised Villa defence. The home team had created the majority of clear cut chances throughout but up until Katie Wilkinson's penalty conversion on 66 minutes and Olivia Fergusson's solo effort four minutes later, they had been frustrated by good Sheffield defending and saves by Claire Wallhead.
Villa started brightly and were quick to threaten. Sarah Mayling delivered a free kick to the far post which Wallhead punched away under pressure. Beth Merrick sent two dangerous inswinging left side corners which somehow evaded everyone, then Kerri Welsh hit a low shot across Wallhead which was pushed out towards Mayling, whose effort was blocked. The best chance came when Sherry McCue played a nice through pass for Mayling running clear but her effort was pulled wide of the far post.
After a difficult opening fifteen minutes, Sheffield settled well and started to test the Villa defence. Jodie Michalska broke free on the right and crossed for a Suzanne Davies header which was held by Caitlin Leach on 21 minutes, Lisa Giampalma then set up Michalska for an effort which flew just the bar The game had assumed a more balanced look but it was still Villa who posed the clearer threat. Wilkinson had a cross shot well held and Welsh again tested Wallhead on the half hour. Some excellent individual battles were a major feature, with Michalska up against Jade Richards and Hayley Crackle and Wilkinson often doubling up to test Ellie Gilliatt on the Sheffield left. A blank scoreline at the interval showed both defenders had done their job well.
Merrick had the first shot for Villa on the restart, followed by Katy Moran. A Merrick free kick was then met by Moran's head at the far post, but the ball was deflected just wide on 54 minutes. The hosts were starting to find more space but it was Fergusson's introduction which sparked them into a decisive lead. Merrick did very well to win a challenge which led to Fergusson and Gilliatt chasing the loose ball into the area. The Sheffield defender was adjudged to have fouled Fergusson and Wilkinson dispatched the spot kick.
Worse was to follow for the visitors as Fergusson powered her way from midfield through three challenges, each time the ball fell kindly for her and allowed a powerful finish from just inside the area, an excellent solo goal to put Villa two up on 69 minutes.
Sheffield kept battling on but could not trouble Villa defence, only Michalska's curling snap shot on 73 minutes threatening Leach's goal. Merrick nearly added a third with a powerful long range shot inches over and Villa seemed to be comfortable as the match moved into added time.
In fact. the visitors mounted a stirring last few minutes as they finally unlocked the previously secure home back four. Michalska broke clear, rounded Leach and shot from a narrow angle only for great defensive clearance to deny her. Then Giampalma had a snap shot from a cross deflected away and finally Richards capped an outstanding display with a towering headed clearance from a dangerous corner to seal the clean sheet.
In truth, it was too late for Sheffield despite a very worthy display. Villa deserved their win and will await the quarter final draw with interest. Everyone contributed well on the day with a number of highly impressive performances from this young and talented team. 
Aston Villa: Caitlin Leach, Hayley Crackle, Hannah George, Sherry McCue, Jade Richards, Katie Wilkinson, Sarah Mayling, Katy Moran, Emily Owen Beth Merrick, Kerri Welsh. Subs: Maddy Cusack, Olivia Fergusson, Alicia Robinson, Lauren Haynes, Jess Myers.

Sheffield FC: Claire Wallhead, Rebecca Lee, Billie Murphy, Danielle Cox, Billie Murphy, Ellie Gilliatt, Lisa Giampalma, Kerry Parkin, Lynn Goodman, Suzanne Davies, Jodie Michalska, Emma Johnson. Subs: Jess Horsley, Carla Ward, Chloe Dixon, Amy Beanland.

(Report by Patrick Higgins)

Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:

(top) Jade Richards clears away from Jodie Michalska
(middle) Billie Murphy is challenged by Katie Wilkinson
(bottom) Olivia Fergusson scores Aston Villa's second goal

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