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Aston Villa 0 Watford 1 (Mason 75)
Aston Villa fell to a frustrating home defeat against Watford, who recorded their first league victory of the season, at Sutton Coldfield Town.
Ellie Mason's looping volley fifteen minutes from time sealed victory for the Hornets after the claret and blues had dominated large spells of the contest.
Fresh from a two-week spell without a match, the home side began on the front foot winning a host of set pieces early on. Alicia Robinson shone in the reverse fixture at Vicarage Road and she started this one in a similar fashion. Her effort from 25 yards was saved by Shayla Burgess in the Hornets' goal and her corners caused problems for the visitors' backline.
In his pre-match notes, Villa head coach Joe Hunt heaped praise on Katie Wilkinson and her ability go on a scoring spree once netting from open play and she almost did - meeting Abi Cottam's cross but firing a volley into the arms of Burgess. Six minutes later, the forward was in the thick of the action once more as she called and intercepted a long ball upfield from goalkeeper Jess Myers only to shoot wide of the target.
The visitors grew into the contest and began to threaten the claret and blues' backline. Their first opportunity arrived courtesy of Stacie Donnelly's through ball which was met by Natkiel whose low effort was well saved by Myers. Mason had a couple of decent chances - shooting wide and steering an effort from a difficult angle into the side netting.
As the first period drew to a close, Villa searched for a goal but Wilkinson saw her free kick held by Burgess.
Both teams were out early for the second half - clearly keen to earn three important points. Joe Hunt's side were out of the blocks from the outset - Wilkinson fed Abi Cottam whose shot drifted agonisingly wide of the target. Olivia Fergusson had a couple of chances to net - the first drifting wide and the second excellently saved by the Hornets' stopper.
John Salomon's side had opportunities of their own with Natkiel a threat and saw her power-driver comfortably held by Myers.
With 20 minutes remaining, the game became stretched and a real spectacle. Skipper Sherry McCue led by example and her lofted cross was headed narrowly over the crossbar by substitute Beth Merrick. At the other end, Villa were indebted to their goalkeeper after Natkiel worked her way through, seemed destined to score but Myers blocked and cleared.
However, moments later, Mason gave her side the lead with a well executed volley from just inside the penalty area. To their credit, the hosts continued to work hard but try as they might could not find the much-needed breakthrough.
Aston Villa: Jess Myers, Maisie Baker, Elisha N'Dow, Lauren Haynes, Sherry McCue, Alicia Robinson, Katy Moran, Olivia Fergusson (sub Beth Merrick 63mins) Abi Cottam, Katie Wilkinson, Maddy Cusack. Subs not used: Gwyn West, Hayley Crackle, Lucy Porter, Emily Owen, Laura Cooper.
Watford: Shayla Burgess, Leighanne Robe, Mollie Burgess, Grace Gillard, Emily Heaslip, Stacie Donnell (sub Phoebe Read 90mins), Josie Green, Jenna Dear, Hollie Wride, Katie Natkiel (sub Sasha Adamson 82mins), Ellie Mason (sub Kim Farrow 86mins). Subs not used: Ellie Butterwick, Anneka Nuttall, Degar Zekal, Maddie Scheffer.
(Report by www.fawsl.com)
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