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Villa edge out Millwall
 Women's Football News 12 Jul 2015
 
Villa edge out Millwall - 12 Jul 2015 - Women's Football NewsAston Villa 2 (Wilkinson 27, Merrick 90) Millwall Lionesses 1 (Maple 90)
Aston Villa moved into fourth place in the WSL 2 table after narrowly getting the better of Millwall Lionesses in an entertaining encounter at Sutton Coldfield. 
 
After leading for much of the match through Katie Wilkinson's first half strike, Villa withstood a second half onslaught from Millwall before Beth Merrick sealed the points in injury time, despite Lilli Maple's late reply.
 
Both teams took a little time to settle down during the early stages as both showed signs of rustiness following the mid-season break. The game came to life on the quarter hour with Millwall creating the first chance, a good passing move ending with Rinsola Babajide having a shot saved by Jess Myers.
 
Villa hit back straight away with Merrick planting a great through ball, Sarah Quantrill coming off her line to save at the feet of Olivia Fergusson and Sherry McCue firing the loose ball over the bar. Katie Wilkinson tried her luck from long range with an effort that flew over the bar as Villa were looking the likelier side at this stage.
 
Fergusson and Merrick were looking lively down the flanks and Villa's good spell brought reward just before the half hour when they took the lead. Alicia Robinson's cross from the right brought a miscued clearance by Naomi Cole under pressure from Fergusson and Wilkinson pounced to drive a low shot past Quantrill and into the corner of the net.
 
Millwall tried to reply quickly with Ashlee Hincks' flick releasing Babajide who got past Myers and tried to find Lillie Billson in the middle but Emily Owen reacted quickly to get back and make a vital interception.
 
Wilkinson and Hincks had free kicks at either end saved but Villa had looked the brighter side during the first half and were worthy of their lead at the interval.
 
Millwall picked up the pace from the start of the second half and won an early corner, from which Billson had two well struck shots charged down. They were to go even closer shortly afterwards when Grace Fisk's pass found Ciara Sherwood in space in the area but her lob over Myers came back off the bar.
 
The skilful Babajide was causing problems down the left and another run took her to the line where her cross was diverted goalwards by Lauren Haynes but Myers came to the rescue with a fine reaction save. Babajide did get the ball in the net three minutes later but an offside flag only added to Millwall's frustrations.
 
Villa had found themselves under heavy pressure but, marshalled well by Owen in the centre, they rode out the storm and began to look dangerous again going forward. Indeed, Abi Cottam could have doubled their lead within two minutes of coming on as a substitute, as she was played in by Wilkinson's pass but Quantrill made a good block with her legs.
 
The roles were reversed five minutes later as Cottam won possession and slipped a through ball to Wilkinson but Quantrill again saved her side but touching the resulting shot onto the post, Dionne Lennon managing to get back and block the rebound from the Villa striker.
 
Millwall continued to press for an equaliser with some neat approach play whilst Villa continued to look sharp on the break. Villa had strong claims for a penalty turned down when Cottam appeared to have been barged over by Frankie Strugnell.
 
An inswinging corner by Hincks almost led to an equaliser but McCue was well positioned to head off the line. Millwall were hampered by going down to ten players when Cole limped off but still pushed hard to try and get back on terms, however as the game entered injury time, they were hit on the counter attack.
 
Katy Moran won the ball from Billson on the edge of the area and Villa were away, Cottam's pass releasing Wilkinson down the right where her pinpoint cross picked out Merrick to make no mistake from close range.
 
Millwall did give themselves some hope two minutes later when Maple flicked home a Hincks corner at the near post but there was no more time to try and salvage a point and Villa celebrated their third win in four matches, to keep themselves on the fringes of the promotion race. 
 
Aston Villa: Jess Myers, Laura Cooper, Hannah George, Sherry McCue, Emily Owen, Lauren Haynes, Olivia Fergusson (sub Abi Cottam 60mins), Katy Moran, Katie Wilkinson, Beth Merrick, Alicia Robinson (sub Abbey Leigh Stringer 73mins). Subs not used: Hayley Crackle, Georgia Griffiths, Maddy Cusack, Chloe Beattie, Amy West.

Millwall Lionesses: Sarah Quantrill, Leanne Cowan, Frankie Strugnell, Francesca Ali (sub Jordan Butler 76mins), Naomi Cole, Dionne Lennon, Grace Fisk (sub Lilli Maple 60mins), Lillie Billson, Ciara Sherwood (sub Meghan McKeag 66mins), Ashlee Hincks, Rinsola Babajide. Subs not used: Frankie Gibbs, Danielle Carlton, Megan Goss. 
 
Photos:

(top) Sarah Quantrill makes a good save at the feet of Olivia Fergusson
(middle) Emily Owen slides in for a vital interception to deny Rinsola Babajide
(bottom) Lilli Maple scores Millwall's consolation goal


 
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