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London Bees 2 (Whitter 1, Goddard 58) Aston Villa 1 (Owen 27)
Aston Villa fell to only their second league defeat on the road despite dominating large parts of the contest against London Bees at the Hive.
Julian Broomes' Bees side went into the clash as one of the WSL 2's basement duo and understandably lacked confidence and looked a little nervy at the back. However, their effort and endeavour could not be questioned which made it an intriguing contest in front of a bumper crowd.
The home side took the lead just two minutes in, Emma Whitter finishing well following a fine run. But Villa were on the front foot soon after and dictated proceedings from there until the break.
Beth Merrick's free kick was desperately cleared for corner before Olivia Fergusson chased a clever ball over the top but goalkeeper Imogen Riches just arrived first. Fergusson, in particular, caused problems down the Villa right, beating the orange-shirted defenders with ease.
After 22 minutes, Lauren Haynes charged forward, played a neat one-two but edged her shot just wide. Her centre back partner Emily Owen drew Villa level five minutes later when she headed home an excellently executed free kick from right back Laura Cooper just shy of half an hour.
For the hosts, Ashleigh Goddard was found yards from goal but Haynes did well to put her off her shot. The visitors continued to threaten and look the more likely and they came out for the second half in the same vein.
Abbeyleigh Stringer made a fine run into the penalty area but she was just crowded out by the Bees' backline while Wilkinson and Fergusson also went close.
The Barnet-based outfit retook the lead against the run of play as number nine Goddard climbed highest to head home a tricky left wing cross.
Joe Hunt introduced Abi Cottam and she was close to making an immediate impact, dragging an effort wide from a tight angle. They were unfortunate not to level on 66 minutes as Beth Merrick showed great strength to win the ball back, work her way to the edge of the area and unleash a looping effort which was somehow tipped over the bar by Riches in the home goal.
On her return from Birmingham City in the mid-season break, Hunt hailed Stringer's ability on the ball and goal contribution. She demonstrated that skill here, tricking her way into the box and testing Riches with a low drive.
Broomes' outfit were indebted to Riches, who kept her team in the game and arguably sealed victory. Skipper Sherry McCue's volley was palmed around the post before she saved Wilkinson's close range effort after a neat triangle attack. She then clawed Merrick's swerving strike around the post before Cottam fired wide late on.
London Bees: Imogen Riches, Katherine Huggins, Aoife Hurley, Jade Dempster, Kara-May Howes, Ashleigh Goddard (sub Kat Bowers 79mins), Paige Wakefield (sub Billie Brooks 55mins), Rebecca Anderson, Paula Howells, Lucy Loomes (sub Amber Gaylor 66mins), Emma Whitter. Subs not used: Sophie Harris, Sydney Hinchcliffe, Samantha Miller, Andria Georgiou.
Aston Villa: Jess Myers, Laura Cooper, Lauren Haynes, Emily Owen, Hannah George, Sherry McCue, Alicia Robinson, Abbey Leigh Stringer (sub Maddy Cusack 80mins), Olivia Ferguson (sub Abi Cottam 63mins), Katie Wilkinson, Beth Merrick. Subs not used: Georgia Griffiths, Chloe Beattie, Katy Moran, Amy West, Mollie Rouse.
(Report by www.fawsl.com)
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