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Aston Villa 0 Durham Women 1 (Gears 21)
Aston Villa fell to defeat against a stubborn and resilient Durham at Coles Lane, Nicki Gears scoring the only goal of the game during the first half.
Fresh from their ten-day break following the heavy Continental Cup defeat against local rivals Birmingham City, the claret and blues came out of the traps and were on top from the off. Mollie Rouse made her second consecutive first team appearance and again showed a great deal of promise - spreading the ball and helping turn defence into attack.
She almost gave Villa the lead just two minutes in - meeting Olivia Fergusson's ball across but saw her shot was well gathered by Helen Alderson. Moments later, striker Katie Wilkinson stepped up to hit one of her trademark free kicks from 25 yards but this time it was inches wide of the intended target.
After withstanding early claret and blue pressure, Durham grew into the contest and enjoyed a dominant 20 minute spell. Gears headed wide from a dangerous cross from the left before Jordan Atkinson's low effort was well collected by Jess Myers.
The Villa goalkeeper blocked two efforts from Atkinson in quick succession as the Durham winger was played through. Yet, they weren't to be denied for long, though.
Midway through the first half, Gears reacted quickly to capitalise on a defensive mix up and convert that crucial chance which came their way.
On 29 minutes, Wilkinson was at her brilliant best, threading a pass through the eye of a needle for the onrushing Fergusson - she was adjudged as offside. Academy graduate Rouse was also causing problems - she demonstrated terrific skill in the box but was unable to steer her effort on target.
Forward Wilkinson again crafted a glorious opportunity - feeding Beth Merrick who shot wide. This combination - albeit reversed - almost drew a leveller as Merrick's corner was only partially cleared and Wilkinson's follow up, evidentially on target, was deflected over the crossbar.
It was much of the same after the break. Wilkinson's rasping free kick was spilled by the Wildcats' goalkeeper but there was a foul in the penalty area. At the other end, Lauren Haynes was strong as she raced back towards her own goal to clear Amelia Pereira's low drive which seemed destined to double the advantage.
Substitute Abi Cottam featured for the final 22 minutes and was close to making an immediate impact, winning a corner within seconds of entering the field. Both Cottam and Fergusson had chances to level but could not test Alderson.
In second half stoppage time, the recently introduced Abbey Leigh Stringer's low strike from a right angle was gathered and Durham held out to complete the victory.
Aston Villa: Jess Myers, Maddy Cusack, Lauren Haynes, Elisia N'Dow, Laura Cooper (sub Abbey Leigh Stringer 75mins), Olivia Fergusson, Sherry McCue, Alicia Robinson (sub Abi Cottam 68mins), Mollie Rouse (sub Amy West 83mins), Katie Wilkinson, Beth Merrick. Subs not used: Chloe Beattie, Hayley Crackle, Hannah George, Emily Owen.
Durham Women: Helen Alderson, Lauren Jordinson, Julie Nelson, Sarah Wilson, Jess Havelock, Chloe Macek, Beth Hepple, Natalie Gutteridge (sub Vic Linsley 90mins), Jordan Atkinson (sub Jess White 90mins), Amelia Pereira (sub Erin Kelley 79mins), Nicki Gears. Sub not used: Anna Moorhouse.
(Report by www.fawsl.com)
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