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Millwall Lionesses 1 (Babajide 25) Aston Villa 2 (Merrick 63, Wilkinson 80)
Katie Wilkinson's stunning overhead kick earned Aston Villa a memorable win over Millwall Lionesses at The Den.
The WSL 2 meeting followed a similar pattern to the same fixture last season - late goals albeit not quite a stoppage time turnaround. Rinsola Babjide gave the home side a first half lead before strikes from Beth Merrick and Wilkinson turned the game on its head.
The early stages saw the visitors settle the quicker, passing the ball well and patient in their build up play. Their first meaningful attack arrived after seven minutes - Alicia Robinson's delightful reverse through ball finding Olivia Fergusson who was adjudged as offside.
The Lionesses began to settle and carve chances of their own. Danielle Carlton's audacious strike from 40 yards edged narrowly over the target, earning applause from the crowd.
Babajide was a menace down the left flank the last time the two sides met at Sutton yet this time she played down the middle. The striker had a good chance to break the deadlock but could not steer her effort from close range on target. However, she did give her side the lead after 25 minutes - powering home a confident finish after a sustained period of Millwall pressure.
With their tails up, the South Londoners could have extended their lead in a dominant spell. A neat move saw Fliss Gibbons play in Ciara Sherwood, who couldn't keep her shot down. Moments later, scorer Babajide held the ball up, unleashed a strike which was clawed away by Caitlin Leach - a good strike and equally impressive save.
The visitors battled and then reverted to their traditional passing game. A lovely reverse ball by Robinson found Stringer and her cross was inches over the head of Wilkinson. Villa increased their tempo as joint top scorer Fergusson went close twice in a minute. The winger was played through but goalkeeper Sarah Quantrill came to her feet to save.
Fergusson then switched to the right, tricked her way into the box and was unfortunate to see her power driver from a difficult angle edge just wide and into the side netting.
Joe Hunt's outfit were not to be denied for long, though and were level just after an hour. A super lofted ball over the top from Wilkinson found Merrick who finished with supreme confidence. Such was their determination to maintain momentum and push on, there was little celebration - a quick pat on the back for Merrick as a sea of yellow shirts charged back to the halfway line.
From there on in Villa looked the more likely as they forced their opponents back. With just under a quarter of an hour remaining, Lauren Haynes was inches from netting after meeting Merrick's well executed free kick.
Then came the game's main talking point and one not to be missed on the highlights package - Wilkinson meeting a superb cross and rifling an overhead kick past Quantrill.
Hunt's team battled and were resolute on. Haynes did well to block Fliss Gibbons' goalbound strike while goalkeeper Leach made the necessary interventions.
Millwall Lionesses: Sarah Quantrill, Leanne Cowan, Dionne Lennon, Danielle Carlton, Francesca Strugnell, Grace Fisk, Lilli Maple (sub Ashlee Hincks 59mins), Megan Goss (sub Naomi Cole 68mins), Ciara Sherwood (sub Francesca Ali 77mins), Fliss Gibbons, Rinsola Babajide. Subs not used: Bethany Harford, Meghan McKeag.
Aston Villa: Caitlin Leach, Maddy Cusack, Lauren Haynes, Jade Richards, Hannah George, Sherry McCue, Alicia Robinson, Abbey Leigh Stringer (sub Mollie Rouse 59mins), Olivia Fergusson, Katie Wilkinson, Bethan Merrick. Subs not used: Georgia Griffiths, Elisha N'Dow, Amy West, Jess Myers, Laura Cooper.
(Report by www.fawsl.com)
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