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Aston Villa 2 (Baptiste 84, Merrick 90) Bristol City 2 (Brett 75, Estcourt 85)
Beth Merrick headed an injury time equaliser to earn Aston Villa a share of the spoils and prevent Bristol City from going level on points with WSL 2 leaders Yeovil Town.
In what was a largely even contest, the home side twice came from behind with the game's four goals coming in the final fifteen minutes.
In what was a frantic opening and a high-tempo first period, both outfits failed to create clear cut scoring opportunities. Villa top scorer Katie Wilkinson latched onto Lucy Porter's pinpoint cross but Caitlin Leach was able to save. Both teams were committed and prepared to put bodies on the line, this was demonstrated in a free kick attempt apiece from Bristol's Grace McCatty and Villa's specialist Wilkinson, both bravely blocked.
Joe Hunt's outfit grew into the game and began to dictate play. Ever a threat, Merrick picked up a loose ball but saw her first time strike edge wide.
The visitors went into the contest knowing victory would see them move level on points with table toppers Yeovil and they continued to threaten. Only a fine save from debutant Grace Moloney between the posts denied Claire Emslie from close range.
Moloney, who was serenaded with chants of 'Ireland's number one' throughout looked solid and at home in her new surroundings. A combination of her presence and hurried finishing from the visitors meant the the scores were level at the break - Emslie firing over. At the other end, a neat move involving Sarah Mayling, Wilkinson and Merrick saw the latter's effort drift marginally wide of the intended target drawing applause from the Coles Lane crowd.
The claret and blues carved the better opportunities in what was an equally tight second period. Merrick, a consistent performer in the Villa ranks, caused problems with her exquisite delivery. On 56 minutes, her corner created mayhem in the Vixens' penalty area, skipper Katy Moran being unable to connect.
Clearly sensing the opportunity to secure three priceless points, the game opened up. Wilkinson glanced a header marginally wide from Merrick's free kick after Sarah Mayling had been brought down. Substitute Millie Farrow spurned a glorious chance for City at the other end, unable to keep her shot down when played in. They were ahead five minutes later, through skipper Jodie Brett with a fine effort from 25 yards.
Seeking an immediate response, Hunt introduced the forward thinking Tash Baptiste and Alys Hinchcliffe and they combined superbly to level the scores. New signing Hinchcliffe played in forward Baptise, who was cool and collected at the crucial moment.
In a crazy 60 second period, Willie Kirk's side regained their lead - Charlie Estcourt with the finish. But to their great credit, Villa showed passion and determination in abundance and were level four minutes into stoppage time, Merrick glancing a header home to send Coles Lane into raptures and spark wild celebrations on the touchline.
Aston Villa: Grace Moloney, Lucy Porter, Elisha N'Dow, Chloe Jones, Hannah George, Katy Moran, Maddy Cusack, Beth Merrick, Mollie Rouse (sub Tash Baptiste 78mins), Sarah Mayling (sub Alys Hinchcliffe 80mins), Katie Wilkinson. Subs not used: Chloe Beattie, Jess Myers, Hayley Crackle, Kerri Welsh, Lucy Shepherd.
Bristol City: Caitlin Leach, Frankie Brown (sub Georgia Evans 66mins), Katie Jones, Grace McCatty, Megan Alexander, Charlie Estcourt, Jodie Brett, Loren Dykes (sub Poppy Wilson 75mins), Chloe Arthur, Olivia Fergusson (sub Millie Farrow 50mins), Claire Emslie. Subs not used: Hannah Reid, Paige Sawyer.
(Report by www.fawsl.com)
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