Previewing Aston Villa Ladies v Brighton and Hove Albion Ladies

Aston Villa Ladies are back in action this weekend against newly promoted Brighton and Hove Albion Ladies.

After being knocked out of the SSE Women’s FA Cup by Sunderland two weeks ago, the claret and blues have had a week to recover.

Back at The Lamb, in front of a loud home crowd, Villa will be looking to get back to winning ways against Brighton.

In their last Spring Series game, where they were held by Oxford United Women, Villa reverted to a traditional back four as Ron Mellor took over the reins at the top with head coach Joe Hunt away on paternity leave.

Made up of Alice Hassall, Elisha N’Dow, Jade Richards and Hannah George; the quartet bagged themselves a clean sheet against Oxford – showing their resilience.

Ini Umotong provided tough competition for the Villa defence, however they stood firm for 90 minutes ensuring that they came away with a point despite sustained pressure.

Dubbed the ‘Great Wall of China’ by chairman Dr. Tony Xia, they lived up to their name.

Looking ahead, there are not any fresh injury concerns for Mellor’s team. Maddy Cusack remains out with a knee problem, that is likely to see her sidelined for the rest of the season. While Katie Wilkinson is still on the road to recovery following her long injury set back that she sustained in training last season.

An Interview with Maddy Cusack

In a youthful team where many of the girls have grown up together, having come through the talented Centre of Excellence, there is a sense of unity and togetherness within the squad. Win together, lose together.

Through the Centre, a quality that is taught is versatility. Enabling the girls to play in a number of positions when required, midfielder and England international Maddy Cusack has been called upon to be just that.

A key figure in Villa’s first team in recent years, former of Nottingham Forest and Leicester City central midfielder Cusack has been called upon to play in the middle of a back three in the absence of Chloe Jones, Elisha N’Dow and Jade Richards. In the game against Millwall you would have thought she had been a defender for you with a calm and assuring performance in the heart of defence.

A fan favourite and a much loved player in the dressing room, the 20-year-old is known for a crunching tackle and driving runs. An unsung hero who does the dirty work in the middle of the park, Cusack breaks down opposition play before starting a Villa attack.

I spoke to the midfielder about the season so far, their game against Watford at Villa Park, full-time contracts and growth in the game.

What have you made of the season so far?

It has been full of ups and downs. We’ve been inconsistent at times, playing really well one week and then not so well the next.

What has been your standout performance so far this season?

As a team I thought we played really well against Bristol at home. It was a big game for us and we had to get something from it. [The Ladies came back from behind twice to draw 2-2]

Are you looking forward to playing at Villa Park later this year?

Yes! Played there once before and it was unreal. The pitch is like a carpet!

Is it difficult being part-time, having to balance football with university?

Yes definitely. Sometimes I would leave the house at nine for uni and not be back until 10:30 at night after training! It’s like that for a lot of us though so you just have to plan ahead as much as possible.

Have you seen growth in the game since the World’s World Cup, ie in attendances home and away?

Definitely. There is so much more coverage from the press, on TV, etc. We’re always trying to build up our profile and increase our home attendances. But yes, people are more aware and interested in women’s football now.

Finally, what is your personal goal for the rest of the season?

To play the best that I can in each game and be consistent. Wouldn’t mind scoring a couple either!

Oxford United Women 0-0 Aston Villa Ladies

Aston Villa Ladies and Oxford United Women played out for a draw, in an entertainingly open contest.

The result sees no movement for Villa, however Oxford move up the table thanks to a superb performance by Ini Umotong.

Ini Umotong, leading the line for Oxford United Women and current top goal scorer with two goals this season, was at the heart of all the Yellows’ attacks. However, centre-back Jade Richards was equal to it on each occasion.

The striker had the first chance of the game, after doing the dirty work. Tracking back, she won the ball in the middle of the park before releasing a long-range effort that went wide of the post.

The teams couldn’t be separated in an evenly matched first 45; with notable attempts by Alys Hinchcliffe, Beth Merrick, Emily Donovan and Jess Frampton.

Despite Villa having the lion share of possession, they lacked an incisive final ball to break down the opposition’s defence.

However, it was Oxford who looked the most likely to score on the break thanks to the pace of their front two that they possessed on the counter attack.

Minutes after the restart, Oxford looked to do just that. Umotong saw her driven shot well saved by Claire Skinner before seeing a bullet header cannon back of the crossbar.

Villa responded as Tash Baptiste had two chances in quick succession. Good play by Beth Merrick on the right wing opened up the opposition, yet Demi Lambourne kept them out.

Merrick looked dangerous on the right flank for Villa, causing problems along the Oxford back line.

Yet, neither team could find a way through two resilient sets of defences. Despite the Yellows’ persistent pressure on the Villa goal, Elisha N’Dow and Richards held firm to keep their first clean sheet of the Spring Series.

TEAMS:

Aston Villa Ladies (4-4-1-1): Skinner, George, Jones, N’Dow, Richards, Hassall, Moran, Hinchcliffe (Dale 74’), Merrick, Rouse (Shepherd 55’), Baptiste

Subs: Beattie, Crackle, Welsh, Porter, Potts, Shepherd, Dale

Oxford United: (4-3-1-2): Lamboure, Frampton, Haynes, Casley, Ini Umotong, Gane, Pickett, Franklin-Fraiture, Oliver, Donovan

Subs: Thomas, Deeley, Baker, Noble

Featured: Aston Villa Ladies FA Cup Run

After reaching the quarter finals for the last two seasons, Aston Villa Ladies went into this year’s competition with confidence.

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Click the map to see how Aston Villa’s Cup Run took them all over the country.

The claret and blues were handed a favourable third round draw, where they went into the tie as favourites. Cambridge United Women of the Southern Premier League visited the new home of Villa Ladies – The Lamb, looking to progress into the next round.

However, it was the hosts who came out on top emphatically. Goals from Maddy Cusack, Beth Merrick, Chloe Dale, Chloe Jones, two from Mollie Rouse and debutant Alice Hassall secured a thrashing of the Us to ensure Villa’s place in the fourth round.

Check out the video below as Villa Ladies fans are in agreement that the game against Cambridge United was their favourite game of the 2016/17 Women’s FA Cup run.

Do you agree with the fans? Vote below:

 

The draw for the fourth round saw an old face resurface. Coventry United Women, Villa’s next opponents, have much in common with the Lionesses.

Several of the 22 players have played for both teams during their playing careers so far, including Aston Villa Ladies’ skipper Katy Moran who was returning from six months on the sidelines.

In what was a cagey affair, Villa came out on top with a 0-1 victory over their local rivals. With both sets of fans enjoying some friendly banter between themselves in the terraces, the atmosphere transferred to the pitch with feisty periods of play between old friends, who are now arch enemies.

Moran got the deciding goal with a beautifully taken half volley against her former side. The 25-year-old, on her return to the first team, sealed Villa’s place in the fifth round.

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Yet it wasn’t meant to be for Aston Villa Ladies.

With Women’s Super League 1 opposition joining the competition at this stage, it was almost inevitable that the claret and blues would draw a team from the highest league in women’s football.

The Black Cats provided tough competition and came out of the 90 minutes with the victory.

Unfortunately for Villa, despite equalising twice to get back to level playing fields – the quality of WSL 1 Sunderland was all too much.

 

An Interview with Katy Moran

Aston Villa Ladies captain Katy Moran was frustrated by the lack of chances the claret and blues put away in their game against Oxford United.

She said: “We didn’t take our chances again but equally we defended well; they didn’t score, we kept them out.”

It’s not often a 25-year-old can say that they are one of the oldest players in a team. However, for Moran it’s something that she’s become used to saying.

Aston Villa Ladies are a young, upcoming group of players who are all determined to produce performances that they can be proud of. An attitude reflected in skipper Katy Moran. The former Birmingham City midfielder is a disciplined all-rounder and has been keen to nurture the younger players of the team since taking on the captaincy at the start of last season.

After returning to the first team, following six months on the sidelines, Moran has fitted back into the side with ease.

She explained: “I am getting back to fitness. Obviously, it takes a while to get back to fitness after six months out but I’m getting there.

“The girls keep me going and I’m training much more than I was before. So yes, I am getting there.”

With those words a relief to both coaching staff, players and supporters alike she scored her first goal since coming back into the fray against Coventry United – where she started her career – whilst adding stability to the middle of the park.

The game against Oxford United was Moran’s third game of the season, where she lead the team out after Beth Merrick returned the armband back to the experienced midfielder.

Reflecting on the game post-match, Moran said: “A point is a point at the day. We are still unbeaten but we are a bit frustrated with how the game went.

“It was end to end in the last 10 minutes. So, we have come away with a draw and we’re quite happy.”

Having been with the club for over five years, Moran has seen the changes that have been made to women’s football. Aston Villa have supported the Ladies side in the progression, which has included a move to Bodymoor Heath where they have been training twice a week.

With a new owner, the Ladies can only hope for more support from Dr. Tony Xia – who even mentioned a trip to India for the girls – in order to become a full time team; an ambition shared by Moran.

But, her main focus remained on the up and coming game against Sunderland in the 5th Round of the Women’s FA Cup.

She said: “We always do well against Women’s Super League 1 sides and we always step up our game.

“It is away from home but obviously, we have got nothing to lose. We are the underdogs, we can go there and we can pinch a win and get through to the next round. Hopefully we can reach the quarter finals for the third year running.”