Villa Ladies update: Pre-season gears up with Stoke draw
Villa Ladies geared up for the upcoming Super League campaign with a 1-1 home draw with Stoke City Ladies in a pre-season friendly.
Tash Lilly headed the high-flying FA Premier League visitors in front on 18 minutes after a sloppy start from the hosts.
But the claret and blues found their rhythm as the first-half developed and levelled on 32 minutes courtesy of a cracking strike from Bethan Merrick.
Villa Ladies broke at incredible speed, shifting the ball in the midfield three of Sherry McCue, Abbeyleigh Striker and Maddy Cusack, before feeding 18-year-old Merrick on the left.
She cut inside the full-back before unleashing a vicious shot from 20 yards which gave the keeper no chance whatsoever.
Villa Ladies controlled the second half but Stoke Ladies were always a threat on the break.
Both teams had chances to win it but Villa Ladies went closest when shots from Carly Davies and Olivia Fergusson were cleared off the line after terrific wing work from Kelly Clarke [pictured].
Head Coach Joe Hunt said: "It was a great work out for Villa Ladies.
"Credit to Stoke Ladies, I thought they were superb throughout the game.
"They try to play in the right way, organised without the ball and can be physical when they need to be too.
"Their manager, Andrew Frost, has done a wonderful job with them and we're thankful that they took time out of their season to play us.
"You could tell that one team was mid-season and the other was just starting pre-season.
"We had some great periods of play but also times when we looked short of match practice.
"The longer the game went on, though, the more comfortable we looked.
"Sherry McCue and Erin Vaughan were outstanding all evening. Both have gone away over the off-season and worked hard on their game.
"We also had three girls from the U17s make their senior debuts - Maisie Baker, Elisha N'Dow and Chloe Harper. They all had strong performances and certainly didn't look out of place in this environment.
"Credit must go to the Centre of Excellence staff again for bringing these players through.
"We have another game away at Derby on Tuesday - a chance for us to work fitness and tactics.
"We will have captain Dani Petrovic back in the squad, along with Sarah Mayling who is another product of our youth system."
Jade Richards [ankle], Katie Moran [back] and Tash Baptiste [wrist] are all still injured but should be back in weeks rather than months.
Villa Ladies: Walsh, Vaughan, Walker, McCue, Owen, Baker, Follis, Stringer, Jones ©, Cusack, Merrick. Subs Cooper, Harper, N'Dow, Davies, Fergusson, Clarke.
Pre Season Schedule
January 28 -Derby County (a) 7.45pm