Villa Ladies report: Frustrating FA Cup defeat to Doncaster
Villa Ladies crashed out of the FA Cup with a home defeat by Doncaster Rovers Belles.
Despite the loss, there were obvious positives, with Emily Owen making her competitive debut to great effect, battling impressively with England U20 international Jess Sigworth.
Teen sensation Sarah Mayling also livened things up with a cracking performance after the break.
The first half was a physical encounter, the midfield of both teams working exceptionally hard to try and gain the upper hand.
The game turned on 50 minutes when the experienced Sue Smith went down in the penalty area, with the outstanding Owen marshalling her.
The referee pointed to the spot at the annoyance of the home team.
Victoria Williams fired home, despite Caitlin Leach getting a good hand on the ball.
The goal was a blow to the home team, who 15 seconds earlier, had a great opportunity to test Nicola Hobbs in the Doncaster goal.
Olivia Fergusson went bursting through the defensive line, only to hesitate and the ball was nicked off her toes.
Within 10 minutes it was 2-0.
Again, the home side gave away possession on the left and the lively Smith found England in the box who turned and smashed past the helpless Leach.
The introduction of Mayling spurred the home team into life after the break.
Mayling herself had two chances, saved smartly on both occasions by Hobbs.
Hobbs was also kept busy when substitute Bethan Merrick cut in from the left and hit a stinging 25 yard drive that was heading towards the top corner before the brilliant Hobbs tipped round for a corner.
With the home side pushing to get back into the game, Doncaster broke and a desperate tackle by Chloe Jones clipped Smith and the referee had no hesitation pointing to the spot.
The kick though was struck well but crashed off the crossbar and back into play.
Smith's follow up was claimed by Leach.
Manager Ron Mellor said: "The first obvious comment is that I am disappointed with the result.
"A decent cup run would have raised the club's profile and that would have been good for everyone.
"Despite a difficult draw for our initial venture, like the men's team who played West Ham, we were well placed at half time to take the initiative and push on after the interval.
"We had matched Doncaster with some resolute defending, attractive football in parts and certainly in determination and work rate.
"In the cold light of day, we played well, especially when you consider there were eight teenagers in the team.
"To compete - and compete well - against an experienced - and until recently Super League One side - is very encouraging.
"We must work hard and improve as we play further Super League One sides in friendly matches. Then the real League Two season begins in April."
Head Coach Joe Hunt added: "The game was there for the taking.
"We'd battled hard in the first half and put ourselves in a good position.
"Doncaster had a few half chances in the first period, most of them down to us over-playing in the wrong areas.
"We said at half time we needed to be patient and stay mistake free. We didn't do either!
"However, Emily had a very good first half for us. She showed why we were eager to sign her in the summer.
"She's aggressive in the tackle but also composed on the ball. She had a great battle with Jess Sigworth.
"Sarah Mayling again was outstanding. The girl gets better every game.
"Knowing Sarah, she'll be disappointed she didn't score but that's the nature of the girl. The two chances were tough but she made the keeper work on both occasions.
"We must take the positives from the game."
Villa Ladies: Leach, Vaughan, Clarke, McCue (Merrick 70), Petrovic, Owen, Follis, Stringer, Jones, Cusack, Fergusson (Mayling 51) Subs not used: Baker, Cooper, Walker.