Villa Ladies report: Positives despite Chelsea Ladies loss
Villa Ladies produced a fighting display against Women's Super League 1 dark horses Chelsea Ladies in their penultimate pre-season encounter.
Villa Ladies went down 3-0 to the impressive Blues but there were plenty of positives for manager Ron Mellor and head coach Joe Hunt.
This was particularly true when you consider the players who were missing from the line-up - Abbeyleigh Stringer, Sarah Mayling and Caitlin Leach with England U19s, Krystal Parker through injury and Chloe Jones, Bethan Merrick and Alicia Robinson due to illness.
Meanwhile, Chelsea Ladies fielded England senior internationals Laura Bassett and Rachel Williams plus Korean sensation Ji So-Yun.
Chelsea Ladies took the lead in the fourth minute, So-Yun picking the ball up on the corner of the 18-yard box and swerving a vicious shot past keeper Natalie Courtney.
The hosts doubled their advantage just before the break when Bassett slotted past Courtney.
The second half saw a brighter, confident Villa Ladies, however.
Even though So-Yun made it 3-0 on 50 minutes, the second half belonged to the visitors.
Emma Follis was in fantastic form, skipping past players at will and causing havoc in the impressive backline of the hosts.
Winger Follis saw a 20-yard effort tipped over the bar and then another strike smash into the bar.
She then went on a jinking run before being felled in the area for a penalty, only to see Erin Vaughan have her spot-kick saved.
Villa Ladies continued to press and had numerous chances, centre-halves Dani Petrovic and Jade Richards having good headers saved.
Head Coach Joe Hunt said: "Our pre-season is coming to an end now. Our first game in the Women's Super League 2 is only a few days away.
"This was another great match for us against top-class opposition.
"Chelsea Ladies had a few missing - but also had some senior internationals on show.
"Ji So-Yun was unstoppable in the first-half. She is undoubtedly the best player we've come up against in pre-season. She'll be the one to watch this term.
"We also had eight first-teamers missing for the game, including both our keepers, plus Sherry McCue took a knock early on so we took her off.
"We did, however, add some of our development players to the squad, as they have been doing extremely well this season and deserved the opportunity to play.
"Elisha N'Dow, Maisie Baker, Leanne Bryant all looked comfortable in the team and hopefully the taste of senior football will kick them on even more.
"Emma Follis was electric in the second half. She matched Ji So Yun for tricks, passes and shots. She stepped up and showed what a fantastic player she is.
"She was involved in everything we did, hit the bar, won the penalty and tested their keeper time after time.
"She was run close by Maddy Cusack who found great form and caused mayhem in the middle of the pitch.
"Our defenders also deserve a mention. They have put their bodies on the line time after time showed great attacking intent too.
"Overall Ron and I were pleased with the run out."
Villa: Courtney, N'Dow, Walker, McCue, Petrovic, Richards, Fergusson, Moran, Davies, Cusack, Follis. Subs: Bryant, Vaughan, Crackle, Baker.