Villa Ladies report: Baptiste strike earns deserved point at Yeovil
A dominant second-half performance earned Villa Ladies a valuable point against Yeovil Town Ladies, a game in which a first victory of the season would certainly have been justified.
Tasha Baptiste, making her first start in the FA Women's Super League 2 for Villa, struck shortly after the interval and was the spearhead of various opportunities as the development team star thoroughly impressed for the first team.
She was one of five changes to the Villa side which lost 2-0 to Birmingham City Ladies in the Continental Cup on Tuesday, as Maisie Baker and Hayley Crackle were also handed their first FAWSL starts.
Alicia Robinson and Livy Fergusson, too, earned a place in the starting line-up, as Maddy Cusack, Dani Petrovic, Chloe Jones and Carly Davies all dropped to the bench, while Erin Vaughan missed out due to injury.
After conceding in the early stages once again, Villa hit back through Baptiste just seconds after the interval.
Following a pass from the back line, Baptiste was instantly on the offensive down the right-hand side and a first-time shot was blocked by a green and white shirt as a Yeovil defender challenged for possession.
But the 22-year-old won it back as the ball broke free into her path and she took it forward to slot calmly past Glovers 'keeper Rachel Simkin.
Villa's revival came after Jemma Tewkesbury had broken the deadlock just 12 minutes in for Yeovil.
From a right-sided cross, Tewkesbury found herself with enough space at the far post to meet the ball and flick a crafty volley over Caitlin Leach and into the top corner.
As well as a roaming header from a corner which struck the post, the Glovers were initially going closest with the attacking chances created.
Leach was forced into action several times throughout the first half, saving again from Tewkesbury after 18 minutes following good work from Laura Bray, who dodged claret-and-blue shirts in the centre of midfield to pick out her team-mate with a pinpoint pass across the pitch.
Jade Kirby and Katie Cook kept Leach on her toes as the 'keeper proved her worth with some strong stops.
But Villa began to push on toward the end of the half and Fergusson in particular was industrious up front, working hard against a sharp Yeovil defence.
Baptiste and Robinson tested the waters going forward, while full-back Crackle was looking good on her first-team debut and showed brilliant skill to weave past Jade Lorton-Radburn in a right-sided advance.
It was Baptiste, though, who really made an impression on the crowd of 201 as she came into her own during the second half.
Her quick-fire equaliser set the tone for Villa who looked hungry and determined and totally bossed the rest of the game.
A diving header and two looping long-range efforts from Baptiste tested Simkin, who almost dropped one of them as it curled trickily, looking for a way under the crossbar.
And the striker demonstrated her power and pace as she roared past Glovers captain Rachael Edwards and bore down on goal after 76 minutes, before the defender recovered sufficiently and made an important challenge to send the ball behind.
After coming off the bench against Birmingham on Tuesday, the fantastic Baptiste was replaced with four minutes remaining by Davies, who created a great opportunity of her own.
As Villa continued to press, Davies charged into the penalty area in the final minute and was brought down by Simkin.
The referee kept the game going but Davies was clearly unhappy as she loudly complained that Simkin had not won the ball.
Earlier on, Sarah Mayling and Sherry McCue also threatened, as McCue fired shots from distance to test Simkin and Mayling almost rounded the 'keeper on the right to charge at an unguarded net, but Simkin stretched to put her low strike out of play.
Cusack and Jones had earlier entered the fray in place of Fergusson and Robinson as Villa focused their attentions up front while retaining enough strength to thwart Yeovil.
The Glovers' most creative outlet Tewkesbury, meanwhile, was withdrawn with 20 minutes to go as the hosts were wary of the effects of playing two games in two days following their Continental Cup clash away at Bristol Rovers Academy on Thursday.
This meant that Yeovil were restricted to very few second-half chances, with Cook's narrow miss, an off-target Helen Bleazard free-kick and a tame Paige Stewart effort making up their most threatening ventures into Villa's half as Baker and Jade Richards stood firm at centre-back.
All things considered, it was disappointing for Villa not to claim their first three points of the season - which they definitely would have deserved.
But their second point of the campaign established plenty of positives and will prove to be a solid foundation to build on as some dazzling displays by a young team shows there is still plenty more to come from Aston Villa Ladies.
Aston Villa Ladies: Leach, Crackle, Walker, McCue (c), Baker, Richards, Fergusson (Cusack, 68), Moran, Baptiste (Davies, 86), Mayling, Robinson (Jones, 78). Subs not used: Courtney, Petrovic, Merrick, Stringer
Yeovil Town Ladies: Simkin, Kirby, Sherwood (Pearson, 78), Edwards (c), Haigh, Bray (Brazell, 78), Lorton-Radburn, Cook, Tewkesbury (Wardle, 70) , Stewart, Bleazard. Subs not used: Evans, Cossens