Villa Ladies report: Hosts earn first Super League win over Millwall
Goals from Tasha Baptiste and Jade Richards sent Villa Ladies on their way to a well-deserved first victory of the season against Millwall Lionesses.
A totally dominant Villa side looked on top form in all areas of the pitch and their performance thoroughly warranted their reward as they now head into the month's break unbeaten in two games.
Baptiste [pictured below] and Richards [pictured above] claimed their side's first goals on home soil, while at the other end of the pitch, Villa kept their first clean sheet to make an already fantastic three points taste even sweeter, against a team who were previously unbeaten in the league.
There was just one change made to the starting XI which drew with Yeovil Town Ladies last week, as Lauren Walker sustained an injury in training and was replaced by Chloe Jones, who was solid in the unfamiliar position of left-back.
Baptiste, who had marked her first FA Women's Super League 2 start with the equaliser against the Glovers, bagged her second in two games as Villa struck nine minutes before the interval.
A looping Hayley Crackle cross found the striker and with a tremendous leap she headed the ball downwards past Millwall 'keeper Sarah Quantrill to give the hosts the advantage.
And Richards sealed an imposing defensive display with a place on the scoresheet as she clinched the win for Villa on the 71st minute.
In what looked like a well-worked training ground move, Sarah Mayling floated a crafty free-kick into the box and Richards, in plenty of space, was left with the simple task of guiding her header into the back of the net - which she did so admirably.
It was no more than Villa deserved as they put in their best performance of the campaign so far in front of a 266-strong crowd.
Baptiste was in the thick of it from the off as she almost guided Jones' set-piece past Quantrill after nine minutes, before heading a cross narrowly wide two minutes later.
The 22-year-old came close twice more within the opening half hour, first firing over at a difficult angle from a long Richards ball before a deflection denied her the opportunity to break the deadlock earlier after Livy Fergusson's low pass.
Fergusson was a constant thorn in Millwall's side as she danced down the right on various occasions to supply her team-mates in the box.
And she nearly found the net herself after half an hour as she ran onto Mayling's accurate throughball, only to be just beaten to it by Quantrill.
Villa were in full-flow up front and showed great flair going forward, demonstrated through a stylish one-two between Katy Moran and Alicia Robinson - the latter winning a corner as her inviting cross was sent behind.
Millwall rarely threatened and it was Leeta Rutherford who had her side's best chance before the interval, as her deflected effort was well-saved by a full-stretch Caitlin Leach.
Richards and Maisie Baker, making only her second Super League appearance along with Crackle, were exemplary at centre-back as both players brought two Cherelle Albert-inspired attacks to a swift halt as half-time approached.
And the Ladies continued their marvellous tempo after the break, inspired by the ability to begin the second half without having conceded in careless circumstances.
As Moran limped off, Maddy Cusack added fresh zest to a midfield controlled by skipper Sherry McCue, who picked up a booking six minutes after the restart after squaring up to substitute Lillie Fenlon-Billson.
Robinson was withdrawn shortly after receiving a yellow card for dissent as Beth Merrick entered the fray on the hour mark, but she was to last just 17 minutes after an early tackle ended her part in the match.
Evidently distraught as she limped off, Merrick still managed to show off her textbook technical ability in that short space of time, while fellow 18-year-old Emma Chatterton performed admirably on her Super League debut in her absence.
Millwall began to implement pressure of their own around the hour mark but posed little danger as Leach showed quick reactions to grab Lily Agg's smart shot from close range in the visitors' only meaningful attack.
Meanwhile, Richards was combining her goalscoring heroics with a number of fearless diving headers at the back to keep the Lionesses at bay.
Baptiste continued to hassle Millwall's defence until the very end, firing wide after beating the offside trap to receive Chatterton's long pass before shrugging off captain Dionne Lennon to bomb down the left and create a chance for herself.
That determination typified an all-round resilient and assertive team performance as the Ladies stepped up to firmly claim that long-awaited triumph in a thoroughly entertaining spectacle.
Villa Ladies: Leach, Crackle, Jones, McCue (c), Baker, Richards, Fergusson, Moran (Cusack, 45), Baptiste, Mayling, Robinson (Merrick, 60; Chatterton, 77) Subs not used: Courtney, Petrovic, Davies.
Millwall Lionesses: Quantrill, Kiobel, Lennon (c), Cole, Strugnell, Davies, Rutherford, Agg, Albert (Fenlon-Billson, 34), Puddefoot (Maple, 75), Plewa (Igbavboa, 60) Subs not used: Gibbs.
Follow Villa Ladies on Twitter.