Villa Ladies report: Hosts enjoy that winning feeling
Carly Davies' second-half penalty was enough for Villa Ladies to overcome Oxford United Women 1-0 at home in their final Continental Cup fixture.
It wasn't a classic encounter but Villa should have wrapped up their win by the interval as the likes of Dani Petrovic, Jade Richards and Livy Fergusson missed opportunities to find the net inside the first half.
Nevertheless, another home victory was the least Villa deserved, and although they won't progress into the next stage of the competition, the result ensures they do not finish bottom of the group.
Four changes were made to the team which produced last week's spirited performance away at Bristol Academy Women - all of them forced - as Sarah Mayling, Elisha N'Dow and Maddy Cusack began their UEFA U19s Championship preparation with England in Norway this week. Maisie Baker, meanwhile, was unavailable for selection.
Katy Moran returned from suspension, while places in the starting XI were also handed to Sherry McCue, Fergusson and Petrovic.
After dominating the first 45, Villa were rewarded for their endeavours seven minutes into the second half, as Beth Merrick was needlessly fouled in the box by Chloe Bruce.
Davies duly stepped up to ripple the net with a perfect spot-kick, claiming her second goal in two games in the process.
In truth, Villa should already have led by a decent margin after coming close to breaking the deadlock on numerous occasions in the first half.
Petrovic, reunited with the captain's armband, almost gave Villa the lead inside the opening 10 minutes as she guided a dangerous header wide from Merrick's corner.
Her defensive partner Richards also threatened at set pieces and only a well-placed block could prevent her from shooting home inside the area following Lauren Walker's free-kick, while her header from the subsequent corner was saved.
Despite being stretchered off last week, Hayley Crackle remained in the starting line-up and she was evidently enjoying her return to fitness after causing confusion with a 17th-minute cross.
Oxford 'keeper Demi Lambourne underestimated its height and it sailed over her head, although Davies couldn't keep it in the danger zone.
The visitors were generally restricted to infrequent attacks spearheaded by Laura Low, whose first chance of the game after 22 minutes ended in 'keeper Caitlin Leach's trusty possession.
Fergusson and Merrick turned up the heat eight minutes before half-time.
Fergusson's angled attempt produced a point-blank save from Lambourne and the rebound had to be scrambled frantically to deny the 19-year-old, before Merrick picked up the clearance and struck the post from 20 yards out.
After taking the lead early in the second half, Villa almost doubled their advantage through Tash Baptiste, who had replaced the injured Alicia Robinson just before the interval.
The striker collected possession in the box and rolled a low close-range strike agonisingly wide of the far post.
Cousin Emma Baptiste joined her on the pitch after 76 minutes, a testament to the flourishing development squad through which both Ladies progressed.
As the game drew to a close, Villa had to ensure Oxford were kept at bay, as earlier fixtures demonstrated a tendency to make vital errors at crucial times.
But in truth, Leach was rarely tested.
Villa were comfortable throughout and the winning margin could easily have been greater.
Villa Ladies: Leach, Crackle, Walker, McCue, Petrovic (c), Richards, Fergusson (E Baptiste, 76), Moran, Davies, Merrick, Robinson (T Baptiste, 44) Subs not used: Bryant, Myers, Chapman, West.
Oxford United Women: Lambourne, Hines, Chivers, Stanley, Low, King, Nutman, Connor-Iommi, Fellows (Oliver, 85), Bruce (Mobbs, 70), Franklin-Fraiture (Pinker, 76) Subs not used: Coles, Pickett.
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