Villa Ladies report: Wilkinson on target in assured victory
Villa Ladies produced an awesomely assured performance to see off Watford Ladies.
Katie Wilkinson's goal was the decisive moment as she charged down keeper Lauren Davey with the ball flying directly into the net.
The 1-0 scoreline, however, doesn't really do Joe Hunt's side justice as they played slick, incisive football for long periods with Emma Follis a constant menace on the wing.
The fab forwards - Follis and Wilkinson - were brilliantly supported by midfield aces Maddy Cusack [pictured below] and Sherry McCue, the former proving a nightmare to play against with her belligerent and uncompromising style.
It could have been a very different story if referee Simon Barrow had awarded a goal to the visitors on five minutes.
Kim Farrow crossed from the right and Stacie Donnelly produced a stunning drive which cracked against the bar and down to the ground.
The Hornets players and management screamed for a goal but the referee waved away the protests.
The hosts shifted gear from that moment and produced a mighty display.
On 12 minutes, Follis headed wide while well-placed but that disappointment was short-lived.
Seconds later, Wilkinson took a chance by attacking a Davey clearance - it worked beautifully as the ball ricocheted home.
The hosts should have extended their lead before the break but a catalogue of chances went begging.
On 20 minutes Wilkinson collected the ball in the middle ground and deliciously found Follis but the wing wonder's shot was straight at the keeper.
Two minutes later, Villa Ladies had a double chance - Jade Richards miskicked in the box six yards out and then Wilkinson's follow-up was brilliantly blocked by Chloe Gunn.
Wilkinson and Follis were proving to be double-trouble for the visitors at this point as their pace, poise and power reigned supreme.
Wilkinson's throughball to Follis on 28 minutes was too strong as the wide player flew forward while the striker fired over from 10 yards out a moment later.
Keeper Davey had to be at her athletic best to tip over Follis's left-foot curling drive on 36 minutes and just before the half-time whistle, Wilkinson's free-kick from 25 yards crashed against the crossbar and over.
In between times, Watford's Emma Beckett tried her luck with a stunning strike from just outside the box but England U20 ace Caitlin Leach made a fine stop.
John Solomon, the visitors' boss, had his players in a huddle just before the restart - perhaps evidence of his desire to see them impose themselves more on the contest.
It worked - as the Hornets came back strongly after the break.
It was a much more even contest although the best opportunities still fell to the hosts.
Wikinson's shot from the left side of the box was expertly saved just after the hour mark while moments before the final whistle, Dani Petrovic should have doubled the advantage, heading wide at the back post with the goal at her mercy.
The skipper won't have been too concerned though as the maximum haul ensured the team's fourth win on the spin.
VILLA LADIES: Leach, Crackle, Jones, McCue, Petrovic, Richards, Follis, Cusack, Wilkinson, Mayling [Walker 64], Robinson. Unused subs: Davies, Beattie, N'Dow, Fergusson, Merrick, Baptiste.
WATFORD LADIES: Davey, Butterwick, Gunn, Hector, Donnelly [Logie 62], Natkiel [Wride 79], Green, Wynne, Beckett [Hill 68], Farrow, Robe. Unused subs: Burgess.