Villa Ladies report: Petrovic goal not enough at Sunderland
Villa Ladies produced a performance of steel and style at Sunderland Ladies - and were desperately unlucky to go down 3-1 to the table-toppers.
The orders of Ron Mellor and Joe Hunt were carried out to the letter as the visitors pressed the hosts high up the pitch and for long periods the tactics worked a treat.
Dani Petrovic gave the girls a lead on 30 minutes, nodding home after a fine flick on by Jade Richards from Sarah Mayling's cross from the left.
They were well worth it too after excelling for the first half hour.
But you can't discount the league leaders at any point, though, and it was they who took an interval lead thanks to efforts from Beth Mead and Abbey Joice.
First Mead made no mistake as she fired past Caitlin Leach after her first shot was well saved.
Then Joice fired home from close-range after a fine throughball from Mead.
Other than the goal, there were other chances for the claret and blues in that opening period.
Emma Follis was the chief architect of Villa attacks, showing pace and grace from wide areas - even after being clattered early on.
She fired wide in the opening moments and then had an even better opportunity in the closing stages of the half - picking up Katie Wikinson's wonder throughball before striking too near the onrushing keeper.
Forward Wilkinson could also have scored in between times, blasting a 30-yard effort straight at the keeper.
Sunderland, too, had chances - Rachel Furness firing against the crossbar on 40 minutes and Keira Ramshaw clearing the upright moments later.
Management duo Mellor and Hunt will have kept their half-time instructions fairly simple in the dressing room - more of the same please.
And that's what they got as the girls continued their all-action, fast-paced and tempo-driven approach.
Follis and Wilkinson were once again the chief mischief-makers for the Black Cats defence.
The wing wonder blasted over in quick succession - 58 minutes and 61 minutes.
First, the claret and blues good move found Follis who skied her shot and then the wide star did the same again after being played in delightfully by the forward.
Lauren Walker entered the action on 64 minutes and the left-sided ace certainly brought plenty to the party, mixing defensive resilience with attacking intent.
The versatile former Wolves player was desperately unlucky not to connect with a Follis cross on 67 minutes as the hosts cleared to safety.
Walker then produced a fine spin and run down the left but her final cross was marginally too close to the keeper.
Just before that Wilkinson, a loanee from Birmingham City Ladies, showed unbelievable power to thrash past four players but unfortunately she couldn't get her shot away.
Alicia Robinson - showing her tricky ball skills throughout - fired just over on 82 minutes after a surging run forward by centre-half Richards.
At this point an equaliser looked a real possibility as the visitors produced wave after wave of attack.
Mellor and Hunt threw on experienced Carly Davies on 83 minutes to provide support for loan striker Wilkinson.
The long-serving forward couldn't quite reach a fine throughball a moment after entering the action and then Elisha N'Dow - excelling in central midfield - fired wide after the ball fell to her from Robinson's corner.
But Mead ended the game as a contest with seconds remaining - the clinical forward making no mistake after being fed down the right.
Villa Ladies headed back down south with no points - but an awful lot of credit and plenty of positives to take into the next game against Doncaster Belles on Thursday.
SUNDERLAND LADIES: Laws, Holmes, Greenwell, Bannon [c], Sharp, Furness, McDougall, Joice, Ramshaw, Bass, Mead. Alderson, Wilson, Beer, Williams, McCubbin.
VILLA LADIES: Leach, Crackle [Davies 83], Jones, McCue, Petrovic [c], Richards, Follis, N'Dow, Mayling [Walker 64], Robinson, Wilkinson. Subs: Cooper, Baker, Fergusson, Harper.