By Paul Brown
Manager Joe Hunt paid tribute to birthday girl Maddy Cusack as she helped Villa Ladies see off Man City Ladies 1-0 on home soil.
Cusack may have only turned 17 the morning of the game but she put in the maturest of performances in the middle of the park as Villa Ladies made it two wins in two games, helping the team up to third in the National League.
Boss Joe Hunt said on the final whistle: "Maddy had a massive game for us in the middle of the park.
"She gets better every single week - she's got energy, commitment and desire along with her natural ability. It all adds up to make her a top player.
"Her England call up a couple of weeks ago was well deserved. She wants to work hard at every session and never lets me, her team mates or the club down.
"I can't believe she's only just turned 17 - it's a frightening thought!"
Villa Ladies started the game very brightly, putting the newly-promoted side under extreme pressure.
Good work from Katie Wilkinson got Bethan Merrick and Kelly Clarke into some great positions down the sides to force early corners into the box.
Cusack was a constant thorn in the Man City side, winning the ball in the midfield and then running into space committing the defenders.
This freed Wilkinson up but unfortunately in the first period the final ball was always lacking.
The Ladies overplayed the ball in defence on the half-hour mark but thankfully expert goalkeeper Megan Walsh was on hand to quell the danger.
Despite this chance, the control was all Villa Ladies.
Two minutes before the break, Villa worked the ball from Jenni Lowe into Wilkinson who in turn released Clarke.
The tricky winger produced a deep cross that caused confusion but disappointingly for Villa the ball trickled past the post for a corner.
Cusack was again at the heart of things as the second half began. She drove forward with the ball before jinking it past left-back and centre-half. It helped her burst into the box and her ferocious shot flew past the post and just out of the reach of the on-rushing Clarke.
Just before the hour mark, boss Hunt made his first substitution, replacing the tireless Merrick with the pace of Emma Follis, just recovered from painful bruised ribs.
Within minutes of her introduction the young winger was sailing past the full back and winning a corner for the claret and blue.
The inswinging centre from Clarke was powerfully met by Wilkinson but sadly for Villa flew over the bar.
But, on 75 minutes, the breakthrough finally came.
More Villa pressure was only half cleared to the deep-lying Tash Merritt, who instantly got the ball under control and bent a delicious ball out to Follis on the right wing.
The winger exploded past the left back, side-stepped the oncoming centre-half before passing the pall invitingly to Wilkinson 10 yards out.
She took one touch to control and the second to calmly roll the ball into the bottom left corner.
Man City Ladies tried to respond but every time they did they were denied by the experience of Dani Petrovic and the calm play of the ever-improving Jade Richards.
Hunt said: "It was a very strong and disciplined performance from the girls.
"We played with great tempo and variation for the whole 90 minutes which was pleasing.
"When we play like this we are very good. I'm thrilled with the win but feel there is more to come from my team. We should've scored more!
"We are still giving the other teams cheap possession but it's not as much as it was at the beginning of the season.
"Megan pulled of a wonder save in the first half after we had set them up! That's why she is involved with England because she didn't have much to do then pulls off a brilliant one-on-one save.
"Katie is now getting back to her best too. It's nice to see her playing with so much freedom. When she enjoys her football she is a real handful.
"Another goal will only boost her confidence.
"That's three league wins on the bounce now. We are up to third now but we still have a lot to do.
"Next week we focus our attentions on the League Cup. We need a win away at Leicester to give us a chance of qualifying out the group. We'll work hard in training and prepare properly."
VILLA LADIES: Walsh, Vaughan, Lowe, Merritt (Moran), Petrovic, Richards, Merrick (Follis), Cusack, Davies (McCue), Wilkinson, Clarke.