Pre-season game number one for the newly rebranded Aston Villa Women, a new name and branding with a new look team as eight players have departed, while so far seven have arrived at the club. Before the game they announced that Shania Hayles, Natalie Pugh and Charlotte Greengrass had also joined us for the season. Between the fans that arrived there was a buzz that this season could be something special as we push towards improving on Gemma Davies first season in charge.
After catching up with a few of the parents and staff it was time to make the way out to the stands to once again cheer on our Women in Claret and Blue. The teams started to make their way out in the training gear as we wait for the kits on the squad to be finalised. After a off season of waiting for news and getting to get behind our team the ref blew the whistle as the game kicked off.
Kerri Welsh took our first touch of the 19/20 season as she kicked off and we changed our chants to Women and not Ladies (a few fluff ups happened during the game but hey it’s pre-season) straight away Villa got into the game as they moved the ball around well, Sophie Haywood showed the guns and obviously sent fear into the Stoke defenders hearts.
A fast start within 2 minutes saw Hayles open her account and Villa Women’s account as Melissa Johnson pulled the ball back to Hayles who struck the ball first time into the top corner leaving the Stoke keeper no chance and getting Villa off to a cracking start as it became 1-0.
The next action saw Leanne Robinson in the 7th minute go down in a challenge that saw her have to come off as she fractured her wrist in an unfortunate accident. A lot of the play was Villa on the ball as they played some nice football keeping the ball and moving it around into the Stoke half. Cassie Hyde was working hard as she tackled Sophie Haywood as she was about to pull the trigger, but Cassie seemed to be all over the place at the back as she was always there to keep out our attackers.
The next chance also came for Villa as we broke forward and pushed Stoke back but the effort just fizzed past the post as we started to build some pressure on the Stoke goal once again. It wouldn’t take Melissa Johnson to prove exactly what we knew as she drove at the Stoke defence and unleashed a cracking shot as it went straight into the top corner with precision and power giving Villa Women the 2-0 lead.
No surprises how this game was going that the next chance fell to Villa once again as the Stoke keeper once again came to the rescue as Kerri Welsh sitting deep hit a thunderbolt that looked destined for the top corner as the Stoke keeper dived outstretched and tip it over the bar with an incredible save. Once again the wing play was proving something special with Haywood and Franklin linking up and Greengrass and Hayles linking up which drove us forward and as Mel Johnson broke past the defence and put the ball across to Sophie Haywood who was read to tap in the Stoke keeper read it well and got across to stop the cross coming in. But even with Stoke defending well and the keeper pulling off the saves we went into the break with a 3-0 lead.
Just before the break Mel Johnson got her second of the game as Sophie Haywood drove down the wing and pulled the ball back to the boot of Mel Johnson as she shaped herself and hit the ball first time not giving the keeper chance to react as the ball hit the back of the net as we took a 3-0 lead into the half time break. The combination of Marisa Ewers and Amy West looks something to behold as both work so hard to win the ball back and both can pin point a ping to each wing to get us going forward at any time.
A lot of changes with Stoke making a fair few and Villa had brought on Nadine Hanssen, Phoebe Warner, Jodie Hutton and Natalie Pugh all getting minutes in the second half as each and every player would need minutes to get fit ready for the new upcoming season. But also as well as giving people minutes it also gave Gemma the chance to try players in different positions as Amy West switched back to left back which she was part of the Great Wall of China that Tony Xia once tweeted about and giving Ella Franklin the chance to play in the centre.
Villa started the second half as they had started the first half on the front foot as the first chance fell to Villa as Mel Johnson used her pace to get past the Stoke defence and as she hit it low and hard the Stoke keeper like a cat dived down to push it past the post keeping the score at 3-0. Stoke created a chance from outside the box but it didn’t cause Sian Rogers took much trouble as Jade Richards and Elisha N’Dow wasn’t giving away anything at the back, our double trouble team.
Mel Johnson once again was driving at the goal as she pulled it across the box and a moment that Hollie Gibson might of nearly wanted to forget as her clearance had the Stoke keeper scrambling (We still wish we had Hollie with us but no matter where she is we’ll love her) but the Stoke keeper kept it out and as the ball fell to Phoebe Warner she tried to stab it home but somehow the Stoke keeper pulled off the double save keeping the score at 3-0. Nadine Hanssen must of had some anger to let out as she destroyed the paint on the crossbar as she moved into position and unleashed a shot that nearly took the crossbar off but unfortunately the ball cannoned back off the woodwork and went clear as Nadine came close.
Villa pushed the Stoke keeper once again as a low hard shot was cleared by the keepers legs keeping it still at 3-0 but it was mostly one way traffic. Villa was awarded a free kick just into the Stoke half as Jodie Hutton lifted the ball into the box Sophie Haywood slid into the box like she was trying to save her phone as she connected with the cross smashing the ball into the net completing a beautiful set piece making it 4-0 to Villa Women.
The next attack came from Villa as a corner was cleared but as it fell to Nadine Hanssen, she hit a Volley with the outside of her boot but it was just to close to the Stoke keeper whose positioning was spot on as he punched it clear and get to the rebound, but fantastic skill by Nadine once again, reminded me of the goal she nearly scored against Charlton away.
Jodie Hutton was in the action again as she chipped the ball through to Charlotte Greengrass who put the ball across to Sophie Haywood but as it broke across the goal after the goalkeeper got a hand to it Charlotte Greengrass was there to prod the ball into the net to give Villa Women the 5-0 lead, and her first goal for the club. with 5 minutes to go Cassie Hyde surged forward and unleashed a beautiful shot which Sian Rogers had to acrobatically tip over the bar, the proof of a truly great keeper is a game where she doesn’t have alot to do but as soon as is called upon she is equal to it. But as I had to shout to cheer for Cassie having the effort as we all love Cassie even though she is on the other team. Jodie Hutton was looking for a goal to finish the game off but as she struck her shot from the edge of the box the keeper for Stoke once again was there to get a hand to it.
The full time whistle went and ended 5-0 to Aston Villa Women. Our first preseason game was a interesting insight to what will be coming for the rest of the season. Everything seems quite positive and that we are starting to move towards this years run.
The new signings looking to bed into the team well without being at the club long. The one thing that was very positive was the way that certain players were used in different roles to show that even in injury we have the back up we need as we will have a physical and long season once again. We are upset a little at losing a few of our players we had a special bond with last season’s team so it hurts more, but as Chris said in Gemma we trust so we will be behind her and team 100% along the way.
We next play on Friday night against Everton at Boldmere with a 7.30pm kick off.