We won’t get into the before the game antics but after a quick pitstop in the bar our group was fuelled up and ready for the Second City Derby and finally being able to see our team take on Birmingham City in the FAWSL after the first two were BCD with Covid restrictions. It was always going to be a tense affair and nerves before the game but also a feeling of confidence in our team to deliver under Carla Ward. The crowd started to fill up with our fans behind the goal as Mark Stanyard was making his way around with the celebrating 100 years in Women’s football flag on Women’s Football Weekend.
It was time to start the game as our team emerged from the tunnel and Birmingham City from the opposite side. It wasn’t long before the songs started coming out as we approach kick-off. It was a cagey start to the game as was to be expected but Aston Villa were keeping most of the ball and looked comfortable trying to move the ball towards the Birmingham goal. Our captain was the first to have an attempt in the game as Marisa Ewers attempted a long-range effort that went over the bar.
Our set-pieces were causing Birmingham City trouble as we nearly opened the scoring when Alisha Lehmanndragged her effort just wide of the post on the 19th minute. Less than 5 minutes later it was a set-piece that saw the opening goal come about as Sarah Mayling glided the ball into the box and as it entered the back post area Anita Asante rose to connect with the ball before it connected with the back of the net causing pandemonium as we took the lead on the 24th minute.
It was nearly 0-2 as little in stature but large in heart and effort, Remi Allen headed the ball goal bound making Marie Hourihan tip it around the post. We were fully on top and looked like adding a second with our possession and play but we couldn’t quite get the ball in the back of the net, but it wasn’t for lack of effort as we pushed hard. But the halftime whistle came as we left the pitch leading the match 0-1 with a massive 45 minutes coming up.
The second half didn’t quite have the same conviction as the first half but a job was needed to be done and Aston Villa came out to do that job. It was a second-half where nothing much of note really happened but keeping our clean sheet meant victory. Birmingham City were better in the second half but our defence stood up strong to them.
Hannah Hampton deserves a lot of credit for things that the camera won’t always pick up as well as keeping us going in the crowd behind her, breaking up the play and coming to claim the ball every time it came into the area with calm and composure. Birmingham didn’t create a lot to put her under pressure but she was always there when needed her including a save that she did between her legs making sure we kept the clean sheet.
We made changes on the pitch throughout the game but every player that came on knew the job and put in a shift. Freya Gregory, Ruesha Littlejohn, Shania Hayles and Elisha N’Dow all made contributions towards the 0-1 win. Birmingham’s only real effort of the game came when Jade Pennock hit the side netting. But the full-time whistle went with a 0-1 victory to our Women in Claret and Blue.
On reflection when you look back in the game, it was tense in the stands at 0-1 but Aston Villa did a job on making sure that Birmingham couldn’t get the goal to get them back into the game. Was many first’s for this day a clean sheet, 3 points and a win but not only a Continental Cup game but in the FAWSL. It was great to see Tyrone Mings and the king of the second city derby Gabby Agbonlahor congratulating our team and their efforts. As well as Douglas Luiz in attendance as well who gave us a thumbs up in the car park. In Carla Ward, we trust and know that we have a manager that will push us forward and upwards which you can already see on and off the pitch.
It was great to see so many Villa fans in attendance as well, as we all celebrated with the team in the stands as they spent time with the fans in the crowd signing autographs, taking selfies and a few shirts and a pair of shorts were given out. But these are the memories as a fan you never forget. A massive shoutout as well to every single player, the staff and also as well to the Birmingham stewards as well for allowing us to make those memories. We of course celebrated late into the night including our quiz team being called Wardy FC but we won’t mention the result in that.
Carla Ward spent a lot of time out with people after the game after doing her media and was the final one into the changing rooms which shows a massive point about leading from the front and setting an example to the team and giving so much to the fans, we truly are in a great position right now, she mentioned the fans travelling home and away I know that we already can’t wait for a trip away to Manchester City on Saturday and a trip to Sunderland the week after. But first off our next match is against Sheffield United in the Continental Cup on Wednesday at 7.45 pm down at The Banks Stadium.
We hope to see as many people down there to cheer on our team. Carla Ward also let us know the kids will be playing, which a lot of us are excited to see some of our academy players get the chance to play and also shows the chance to impress for progression to the first team as well. The only last thing to say is UP THE VILLA and the City is Claret and Blue!!
Aston Villa: Hampton, Sargeant, Asante, Mayling, Pacheco, Ewers (Littlejohn 76′), Boye-Hlorkah (N’Dow 87′), Petzelberger, Allen, Arthur (Gregory 56′), Lehmann (Hayles 75′)
Subs: N’Dow, Hutton, Gregory, Davison, McLoughlin, Haigh, Littlejohn, Hayles, Rogers
Birmingham City: Hourihan, Quinn, Holloway, Scott (Whelan 87′), Sandvej, Quinn, Murray, Finn (Ewens 61′), Robertson, Sarri, Pennock
Subs: Whelan, Ewens, Ramsey, Lawley, Simkin, Cowie, Ryan-Doyle, Whipp, Smith