London Bees’ wait for a first win of the Women’s Super League season continued on Sunday as for the second time in the space of the week they were narrowly beaten by two goals to one, this time at the hands of Aston Villa Ladies in Sutton Coldfield.
Amber Gaylor had given the Bees a first-half lead following a blistering counter-attack but goals from Katie Wilkinson shortly after the break and Olivia Fergusson twelve minutes from time were enough to turn the tide in Villa’s favour to keep the Bees at the foot of the WSL2 table.
Ahead of the game, the Bees made three changes to the side that were edged out by Oxford last time around. Imogen Riches replaced the injured Sophie Harris in goal, whilst Samantha Miller came into the side at right-back after captain Billie Brooks suffered a recurrence of a recent injury during the warm-up.
Her absence meant that the Bees lined up in a reshuffled formation, with Ashleigh Goddard forming one of the corners of a midfield diamond behind a front two of Gemma Fraser and Amber Gaylor as Lucy Loomes dropped to the bench.
Villa started the game brightly and could have opened the scoring on four occasions during the opening quarter of an hour, with Riches saving from both Katie Wilkinson and Olivia Fergusson – the latter of whom was also guilty of putting a good chance wide as was Maddy Cusack during a dominant opening.
Yet the Bees made their hosts pay for their profligacy in front of goal by taking the lead themselves on 23 minutes with a lightning counter-attack from a defensive corner, as Goddard sent Fraser away down the right who crossed for Gaylor to tuck home and spark scenes of celebration.
Villa came roaring back however, and nearly struck back before half-time when Wilkinson shot wide with Riches stranded out of her area on 33 minutes before Fergusson rattled a shot against the crossbar five minutes before the break.
The woodwork was soon shaking at the opposite end of the pitch as Villa picked up where they left off before the interval, with Fergusson again the player to be denied by the crossbar as her close-range header from a corner two minutes into the second period somehow stayed out.
Their pressure eventually told however, as Wilkinson levelled the scores up just one minute later with a glancing header from another set-piece that looped inside the far post.
The striker came close to giving Villa the lead on 53 minutes with a snap shot from inside the box that Riches was forced to scramble away for a corner.
Despite the setback the Bees were still posing plenty of threat of their own on the counter-attack, with Amber Gaylor forcing Jess Myers into a smart save of her own with a powerful low drive towards the near post from 20 yards.
Julian Broomes threw Lucy Loomes on in place of Rebecca Anderson with just under half an hour remaining as the Bees continued to push for a winner but it was Villa who got the all-important third goal of the game on 78 minutes, as Fergusson – a constant thorn in the Bees’ side – latched onto substitute Chloe Harper’s through ball before firing into the bottom corner.
Another substitute in Sydney Hinchcliffe was introduced late on to no avail, with a free-kick from Paige Wakefield that was comfortably saved and a goalmouth scramble from a corner the closest that the Bees came to rescuing some just rewards from the game.
There is now just one game left before the mid-season break for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, with the Bees making a long-awaited return to The Hive to take on Millwall Lionesses on Wednesday night, in a game that kicks off at 19:30.
Aston Villa Ladies: Jess Myers; Hayley Crackle, ElisaN’Dow, Maisie Baker, Hannah George; Olivia Fergusson, Katy Moran (c), Maddy Cusack (Chloe Harper 64), Amy West (Abi Cottam 64); Katie Wilkinson, Alicia Robinson.
Aston Villa Ladies FC Goal Scorers: Wilkinson 48′, Fergusson 78′
London Bees: Imogen Riches; Samantha Miller, Aoife Hurley, Jade Dempster (c), Paula Howells; Paige Wakefield, Rebecca Anderson (Lucy Loomes 65), Ashleigh Goddard, Andria Georgiou (Sydney Hinchcliffe 82); Amber Gaylor, Gemma Fraser.
London Bees Goal Scorers: Gaylor