One of the more middling teams of WSL 2, Aston Villa have had another season filled with ups and downs, flashes of quality before slipping up on the basics.
Highs and lows
The Villainesses started 2016 with three back-to-back FA Cup wins, Portsmouth, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton the three teams who came up short, the 1-0 win over the Blue Girls a double-edged sword as the next round brought around a jolt back to reality with a 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Chelsea.
Their league season was far mixed, an opening night loss to Everton started them on the wrong foot before the West Midlands team rebounded with a calm win over Oxford, their second 2-1 of the year on the other side of the cup game in Staines as they battled hard in Dronfield to come away with all three points. A 2-0 loss at the Stoke Gifford put them on the back-foot before a commanding 2-0 win at home to Durham left them climbing back up the table.
Unable to put together a run of results in a fragmented season Villa were suddenly launched into a six-match winless streak that took them from the middle of May to the middle of July. Another 2-0 loss against the Blue Girls in their third meeting of the year seemed well forgotten when they reached half-time in their next match, two goals to the good over Yeovil.
The second-half one the Villainesses would like to forget as 0-2 dissolved into 4-2 and they were forced to leave Huish Park humbled and empty-handed. Two draws in three days at the end of June left the team frustrated, never far from three points in either game but they’d never manage to climb the table with draws.
Humbled once more
Even with the loan signing of Grace Moloney from Reading there was little that could be done as Villa were hit for eight by an emphatic Man City team that refused to take any prisoners. A 3-0 loss to Durham the last in their winless streak, 3-1 over Millwall and 2-1 over Watford encouraging results but their frailty against bigger teams still a serious issue.
Just as a pendulum swings back and forth so did Villa’s season, a loss never far from a win, or even three on the bounce, Yeovil, Bees and Sheffield claiming all the points from Villa’s next three matches. A 1-0 over Oxford ensured they finished September on a high, a 2-2 at the Den frustrating the away team once again.
With their last match of the season scheduled to take place at Villa Park and the carrot of sixth hanging before them, Villa made sure to finish the season strongly, putting on a show for the record crowd and hitting Watford for four.
A team that never waivers in their desire to be better and push for promotion, Joe Hunt has a strong crop of players at Villa, the inclusion of up and coming younger players bodes well too. Not always the luckiest of teams with injuries this year, Hunt has been forced to shuffle his squad and play his players out of position but frequently with positive results.
The back-line has been hit hard with injuries in 2016, midfielders recruited to sure the side up at the back, the loss of Katie Wilkinson deeply felt in front of goal – although Natasha Baptise has risen to the challenge of first-choice striker well. The team has a solid core of players who on their day can take on the bigger teams and do themselves proud but the worry is this is as far as Villa can go and they’re destined to middle next season and the season after ect.
Solid but not earth-shattering, where do Villa go from here?