An interesting start to the FA Women's Super League Spring Series provided some shocks and an intriguing insight into what lies ahead in 2017. Durham took the first three points of the campaign, but it is the claret and blue of Aston Villa who top the league thanks to their win over Watford.
Sheffield's match against Doncaster Rover Belles was postponed due to weather conditions making the pitch unplayable.
Nothing separates London Bees and newcomers Brighton and Hove Albion
The Spring Series opened up with a 1-1 draw as London Bees and Brighton and Hove Albion failed to grab the three points in a closely-contested game at The Hive. Consequently, neither team were able to create a lead in the table - nevertheless, history was made. Not only was it the first game Spring Series game to be played, the first goal was also scored.
It only took 14 minutes for the deadlock to break thanks to a powerful strike by new signing, Alessia Russo past Shayla Burgees in the Bees' goal who could only watch it go in, as Russo becomes the first ever goal scorer in the Spring Series. The Seagulls entered the half-time break with a 1-0 lead that proved that despite being underdogs, Brighton and Hove Albion are to be taken seriously. The pressure was on London Bees to perform in the second half.
A string of chances occurred for the home team in the second half including a long-range effort from Paula Howells that crept over the bar. Howells was involved in the play once again but this time in the form of an equaliser, as her cross met the head of Bees' skipper Ashleigh Goddard to make it 1-1 in the 55th minute. The Seagulls almost snatched the three points with some chances towards the end of the match, however the match finished 1-1.
Newly promoted Brighton and Hove Albion provided an impressive display with both teams looking on a par that reflected in the scoreline. London Bees will be happy that they managed to get a point out of the game after going a goal down early on, despite expecting to dominate their opponents. Both sides will look to push on and pick up three points in their upcoming matches.
The Wilcats edge a narrow win over the Lionesses
A rainy and breezy day up North witnessed a matchup between Durham and Millwall Lionesses that finished in a 1-0 win for the Wildcats. Millwall failed to present many clear-cut chances in a game they will look to build on.
Durham had it their way right from the off by dominating proceedings with some early chances that put Sarah Quantrill into action. The Lionesses fought back through Ashlee Hinks who found the back of the net, but was denied by the offside flag. It wasn't long after that a goal was scored; Sarah McFadden put Durham 1-0 up in the 37th minute after she put away a rebound after the ball hit the woodwork.
Ashlee Hinks looked lively in the second half with some half-chances but Durham's Helen Alderson looked comfortable in goal. The Wildcats looked dominant once again as the end of the match approached however the ball failed to cross the line, with the one goal being enough to seal the three points.
Durham took the first three points of the campaign whilst Millwall never looked lethal in attack. The Lionesses will need to seal points in the forthcoming matches if they wish to have a successful Spring Series.
Dramatic finish as Aston Villa come close to losing their three goal lead
Aston Villa hosted Watford in a match jam-packed with edge-of-the seat drama after two late goals from The Lady Hornets finished in a 3-2 win for Villa. Just more than 48 hours before kick-off, Watford announced six new signings following the appointment of Keith Boanas as head coach earlier this week. Five out of the six additions were in the starting line-up, showing that Boanas has full faith in his team.
The Claret and Blue showed an excellent start to the game, posing a threat at every sight of goal. In the 23rd minute Villa took the lead with a header from the dangerous Natasha Baptise, with Beth Merrick getting the assist due to her perfect weighted corner. Merrick got herself on the scoresheet this time after she volleyed home past Lucy Gillet from inside the box seven minutes before the break. Aston Villa were in cruise control after a lacklustre performance from Watford who looked dead and buried as the score stayed 2-0 until half-time.
Things got bad to worse for The Lady Hornets after Jade Richards bagged herself a goal to extend Villa's lead to three goals. After looking so comfortable for the whole of the game, Aston Villa soon found themselves conceding a goal after Watford struck home a free-kick in the 67th minute to liven things up.
Watford picked things up and their performance was unrecognisable from their first half nightmare, with chance after chance failing to end in a goal. However, the continued effort and fight that Watford gave finally resulted in what they deserved, with forward Charlotte Kerr scoring from a corner. It was little too late for the Golden Girls as full-time beckoned.
An exciting and dramatic end to the match unfortunately made no difference for Watford as they travel home gaining no points from the game. A superb second-half display proves the sides mental capacity and will be uplifting as they will to regather for their next Spring Series match. Aston Villa take the top spot in the league thanks to goals scored as they'll be thankful that they managed to hold onto the three points after a brilliant performance for the first 45 minutes, but will look to try and keep their composure right up until the 90th minute in their next games to avoid another scare.
Everton take three points on the road despite Oxford's late goal
An impressive display from The Toffees against Oxford ended in a 2-1 win for Everton as they get off to a good start in their Spring Series campaign. Oxford will need to improve on this performance if they want to prove their worth.
Everton started on the front foot with many promising opportunities occurring at the beginning of the first half, with it only taking 12 minutes for The Toffees to take the lead. Simone Magill's close-range shot gave the visitors a 1-0 lead after notable work from Megan Finnigan. Everton continued to dominate over a less than satisfactory performance from Oxford, yet the ball couldn't find the back of the net which resulted in the scoreline staying 1-0 at the half-time break.
The second half started well for Everton once again as Kelly Jones made it 2-0 as her strike went in at the far post. Many more chances presented themselves for the lead to be extended, including clever play from captain Michelle Hinnigan who dribbled round the keeper only for a defender to head the ball off the line. However, it was Nigerian international Imi Umotong who bagged a consolation goal for Oxford in the 89th minute as the match finished 2-1.
A rather comfortable win for Everton sees them in second place with a good all-round display. Oxford lose out on any points and will need to perform better to pick up points. Umotong proved her capability with her goal, demonstrating how important she is to their side.