Struggling with pitch issues and postponements and arguably feeling the gaps between the games more than their WSL 1 counterparts, Watford, Sheffield and Millwall have all found themselves with two games in hand.
Of those that have taken place, Villa won one and lost one, pulling themselves away from Watford who had no joy with either of theirs, Sheffield dealt a loss in their only recent outing.
One point from three after two particularly tough results came at the perfect time for the U’s, the Bees on top in their lone outing with Spurs unlucky on the road twice. Higher up the table, Durham claimed one win and one draw from their brace of fixtures, as Brighton took maximum points from their two ties.
Two wins from two and one from one for the Belles and Millwall respectively have kept the teams at the top as close as can be.
Aston Villa 1-3 Durham
A neat close-range finish from Beth Hepple had the Wildcats taking a slim advantage into the break in Tamworth, the hosts levelling late in the second half when Helen Alderson was beaten by Alice Hassall’s penalty. Not quite firing on all cylinders as they were last season, Durham left it late, Zoe Ness’ low finish at the end of regulation time giving them the win, Emily Roberts’ quick fire third in stoppage time a sickner for Villa.
Steady all season, the Seagulls eased to a win in Yorkshire against a Sheffield side still looking for a similar spark as in their first WSL 2 season. Dangerous from the outset, Ini Umotong broke the deadlock after the half hour with a fine header off of Amanda Nilden’s free kick. The lead extended after the break when Kate Natkiel’s neat finish put Chloe Peplow’s guided ball to bed before Aileen Whelan nodded the ball past Danielle Gibbons. There was yet a touch of late drama as Dani Buet converted from 12-yards before conceding a penalty in the opposition box two minutes later, Emma Johnson clinical from the spot to grab a conciliation for the hosts.
Still looking like the real deal under boss Neil Redfern, the Belles eased past Spurs when the Lilywhites travelled to the Keepmoat. Continuing her fine run of form, Kirsty Hanson latched onto Rebecca Rayner’s threaded pass late in the first half, before poking the ball beyond Chloe Morgan for the opener. With the game more settled after the break the hosts found a second when Rayner slammed Sophie Walton’s low corner home from the top of the box before Jess Sigsworth added a late third with a fine flighted ball to the top left corner.
Watford 0-3 Aston Villa
Two teams struggling for form this season, Villa showed their pedigree in Herts when they hit the Golden Girls for three, easing themselves away from the side directly below them. Starting brightly it was only a matter of time before the Villainesses found their opener, Hassall more than happy to oblige when Fran Kitching spilled Amy West’s floated cross. On top but lacking a clinical edge, the visitors didn’t extend their lead until after the break when Jodie Hutton poked home at a corner before Beth Merrick wrapped up proceedings with a shuddering effort off of the bottom of the bar.
It was two a piece for both Rianna Dean and Charlie Devlin as the U’s struggled to cope with the Lionesses in Oxford. A sublime strike from range from Dean started the ball rolling in the tenth minute before the teenager completed her brace ten minutes before the break nudging the ball home after Demi Lambourne dropped a routine corner.
Kayleigh Hines pulled one back in no time for Oxford with a piledriver from just inside the area before the match got a little bitty after the break, the visitors wrapping the match up twenty minutes from time. Devlin’s first an angled strike after clean footwork in the area, her second arriving 14 minutes later from similar range when she picked up a loose ball and lifted it over Lambourne. Again, the hosts found another after the brace when Chloe Chivers curled the ball into the top near corner from outside the box, having been denied from the spot in the first half.
Oxford United 2-3 London Bees
After having missed the chance to take the lead from 12-yards after Katie Wilkinson failed to convert the visitors were pushed to the back foot after quick fire goals from Emily Allen and Taome Oliver. With the U’s well on top less than twenty minutes in, Paula Howells managed to pull the Bees within one when she put Emma Beckett’s ball home jut four minutes after Oliver’s goal. Destiney Toussaint’s goal on the hour had the two tied up when her cross-cum-shot was allowed to cut though and drop into Lambourne’s goal. With the tie in the balance it was the visitors who claimed the spoils in the midweek clash, Rosie Lane’s late, late header enough to see the Bees leapfrog their opposition.
Doncaster Belles 3-1 Watford
A minute after firing just wide, Maz Pacheco set up Sigsworth for her 13 goal of the season in a busy first half in Doncaster. A flying header from Sam Tierney brought about the second goal five minutes later as teenager opened her senior scoring account taking advantage of an inch-perfect ball from Hanson. Following her teammate’s lead, Pacheco opened her account for the season later in the half, completing a one-two with Tierney as she zipped through the Watford defence before finding the bottom corner.
Netting just their fifth of the season, Anneka Nuttall pulled one back for the Golden Girls on the stroke of half time when her cross-cum-shot rolled over Bethan Davies. Unable to build on the goal, Watford sagged after the break, the linesman’s flag sparing their blushes on two separate occasions before the final whistle.
Durham 1-1 Oxford United
In a stilted half that saw Durham fluff some of their better chances the hosts had to wait until after the half hour for their breakthrough when Jordan Atkinson slotted Abi Cottam’s squared ball home. Having failed to offer much in the way of solid attack, Imogen Lancaster (who’d been subbed on in the seventh minute for Corrine Yorston) finished from close range on the stroke of half time having just beaten Alderson to the ball. Another handful of missed chances for the Wildcats set-up a grandstand finish with both going hammer and tong for the win, neither able to capitalise, the point at least stopping the rot for Oxford.
Brighton and Hove 2-0 Spurs
Still a bit of a mixed bag, Spurs showed good resilience against a strong Brighton team on the south coast. After a breathless first half that had seen both sides hit the woodwork it was the Seagulls who lead at the break courtesy of Peplow’s pin-point free kick curled into the far corner. Calmer after the break, Spurs continued to see good chances though it was still Brighton who dominated, the Seagulls leaving it late to wrap up the win as Amanda Nildén sent Umotong’s cross home in second half stoppage time.