After their dominate performance against Watford, VAVEL spoke to Aston Villa manager Joe Hunt about the match, the strength of his squad and positive injury news.
Injuries and a lack of experience not enough to halt the Lady Villains
Hunt was pleased with the performance of his squad who dominated play after opening the scoring just after the half hour,
“I thought we played well in spells today. There’s a lot of players missing for us at the moment, a lot of experience missing so you look at the team we finished with today and we’ve got a few 16 and 17 year olds out there, it’s a young team but they’ve proved they’re good enough to play.”
Whilst there might have been a little bit of luck to Bethan Merrick’s opener, Natasha Baptiste’s sweetly struck curler just before the break was the highlight of the game from the second-choice striker,
“I was very pleased with Tash’s performance, she’s been a little unfortunate that Katie Wilkinson has been so good for us and she’ll always struggle to get into the team when Wilkinson is knocking them in every game. The injury [to Wilkinson] came at a bad time because we had actually been working on getting them both into the same team and we had planned to play Millwall [last week] with both of them. But Tash has come in the last two games and she’s had 90 minutes, which she hasn’t had a lot this year, and she’s a major threat for us; the team is set up to play around Tash.”
The hosts had been on top for most of the first-half but Villa’s make-shift back line was a match for the in-form Watford attack and Hunt couldn’t speak highly enough of those who’d been drafted into unfamiliar roles,
“For today’s match if you look at our defence we’ve got Maddy Cusack who’s a centre midfielder, and Amy West who’s a winger so the only recognised defender we had start was Hannah George. And because we’ve got Jade Richards, Chloe Jones and Elisha N’Dow all struggling with injuries we’ve had to have players out of positon but we’re fortunate that the players we’ve got all understand different roles. Just look at Bethan Merrick, she plays in the middle of the pitch and she the best one out there, she runs the game for us so it helps that the team I’ve got can play in different positions. But I’ve been really pleased with them, they’ve played a back-three and they’ve played really well.”
Although several first-team regulars are absent through injury Hunt is hopeful that his squad will be back to almost full strength in the coming week although they may have to work for their starts,
“Katie Wilkinson has had a scan but we’re not sure yet however it doesn’t look too good but Chloe Jones should be back this week, Jade’s going to be back after the Yeovil game, Elisha was on the bench today but she’s not quite 100% so she’ll get another week of training under her belt. So we’re actually looking quite good now and getting most players back in contention.
But the girls that have come in have been very good, I brought Nicola Potts on towards the end of the game and I thought we played really well, she looked good and have some chances. Grace Smith, who scored last week was on, she was outstanding today – so the girls that are coming back are going to find it hard to get into the team because we’ve won two games and they’ll have to fight for their places.”
With Villa a little off the pace before they scored the midlands team has much to thank goalkeeping ace Grace Moloney for, with the Reading loanee pulling off a string of top rate saves in the first-half to keep the hosts out,
“Grace is a goalkeeper we’ve known about for a while, so it’s not rocket science when you see Reading have signed Mary Earps whose also very good goalkeeper and all of a sudden they’ve got two. We were struggling a little in the goalkeeper department, so we needed someone else in there and when it came about that she could come in on loan it was something we jumped at.
We always knew she was good, but getting to see her consistently in training and in games, she’s absolutely sensational and I have nothing but respect for her. Her game management, her distribution and her saves, she’s class and with the deepest respect to our division but a player of her calibre belongs in Super League One.”
With the Villains currently fifth in WSL2, they’ve lost considerable space on the league leaders despite having played the same number of games as the top two. Hunt, like many bosses has been left to rue missed chances but with the belief in the squad high they’ll be going into their last six games full of confidence.
“Our main problems this year have been with taking our chances, if you look at it today in the very first minute we go flying down there, have a great chance and we don’t take it. And it’s been happening all season, it was the same away at Bristol, we had great chances, at Durham we had open goals. When we don’t take our chances we put pressure on ourselves then we seem to concede a bad goal, so it was nice to see us be so resilient today. We had a bad spell but we defended well and then we got a goal and from then on I thought we dominated the game.”
“We don’t fear anyone in the division and we’ve proven against everyone we’ve played that we’ll give them a game. We should have beat Bristol away, but we didn’t take our chances, at Yeovil we were 2-0 up at half-time and we ended up losing 4-2 – again it was our fault, and they’re two of the best in the league. To be fair, Everton beat us at our place and they deserved it but every other game we should have gotten something out of it.”