Sheffield Grind Out Home Win Against Aston Villa
Sheffield FC made it back-to-back wins with a hard-fought 2-1 victory against Aston Villa at the Home of Football.
Goals at either end of the first half put Zoe Johnson’s Sheffield side in control, but Aston Villa had the lion's share of the ball yet did little to threaten the host's goal in an gritty WSL2 match.
Sheffield took the lead with just 40 seconds on the clock, when Chloe Dixon attacked up the right, and her cross was misjudged by Villa's goalkeeper Sian Rogers, facing into a bright sun, and the ball dropped in at the near post.
The perfect start for the hosts should have allowed them to relax and push forward for more goals, but Aston Villa reacted well to the early set back, and they were the team asking the questions. However, for all Villa’s attacking threat and territorial advantage, they never really troubled Sheffield goalkeeper Danielle Gibbons.
A strong claim for a Sheffield penalty was waved away midway through the half by referee James Bell, as Rogers charged out with Mel Johnson bearing down on goal, upended the forward but the referee adjudged she got the ball first.
Sheffield restricted Villa to long range efforts which were mostly off-target, whilst Sherry McCue and Jenna Dear had similar efforts at the other end. The hosts began to get a better grip on the game in the final ten minutes of the half, with Ellie Gilliatt forcing Rogers into a fine near post save at close range shortly before half-time.
But there was still just enough time for one more Sheffield attack, and it was worth waiting for. A move up the left saw the ball worked to Dixon who cut in off the sideline, and unleashed a fierce shot from 30 yards which bent towards the near post, beat the diving Rogers, hit the post and rebounded onto the far post and over the line for 2-0.
The second half was one of few chances as the game became scrappy and broken up by a large number of free-kicks which Villa failed to capitalise on.
The visitors' best opportunities didn't materialise until the final ten minutes of the match. Substitute Ebony Salmon was denied by an excellent save from Gibbons coming out to the edge or her area to stop the forward who had been put clean through, the rebound fell to Beth Merrick, but her attempted lob dropped wide of the of the target.
The goal did eventually come with three minutes of normal time remaining, shortly after Katie Wilkinson had struck the bar with a dipping effort, Kerri Welsh poked home a free-kick as Sheffield failed to deal with the ball in and it fell to the forward 6 yards out.
Wilkinson could have equalised just three minutes later, the striker heading over when free in the box with the last meaningful chance of the game. A nervy final few minutes, which seemed like an awful lot longer for the Sheffield fans, saw Villa pile the pressure on the Sheffield goal, but some frantic defending at times, kept the visitors at bay, and Sheffield managed to hang on for three valuable points and a first home win against Aston Villa in three attempts.