Melissa Johnson of Aston Villa Ladies celebrates the match ball. Aston Villa Ladies v Sheffield United Women, Women's Championship football match, Trevor Brown Memorial Ground, Birmingham, UK - 18 Aug 2019 Photo: Lynne Cameron for The FA

Johnson hits hat-trick as Aston Villa secure impressive win at The Valley

Aston Villa striker Melissa Johnson bagged another hat-trick as her side defeated Charlton Athletic 4-0 in-front of almost 1,000 fans on Saturday afternoon.

Villa went into the fixture with a 100% start from their opening four games and they will be pleased to
have extended that record against Charlton Athletic at The Valley.

The game began very evenly with neither side creating too many clear cut chances. Sophie Hayward’s driving run towards the edge of the area was one bright point but her eventual shot was well blocked
and the ball spun away to safety.

The away side gradually got a foot hold in the game and very nearly opened the scoring through
their in-form striker Johnson. It took some tricky feet from the summer signing to round home keeper Katie Startup and with the goal at her mercy you would have bet your house on Johnson opening up her account for the day. However, her deflected shot was blocked on the line by covering defender Charlotte Kerr to keep her side level. Kerr was called into action once again when a corner was met with a powerful header by Nat Haigh which needed to be poked wide by the player on the post.

Villa continued to create chances throughout the half and it wasn’t long until Startup was called upon again to keep The Midlands side at bay. A floated cross-field ball into the area was once again powered towards goal, this time by the towering Emily Syme, and it took a wonderful diving save
from Startup to deny The Villains once more.

The Claret and Blues were not to be thwarted again and who else but Melissa Johnson was to
break the deadlock. The goal came after some net play cutting in from the left by Emma Follis and when the winger’s deflected effort then fell to Nadine Hanssen, her neat back-heel played in Johnson who fired the ball beyond Startup.

Charlton Athletic possibly should’ve equalised soon after when a through ball from Sara Eggsevik found Charlie Devlin in a superb position in the Villa area. Unfortunately, the former Manchester United forward didn’t quite get the ball out of her feet with her first touch and with the angle too tight she failed to trouble Daniela Kosinska in the Villa goal.

The visiting side then responded and came agonisingly close to doubling their lead just before half-
time. A quick break away from a Charlton Athletic corner left the home side exposed at the back and
Melissa Johnson charged forward down the right wing. Her early low cross found Amy West in acres
of space in front of goal but a finger tip save from Startup pushed the ball wide of her right hand post.

After the interval, it was very much the same with Aston Villa pushing forward for a second goal. They nearly found it in the opening minutes when Hanssen blazed her shot over after the Charlton Athletic defence failed to clear from a corner.

Sure enough, Villa did find their elusive second goal and it was from a moment of brilliance by Emma Follis. The home side gave away a free-kick in a dangerous area 25 yards from goal and Follis whipped a delightfully struck effort beyond the helpless Startup.

Two quickly became three. With Charlton Athletic trying to play out from the back they were unable to break through Villa’s press. Gemma Davies’ side won the ball high up the field and Shania Hayles
quickly moved forward before playing in Johnson whose first touch allowed her to cut inside
leaving the home defence for dead. The Villa number nine then finessed the ball into the far top corner
for her second of the game.

The former Leicester City striker almost had her hat-trick shortly after when she was played through and her drilled shot was dragged narrowly wide.

It was close to being another one for the travelling side when Johnson turned provider when
she laid off for Marissa Ewers whose low effort almost caught Startup off guard. With the effort
bypassing countless players in front of her, the keeper needed to react late before saving smartly
low to her right. From the subsequent corner, it was yet another forceful header that needed a
combination of both Renee Hector and Kerr to clear off the line and save Charlton Athletic once again.

With one of their few chances of the second half, Charlton Athletic forward Devlin, the home side’s best player on the day, rifled a high venomous shot from a narrow angle. In the slippery conditions, Konsinka struggled to get a grasp of the ball but she eventually gained control and was able to come through the minor scare with her clean sheet intact.

Not resting on their three-goal advantage, Aston Villa continued their pursuit for more. A neat through
ball found Follis on the left and she cut it back for Johnson to clinically slot it home for her third hat-trick of the season to make it 4-0. The striker is currently in the form of her life and is certainly an early favourite for the Golden Boot and Player of the Season.

The game ended 4-0 and that scoreline did not flatter Aston Villa by any stretch of the imagination. It could have been much worse for Charlton Athletic who were second to everything in the game. This result leaves the London side winless in their opening four games and without a single goal to their names, it could be a long season for manager Riteesh Mishra and his side. As for his counterpart  Davies, she witnessed another impressive display from her side. The victory for Aston Villa now puts them three points ahead of top of the table rivals Durham with The Wildcats taking on Blackburn Rovers at New Ferens Park this afternoon.

By Ryan Lee Gregory (@ryanleegregory)

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