Sunday’s Second City derby saw Aston Villa record a 1-0 win over Birmingham City at St Andrew’s, the visitors’ first Barclays FA Women’s Super League triumph over their West Midlands rivals.
The victory saw The Villans rise to sixth place, reaching the 10-point mark in the process, something which head coach Carla Ward was keen to highlight in her post-match press conference in which FAWSL Full-Time were present.
“Let’s not underestimate how big 10 points is at this stage,” said Ward. “We are three games before Christmas, we’re not even at the halfway stage so to be on 10 points already is massive.
“I said to the girls before the game that in a derby anything can happen, the momentum will swing. They tried to make it ugly and transitional early on and we didn’t really want to get into that sort of game, but that happens in a derby, so the three points is massive.”
Aston Villa controlled the game throughout the first half, but only found the back of the net once through a 25th-minute Anita Asante header. Entering the second half with just a goal separating the two sides, Blues found their way into the game and the nervy nature of the last 20 minutes left Ward frustrated, despite the win.
“At half time, we were disappointed to come in only one up, I think we should’ve been out of sight,” added Ward. “We needed to move the ball quicker, we knew they would potentially sit in a block so we knew how to hurt them but we didn’t do it well enough.
“In the second half, they stepped on and they put us under a bit of pressure without Hannah (Hampton) having to make any big saves, but I’m delighted with the three points, we’re in a good place I’d say.”
Set pieces were key for Villa throughout the match, forming the majority of the visitors’ chances including the goal itself. Ward explained that providing more of a set piece threat has been a focus of recent training sessions, work that certainly paid off on Sunday.
“We’ve been brilliant defending set pieces but not good enough scoring from them, so that’s been the emphasis this week,” she said. “That’s the first time we’ve sent Neetz (Anita Asante) up, we addressed it in the week and she goes and scores so I’m delighted.”
Ward was also quick to praise her summer signing from Birmingham City, Sarah Mayling, who got the match-winning assist and threatened with her set pieces throughout the 90 minutes.
She said “I’ll be honest, she hasn’t trained all week, she took a knock against Chelsea and it was touch and go. We prepared without her all week but thankfully, she came through and she’s been magnificent all season so we’re delighted.”
Addressing where Villa go from here and their aims for the rest of the season, Ward concluded “I think the target is to keep improving. With 10 new players it has taken some time to gel so I don’t think we have fully got there yet but sooner or later we’ll be there.
“Where we are is credit to the girls and my backroom staff who put a tireless amount of work in day in and day out.”
Ward will now prepare her squad for Wednesday night’s FA Women’s Continental League Cup fixture against Sheffield United at The Banks’s Stadium. A number of WSL Academy players are set to make the step up and become involved.