By Freya Taylor and Lyndsey Bissell

3rd Feb, 2023 | 9:30am

Aston Villa Women Experts: A Tale of Two League Cups - Heartbreak followed by Triumph for Villa Women

We’re delighted to welcome author Freya Taylor and former academy player Lyndsey Bissell as our exclusive Aston Villa Women experts. Each week they’ll be collaborating to give their views on the biggest talking points at the WSL club…

Confident from claiming a well-deserved point at their last meeting in the WSL against Man City, it would be a test of skill and endurance in order to beat titans Arsenal in the Continental Cup and AFC Fylde in the Women’s FA Cup just three days apart.

Let’s journey back to our first Cup game of the week. It’s Thursday 26 th January and it’s the Quarter Finals of the Continental Cup at Meadow Park, the home of Arsenal Women.

It also marks the first time our spectacular Jordan Nobbs had been back at the ground since signing during this winter transfer window. After a defeat by a strong Arsenal side before Christmas, this was an Aston Villa team with something to prove. Our defence proved strong and held the home side to a deadlock until the 29th minute when Frida Maanum, who is on exceptional form, managed to find her way around two of our defenders and released a low shot into the bottom corner of the net.

At the break, we were trailing 1-0 and knew we needed something to change in order to break through at the other end of the pitch. However, our first substitutes didn’t show until Emily Gielnik was replaced by Ruesha Littlejohn in the 61st minute and Jordan Nobbs was replaced by Liv McLoughlin in the 83rd minute.

Could we have possibly made the changes a bit sooner to shake things up? To push harder? Against this Arsenal side, it, unfortunately, wouldn’t have made much of an impact.

It didn’t take long for Arsenal to come out strong after the restart, as the Norwegian forward yet again found the net in the 50th minute after a superb display of possession and crossing skill from Caitlin Foord. Aston Villa had times they could have equalised in both halves, but it was the third and final goal in the 60th minute that really sealed Villa’s fate as the visitors were just outclassed this time around.

However, it’s clear to see the fight and passion within this squad; and beating a top-flight team such as Arsenal, is not as far away as it has been in previous seasons. The team took this as a learning curve and valuable experience for some of their new players and were able to reflect and keep moving for their next test, three days later.

As a phoenix rises from the ashes, Villa women turned their sights to the fourth round of the Women’s FA Cup, which was played at home on Sunday 29th January. What a sight it was. A resounding victory with an 11-0 scoreline against the Women’s National League North side, gave Carla Ward’s side the confidence boost they needed after their defeat to Arsenal a few days prior.

Not only were there eight different names on the scoresheet for Villa, Rachel Daly showed her striking prowess by taking four of those goals for herself! Demonstrating why she’s still one of the top scorers in the WSL, she even mentioned in her post-match interview how not only is it “her job” to score goals, but it’s what she wants to do for the team and show just how much she’s loving her football at the moment.

It was also a pleasure to see Anna Patten on the scoresheet who netted her first goal for the club. As well as an impressive cross into the box from Maz Pacheco ending with the ball finding itself in the far corner of the net, which produced Villa’s tenth goal of the evening. Finally, Sarah Mayling who scored a brilliant penalty (good to also note Daly missed a penalty due to a fantastic save by Fylde goalkeeper, Hunter) to give Aston Villa their eleventh and final goal.

We would like to give a special mention to AFC Fylde for showing complete sportsmanship and determination against such a strong Villa side. They were fighting for possession and chances right until the end and even managed a shot on target late on in the game. The club should be very proud of how they conducted themselves and we can only hope the players were able to use this as valuable experience of how to grow and develop as individuals and as a team for their future fixtures.

Aston Villa Women will play West Ham United Women in the Fifth round of the Women’s FA Cup.

From the Official FA website, it is important to note how the monetary benefits start to change at this stage and as we know, any funding and money in the women’s game goes such a long way towards equipment, facilities and training.

The fifth round proper will be played on Sunday 26 February 2023, with winning clubs at that stage picking up £20,000 from the competition prize fund and losing clubs also getting £5,000.

In other Aston Villa news, Carla Ward must find a contingency plan in case Rachel Daly gets injured for her side this season.