By Jonty Banks

25th Feb, 2023 | 2:10pm

View: Carla Ward must settle Aston Villa Women goalkeeping dilemma with faith in Hannah Hampton

If Aston Villa harbour any ambitions of climbing to even higher heights in the Women’s Super League this season, Carla Ward must settle on a first-choice goalkeeper in between the sticks.

For a number of reasons this season, the Villa boss has been forced to chop and change her number one, with both Hannah Hampton and Anna Leat having a run of games at different points of the campaign.

Although Hampton starred for the West Midlands outfit in the 2021/22 season, the Daily Mail (1 November) reported she was dropped by both club and country earlier this term over “attitude” issues” – to which the keeper fired back that she was suffering from a medical problem.

However, with the controversy surrounding her and England boss Sarina Wiegman now firmly in her rearview mirror, Hampton must be given a run of games by Ward to get back to her best in net. Having started in the back-to-back matches against Brighton before the international break, this could be a hint that the Lioness is finally back in possession of the number-one gloves.

Hampton hasn’t had it her own way, though, with Anna Leat proving to be a major roadblock in her return to the first team. The New Zealand goalkeeper starred while on debut for the Villans in the Conti Cup group stage match in October and has continued in a similar vein of form ever since.

The shot-stopper produced a clutch one-on-one save in extra-time of the match before turning up the heat by saving four Manchester United penalties from 12 yards out.

On the club’s return from the mid-season break, it seemed Ward was favouring Leat to Hampton in between the sticks, with the former starting in the 2-1 victory over Spurs and the score draw against Manchester City.

Despite this, you can’t help but feel Hampton has that little sprinkle of X-Factor about her work, and having played in the WSL for over four years now, she has the experience to match.

It will be a tough choice to make for Ward given that neither keeper has buckled in the race for to become first-choice keeper, but the Aston Villa manager must trust that Hampton can rediscover the form that got her into the Lionesses squad for the Euro 2022 campaign.

In other Aston Villa news, the club want to reunite with a former player for a fee in excess of £40million in the summer.