By Freya Taylor and Lyndsey Bissell

1st Mar, 2023 | 2:10pm

Aston Villa Women Experts: Fans left refreshing Twitter over and over amid FA Cup win v West Ham

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

In what is hotting up to be a very close FA Cup this year, Villa Women made the journey to the Chigwell Construction Stadium, the home of West Ham Women, for the fifth-round round of the Women’s Vitality FA Cup on Sunday.

Although the first half ended without a goal, it certainly wasn’t for a lack of trying. Both sides had multiple opportunities to create chances but were not able to convert or test either goalkeeper.

An early flash of quality, from a beautiful ball linking up Jordan Nobbs and Rach Daly got the travelling fans excited. But Cup of Nations Player of the Tournament Mackenzie Arnold was quick off her line to stop any danger. Moments later, Villa came fighting with a flurry of attempts on goal. First up was Kirsty Hanson, showing some fantastic footwork and managed to get her shot away, but Arnold was there yet again. Next, Maz Pacheco tried her luck, but from distance, the shot just went wide of the post. The best chance of this first half, however, came from a beautiful header courtesy of Dan Turner, but again the shot hit the post and Villa were denied.

The visitors could have easily been up two or three goals by now if they were just that little bit more clinical with their final touch. As half-time loomed, it was clear a motivational team talk was what they needed to give them the push towards the goal and the quarter-finals.

As the second half began, it was clear both teams were hungry for the win and came out with a new sense of purpose. Villa’s creativity increased tenfold and the dream team of Dali and Daly was blooming in confidence yet again. Carla Ward has created such a powerhouse of players in midfield, so it came as no surprise when Nobbs was able to find Alisha Lehmann, who then cut through the West Ham defence, finding Dali who finally cut back to Daly who of course found the back of the net in the 50th minute. Causing roars to erupt from the travelling fans.

Again, Villa had more chances from familiar names, Dali found Daly again, only for the effort to be poked wide of the net. Whereas Nobbs crossed a wonderfully dangerous ball into the box for Hanson but was handled all too well by Arnold.

Down the other end of the pitch, Amalie Thestrup seemed to be Villa’s biggest threat with two shots on target saved by both great goalkeeping from Hannah Hampton and fantastic defending by Dan Turner. In the 71st minute, Dali again found herself in a prime scoring position, but the shot was saved. Villa knew they weren’t safe at 1-0 and their creative chances showed they weren’t slowing down yet.

However, the win in normal time wasn’t meant to be; as West Ham managed to find their equaliser in the dying moments of the game. To extra time it is.

As the first half of extra time started, both teams looked hungry to put their club in the lead, Emily Gielnik for Aston Villa (on for Hanson) aimed to curl the ball into the far corner of the net, but Australian teammate Arnold was there to put a stop to that quickly. Hampton was also kept on her toes as Asseyi managed to make a great connection and head the ball, but luckily for Villa fans, it went just wide of the post.

As the last 15 minutes of extra time began, Freya Gregory made her return to come on upfront for Daly, who had a phenomenal game and left the pitch to rapturous applause.

As if the evening wasn’t full of ‘edge of your seat’ moments already, our captain Rachel Corsie connected with the ball from a lovely Dali corner and the ball found the net – but the goal is disallowed. Clear frustration and shock rippled through the team as they surrounded the referee looking for answers. Without any clear answer given, the final whistle blew and it was onto penalties.

Both teams were like for like, only missing one each until it went to sudden death. Hannah Hampton, the last for Villa, stepped up and blasted the ball into the back of the net. Arnold then had her chance to step up for West Ham, but ultimately sent the ball flying skyward. And just like that it was all over.

Emotional scenes erupted as the whole squad ran over to Hannah first to celebrate and then as a unit, the squad went straight to the travelling fans to celebrate with them; showing just how much the atmosphere the fans create means to the squad, especially on games such as this, when it is literally make-or-break.

We would like to give a special mention to West Ham Women, as penalties are never an easy way to bow out of a tournament and they fought hard throughout to win the game, it just wasn’t meant to be for them on the night.

Now, this would have been a fantastic match, full of heart-stopping moments to watch live. But it wasn’t available to stream anywhere. The FA Player, which claims to be the home of the Women’s FA Cup and the Continental Cup, displayed only two matches on that day on their fixtures and had only one match, out of eight, streaming on their app. The other match shown that day was the head-to-head between giants Chelsea and Arsenal that was shown on BBC2.
Since the Euros last summer, support for the women’s game has grown exponentially and while it’s fantastic to see, the infrastructure is definitely not in place for the growing numbers of supporters, not only around the country but the world as well.

As we have mentioned in the blog before, some clubs choose to have their own streaming service memberships for exclusive content which we understand for revenue. But for cup games, surely the FA Player should at least have audio commentary or live match reporting for the fans who can’t travel and be there in person.

Even recently on social media, one women’s football club said, “the only way to see it is in person” when announcing their next match. On one hand, yes this might drive ticket sales, but for the rest of the supporters, it’s just another barrier to enjoying this beautiful game.

We would love to see this structure change as the game progresses and we know most of the time this is due to various financial restrictions.

For example, even if the FA player charged £2 a month or charged a small fee per game, that could then be split between broadcasting rights, clubs and their supported charities in order to show all of these matches live. An idea that we truly believe most supporters could get behind. Manchester City for example, have used the app ‘Recast’ in the past which works on a credit basis, you can either buy or earn credits from watching videos, to exchange them for access to a live match, therefore not excluding anyone financially either.

If we look at the highlights from this game that have been uploaded to the official Aston Villa website and all over social media; this game was recorded in full and branded with the Villa TV logo. While Villa TV is advertised at only £1.99 a month, there still isn’t access to everything, including the full 90 minutes of this particular game. So from a fan perspective, if these games are being recorded, why can’t there be a central system which directs fans towards the game they want to watch? For reasons such as this, it can be very frustrating being a fan of the women’s game, when all we’d love to do is watch a match with as much ease as fans of the men’s matches do. If you look at the TV schedule over the weekend, the men’s FA cup matches and Carabao Cup final were everywhere, but there was only one women’s match shown live.

We know these things are still progressing and we can’t expect it to be perfect just yet, but by talking about it we hope this will bring about change just that bit quicker.

No one wants to sit refreshing their Twitter feed during a penalty shootout decider!

However! Into the quarter-finals, we go of the Women’s Vitality FA Cup and we are hosting Manchester City; a side who we are undefeated against so far in all competitions this season. Will this streak continue? We’ll find out on 19th March, so watch this space!

In other Aston Villa Women news, here’s how our girls fared in the recent international break.