A goal after 33 seconds and two injury time strikes ensured FA Women’s Championship leaders Aston Villa weathered Charlton Women’s second half dominance to run out 3-0 winners at Boldmere St Michaels on Sunday.
The Addicks showed three changes from the side that fell to defeat against Chelsea last weekend, with Lilli Maple and Ciara Watling returning to the starting eleven alongside Jaime Gotch.
But the game got off to the worst possible start for the napping Charlton, as Villa opened the scoring straight from kick off with Shania Hayles slamming past Katie Startup with 33 seconds on the clock.
Charlton generally struggled to get much going offensively through the first half, with Gotch having an early sighter from range deflected wide for a corner. However, the hosts created the better chances.
Hayles and Kerri Walsh both had efforts off target, before Emily Syme crossed for the unmarked Nadine Hanssen, who could only head onto the post from close range with Startup clutching the rebound.
A rare foray forward from the visitors saw Rachel Newborough win the ball high up the field just after half an hour in and laid the ball off to Alice Griffiths, who saw a powerful strike saved by Sian Rogers.
But if the home side were the better side in the first period, Charlton came out determined to reverse that after the interval, pressing their opponents high and forcing them into mistakes.
Watling first sent a free kick just over the crossbar, before the former Crystal Palace midfielder fed Lily Woodham to shoot wide across goal. In between those attempts, Startup did well to save from Hanssen.
It was Woodham creating most of Villa’s problems down the Charlton left, sending a ball high towards goal that nestled on the roof of the net. The Reading loanee then fired in an excellent free kick from 20 yards out that Rogers did well to push over the bar. Grace Coombs shot over from the resulting corner.
However, for all their work rate and pressure, once more that all-important goal eluded Charlton, allowing Aston Villa chances to counter in the final 10 minutes of the clash. Substitute Emma Follis was at the heart of her side wrestling back control of the tie, curling one just over the far top corner before sending a dangerous free kick into the penalty area for Hanssen to head straight at Startup.
In the end, it was a brace of stoppage time goals from Follis and Melissa Johnson that put the game to bed and made the win look more comfortable than it was for the unbeaten Midlands side.
Charlton: Startup, Watling (Heuchan 84), Newborough, Coombs, Clifford (Dorey 51), Woodham, Gotch (Eide 84), Griffiths, Legg, Maple, Mustaki. Subs (not used): Salgado, Gardien, Casley, Griffin.
Aston Villa: Rogers, Ale, N’Dow, Welsh (Follis 65), West, Hutton, Syme, Haigh, Ewers (Johnson 90), Hayles, Hansson. Subs (not used): Richards, Hassell, Haywood, Kosinska, Warner.