Manchester United Women 5 Aston Villa Ladies 0
Manchester United Women have secured promotion to the Women’s Super League with three games to spare after a ruthless 5-0 victory over Aston Villa Ladies at Leigh Sports Village.
A bullet header from Millie Turner broke the deadlock after six minutes before skipper Alex Greenwood doubled the Reds’ advantage from the penalty spot midway through the first half. Jess Sigsworth, who scored five against Villa earlier in the campaign, added the evening's third goal with a composed finish when one-on-one with Villa keeper Sian Rodgers to send the hosts into the break with a commanding lead.
Four minutes into the second half, Ella Toone added to our increasing goal tally with a well-taken volley, however there was drama soon after as Rodgers saw red for handling the ball outside her penalty area. United substitute Charlie Devlin completed a memorable night for Casey Stoney's side by cutting inside and slotting home a beautiful finish with the home fans chanting "we are going up" as the final whistle blew.
The manager made two changes to the XI fielded against Tottenham 17 days ago with Toone replacing the suspended Katie Zelem due to an accumulation of yellow cards while Martha Harris came back into the fold for Devlin.
And Casey didn’t have to wait long for her team to grab the initiative. Alex Greenwood whipped in an outswinging corner from the left with real pace and found Turner at the back post. The 22-year-old headed it across Rodgers’ goal and into the top-left corner to find the net for the first time since mid-September.
Lizzie Arnot caused Villa numerous problems down the right-hand side in the opening 20 minutes. Shortly after our opener, the Scottish international delivered an inviting ball into the box to Leah Galton but the angle was against the left winger and her resulting effort was dealt with by the visitors' stopper.
Eventually though, the Villans were made to pay as Rodgers charged off her line and brought down the pacey Arnot, leaving the referee no option but to award a penalty to United. Up stepped Greenwood who was cool, calm and collected to fire her spot-kick down the middle of the goal and double our lead, having earlier created Turner's opener.
A defensive mix-up by the West Midlands outfit allowed the Reds to get a third goal before the half-time interval. Mollie Green played in Jess Sigsworth and with the visitors' defence at sixes and sevens the forward was able to surge forward and slot the ball into the net and send us into the break with a comfortable advantage.
The first 10 minutes of the second half produced drama as Arnot delivered another fantastic cross to Toone who volleyed in United's fourth before Villa were reduced to 10. Just like in the first half, Rodgers raced off her line but handled the ball outside the 18-yard box and was given her marching orders by the referee. With no substitute keeper on the bench, head coach Gemma Davies decided to give the goalkeeping shirt to defender Jade Richards.
Toone came close from the resulting free kick, as her shot deflected off a Villa player and onto the woodwork, but with just over 15 minutes to play, the fifth goal materialised. Devlin, who had been on the pitch for just three minutes, cut inside expertly, sitting down two defenders in the process and bagged her fifth strike of the season as we made that extra player count.
In a game where Villa didn't have a single shot on goal, the final whistle went to rapturous applause from the 1,401 fans in attendance. No doubt they'll now be looking forward to Saturday's home game against Crystal Palace, again at Leigh Sports Village. A win in that one would clinch the FA Women's Championship title.
United: Chamberlain; Harris, A Turner, M Turner, Smith; Green (Palmer 63), Toone, Greenwood (c); Arnot, Sigsworth (Devlin 70), Galton (Hanson 57).
Substitute not used: Ramsey.
Goals: M. Turner 6, Greenwood (p) 21, Sigsworth 35, Toone 49, Devlin 73.
NEXT HOME MATCH
United's next home game is on Saturday 20 April as Crystal Palace Ladies visit Leigh Sports Village (kick-off 12:00 BST). Fans can pay at the turnstiles to see if the Reds can wrap up the Women's Championship title and the game will be shown live on MUTV.