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The Second City derby resumes tonight, and you should be there

The Premier League might be over until August but the FA Women's Super League is well underway - and Aston Villa Ladies could do with your support against the old enemy tonight.

Alicia Robinson of AVLFC and Katie Natkiel of Watford Ladies in action
Alicia Robinson of AVLFC and Katie Natkiel of Watford Ladies in action
Tom Dulat - The FA (via Getty Images)

Sunday 31st October 2010 was the last time I attended a Second City derby – Aston Villa 0-0 Birmingham City – at Villa Park.

It was an uninspiring affair, lacking the vitriol of previous encounters, and the only thing I can remember of note was Barry Bannan leaping comically to out-jump the towering Nikola Zigic and win a header.

In men’s football, Villa and Blues haven’t met competitively for over three years, and that doesn’t look likely to change anytime soon.

However, should you turn your attentions to women’s football, you’re in luck – there’s a Second City derby tonight and, for once, Villa are the underdogs.

Competing in the Continental Cup, Aston Villa Ladies and Birmingham City Ladies are playing out a reverse scenario of the men’s teams, in that the Blues currently reside in the FA Women’s Super League 1 – the top tier of women’s football – while Villa occupy League 2.

And with an impressive UEFA Women’s Champions League run, which ended at the semi-final stage last month, already under their belt, Blues will be the favourites ahead of tonight’s game, particularly as Villa are yet to find a win in their Continental Cup group and, indeed, overall so far.

But, having watched every Ladies game this season as Villa’s official matchday reporter, I can tell you with confidence that the elusive first victory certainly doesn’t feel too far away.

Manager Ron Mellor and head coach Joe Hunt have a talented squad at their disposal, but one which is still very young, shown by the girls currently moving from the development squad into the first team.

Sixteen-year-old Abbie Horton, for example, made a substitute appearance in Villa’s last outing against Yeovil Town Ladies, while Tasha Baptiste has been named in today’s squad after averaging a goal per game in the development squad – including a hat-trick against the Blues last week!

And my two favourite players so far, Jade Richards and Beth Merrick, are still only aged 21 and 18 respectively.

Jade is a commanding centre-back who isn’t afraid to put her body on the line to block a shot, while she’s also very adept with the ball at her feet and I’ve enjoyed watching her making a couple of storming forward runs and launching headers at set-pieces at the other end of the field.

Beth, meanwhile, has scored the only goal of Villa’s campaign thus far – a scorching 40-yard free-kick which demonstrated her sublime technical ability.

She’s very exciting to watch and I feel she really proved her worth against Yeovil after coming off the bench to light up Villa’s attack; there were plenty of home supporters sitting near me who were full of praise for her.

So, if you’re already missing men’s football, I strongly advise you to be at Sutton Coldfield Town FC at 7.45 tonight.

Villa may have endured a slow start results-wise to the FAWSL but the girls are improving every game and it’s been satisfying to watch them develop and really test some of the league’s very best teams in a hugely difficult set of opening fixtures.

Don’t give me that “women’s football is rubbish” rubbish, either. I’ve been blown away by the high standard of football on show, particularly from the prestigious Doncaster Belles and current FAWSL leaders Notts County Ladies, and I’m looking forward to watching a quality Blues side.

I’ve only really tuned in to women’s football this FAWSL season, too, and I’m already a convert. The moral of the story – don’t knock it ‘til you’ve actually tried it.

And why not choose tonight to do just that? Tickets are just £3 for adults and £1 for children, the ground is only a 15-minute walk away from Sutton Coldfield railway station and, whether it’s the men or the women, you really can’t beat the feeling of getting one over the Blues!