Yesterday, the Aston Villa Ladies graced Villa Park for the first time, and from my seat in the Trinity Road stand, it was clear that this should absolutely be the first of many times.
1,320 fans turned up on a bitterly cold and miserable Sunday afternoon to show their support, and the ladies did not disappoint. Favourites to win against bottom of the table Watford, Villa settled in well, and always looked in control of the game.
A first half goal looked inevitable, and star player Beth Merrick delivered, as Villa went into the break deservedly ahead. A second goal would always kill the game off, and Villa wasted no time in that regard, as Lucy Shepherd doubled the lead three minutes after the restart. This was goal of the day for sure, as Shepherd stayed calm and rounded the keeper before slotting home. The third came quickly thereafter, as Tash Baptiste got on the end of a Amy West cut back and finished coolly.
A flurry of substitutions in the final third killed the momentum somewhat, but Villa were able to grab a fourth thanks to a long-range effort from Merrick. Watford had some chances in the second half, but thanks to some solid defending from Elisha N'Dow in particular, the Hornets were restricted to long range efforts, none of which seriously troubled Jess Myers in goal.
It was great to see so many people at Villa Park supporting the Ladies, and next season, I'd hope to see them back at Villa Park. Over 1,300 fans is a huge number, and playing somewhere more accessible than Sutton Coldfield is perhaps needed, to ensure that this support continues. Because no offence, but the fact that an Aston Villa YouTube channel got to play at Villa Park before the Ladies is a disgrace.
The atmosphere at the club was pretty awesome too. Go to Villa Park for a men's game, and you can expect to hear howls of derision when a pass is misplaced. But yesterday, the crowd was full of encouragement and support. There was also a large number of families and kids at the game, which kinda proves that if the games are affordable (tickets were significantly cheaper than men's tickets), people will come. Overall, this was a successful day for everyone associated with the Villa Ladies. And though this was their last game of the season, yesterday was a day to build on.