- Albion beat Aston Villa 2-1 at Culver Road
- Kirsty Barton and Ini Umotong on target for hosts
- Tash Baptiste pulls one back for Villa
- The Seagulls are next in action against Watford on 6th May
Brighton & Hove Albion continued their FA WSL 2 title challenge with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Aston Villa at Culver Road.
First-half goals from Kirsty Barton and Ini Umotong ultimately proved to be the difference between the two sides, but Villa halved the deficit through Tash Baptiste and gave Albion plenty to think about with a determined display.
Hope Powell made four changes to the side that beat Doncaster Rovers Belles a week ago, as Lucy Gillett, Amelia Ritchie, Jenna Legg and Lucy Somes all came into the side.
Villa had a chance with just 18 seconds on the clock after Ebony Salmon was played through on goal one-v-one with Lucy Gillett, but the Seagulls keeper made a comfortable save.
Albion gradually began to assert their dominance through the half, playing some lovely free-flowing football.
Sophie Perry floated in an enticing cross towards Umotong, but her looping header went over the crossbar.
The full-back then teed up Danielle Buet on the edge of the box, only for the latter to fire wide with her volley.
The breakthrough did come with 16 minutes on the clock courtesy of Barton, who latched onto Umotong’s through ball and saw her strike squirm past Aja Aguirre in the Villa goal.
Albion continued the momentum gained from the opening goal, as Buet’s neat footwork on the edge of the box set up a chance for Legg, whose looping strike rose over the bar.
Buet set up another chance moments later, this time for Umotong, who fired inches wide after stretching to meet the pass.
Powell’s side then hit the woodwork twice in quick succession after Aguirre tipped Kate Natkiel’s strike onto the bar, before Somes did the same on the follow up.
Salmon was arguably Villa’s most dangerous player in the first half, and she saw a shot go just over the target after being played through down the right flank.
But Brighton doubled their advantage three minutes before the break when Umotong showed some brilliant persistence to plough through the Villa defence before toe-poking her shot past Aguirre.
The visitors still carried a threat though and Salmon wasted a chance to halve the deficit in first-half stoppage time, as she fired wide in a one-v-one with Gillett.
Villa then had a nervy moment defensively, which Umotong seized upon. She then teed up Somes in the box, but the visitors cleared their lines.
The visitors did get one back though through Baptiste, who volleyed the ball over Gillett just before the hour mark.
Umotong continued to look lively and saw her header go wide from Perry’s deep set piece into the area. The Nigerian international was also denied by Aguirre from inside the box after a strike with the outside of her foot.
The game ended with chances for both teams, as Legg played in Umotong, while down the other end Salmon saw her strike cleared off the line before Ashlee Brown’s effort was deflected behind at the far post.
ALBION: Gillett; Ritchie, F. Whelan (A. Whelan 73), Rafferty, Perry; Barton (Peplow 82), Buet, Legg; Natkiel, Umotong, Somes (Thomas 87).
SUBS NOT USED: Hourihan (GK), Ashton-Jones, Gibbons, Nilden.