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  • By Paul Lagan at Kingsmeadow Stadium

England shines with only goal against Villa, but James nowhere to be seen with Arsenal looming

By Paul Lagan at Kingsmeadow

Chelsea 1 v Aston Villa 0

Beth England notched up a smart glancing header on 20 minutes, the only goal of the game to liven up an otherwise turgid 90 minutes as the Blues played their first serious match ahead of the opening on the WSL season against Aston Villa at Kingsmeadow.

A crowd of almost 1,000, all tucked into the west stand showed their support for a team they haven’t seen live for 18 months.

They were also desperately looking forward to seeing new signing Lauren James too.

But the sister of Reece James was nowhere to be seen, and it’s believed won’t feature in the opening WSL fixture away to Arsenal at the Emirates in just over a week’s time.

The club were tight-lipped as to the reason and didn’t have a post-match press conference with head coach Emma Hayes for a chance to explain either.

This was the last chance for Hayes to put her charges through a final rehearsal.

Striker Sam Kerr, fresh from a holiday in the US was on the bench, but on 70 minutes Hayes made wholesale changes bringing on Kerr, fellow striker Fran Kirby and centre-back Aniek Nouwen for her Chelsea debut.

Only skipper Magda Eriksson and Jess Carter remained from the starting 11.

As the game wore on, Villa had the best chances in the second half. Ex-blue Gemma Davison was released by Birmingham on Monday, and appeared as a Trialist substitute for the visitors.

With a couple of minutes to go, the PA announcer informed the loyal and still vocal fans that the players would not be available pitch-side after the game to sign autographs and have photos taken with them, due to ‘covid regulations.’

Several fans booed and a few shouted ‘You don’t know what you are doing,’ by way of making their disappointment heard.

Despite that the vast majority still stayed and watched the entire squad have a warm-down.

Such was the desire of the fans to still engage with the players even though the match was over.

Teams: Chelsea, Berger, Bright, Carter, Leupolz, England, Ji, Reiten, Wriksson, Charles, Cuthbert, Harder

Subs: Musovic, Telford, Nouwen, Ingle, Kirby, Fleming, Kerr, Spence, Andersson, Fox

Aston Villa

Hampton, Maylin, Sargeant, Allen, Asante, Lehmann, Trialist, Boyle-hlorkah, McLoughlin, Gregory, Pacheco

Subs, Rodgers, N’Dow, Arthur, Brown, Rabjohn,, Hayley’s, Trialist, GGoodwin, McAteer


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