Aston Villa struck two late goals to beat Bristol City and record their first Women’s Super League win of the season.
Substitute Ebony Salmon inspired their opener in the 77th minute, seeing her cross for Rachel Daly deflect off defender Megan Connolly and beyond keeper Olivia Clark at the near post.
And Salmon continued to influence the visitors, doubling their lead nine minutes later with a powerful shot from a tight angle that squeezed through Clark.
Villa deserved the win, which eases pressure on manager Carla Ward and lifts them from the bottom of the WSL table, above Bristol City on goal difference.
Win eases pressure on Villa boss Ward
Villa finished fifth in the league last season and this summer geared up to challenge the status quo and build towards a top-four finish.
Instead they came into Sunday’s fixture as the only WSL side yet to pick up a point this campaign having lost each of their first five matches, although they did thrash Sheffield United 5-0 in the Continental Cup on Wednesday.
Ward’s team dominated possession but struggled to create many clear-cut chances before Salmon came on for Adriana Leon in the 65th minute and influenced both goals with driving runs.
They face West Ham in their next match next Sunday, a side who have also lost four of their opening six matches. It will be another opportunity for Villa to rise up the table.
‘Chances for us to get points’
Bristol City manager Smith believes the current WSL table “does not reflect” where her side will finish this season.
Despite Villa’s possession, Smith’s side had the best chance across the first 75 minutes when Rachel Furness’ shot from range was tipped over the bar by Villa goalkeeper Daphne van Domselaar in the first half.
Indeed for much of the second half it looked as if City would back up their win over West Ham last week with a credible draw at Ashton Gate.
“It is an open league and I think what we’re seeing this year is that the gap between the top and bottom teams it’s getting smaller,” Smith told BBC Radio Bristol.
“We’re still in a growth phase, we’re shifting through that. There are chances for us to get points.”
The Robins could be without regular goalkeeper Kaylan Marckese for some time after she was replaced by Clark in first-half injury time after colliding with the post.
“I don’t have a lot of updates on the actual injury, she was in a lot of pain when she came off,” added Smith.
“Hopefully that’s not as bad as it looks.”
City face Everton in their next WSL fixture next weekend.
Bristol City Women
- 21MarckeseSubstituted forClarkat 45+8′minutes
- 7HarrisonSubstituted forWardat 61′minutes
- 10FurnessSubstituted forSymeat 62′minutes
- 23JonesBooked at 38mins
- 17ThestrupSubstituted forHaylesat 87′minutes
Aston Villa Women
- 1van Domselaar
- 19Blindkilde BrownSubstituted forNobbsat 65′minutes
- 10DaliSubstituted forStaniforthat 82′minutes
- 23LeonBooked at 35minsSubstituted forSalmonat 65′minutes
- Melissa Burgin
Match ends, Bristol City Women 0, Aston Villa Women 2.
Second Half ends, Bristol City Women 0, Aston Villa Women 2.
Foul by Jordan Nobbs (Aston Villa Women).
Amy Rodgers (Bristol City Women) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt missed. Naomi Layzell (Bristol City Women) header from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Brooke Aspin with a cross.
Attempt missed. Emily Syme (Bristol City Women) right footed shot from outside the box is too high. Assisted by Shania Hayles with a headed pass.
Substitution, Bristol City Women. Shania Hayles replaces Amalie Thestrup.
Goal! Bristol City Women 0, Aston Villa Women 2. Ebony Salmon (Aston Villa Women) left footed shot from a difficult angle on the right to the bottom right corner.
Foul by Amy Rodgers (Bristol City Women).
Rachel Corsie (Aston Villa Women) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Rachel Daly (Aston Villa Women).
Amy Rodgers (Bristol City Women) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Kirsty Hanson (Aston Villa Women).
Ella Powell (Bristol City Women) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Substitution, Aston Villa Women. Lucy Staniforth replaces Kenza Dali.
Own Goal by Megan Connolly, Bristol City Women. Bristol City Women 0, Aston Villa Women 1.
Corner, Aston Villa Women. Conceded by Olivia Clark.
Attempt saved. Sarah Mayling (Aston Villa Women) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner.
Hand ball by Megan Connolly (Bristol City Women).
Attempt blocked. Rachel Daly (Aston Villa Women) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Rachel Corsie.