Neither side were able to break the deadlock as Aston Villa travelled south for a midweek relegation scrap against West Ham.
It was a turgid first half, with neither side enjoying long enough spells of possession to settle into their rhythm.
The home side looked the shade more confident on the ball. Experienced French international Kenza Dali was a constant force driving the ball forward, but Villa shot-stopper Lisa Weiss was hardly troubled into a save.
For Villa, teenagers Asmita Ale and Freya Gregory stood out as bright sparks. Ale’s composed, smart defending kept her side out of trouble. Gregory was a tireless runner, frequently dropping deeper to win the ball.
However, their attacks were rushed and quickly nullified by West Ham’s calm back three. Sending searching balls forward couldn’t bring the best out of their technical magician Mana Iwabuchi.
As the half-time whistle sounded, Irons midfielder Katerina Svitková’s hopeful 5th minute shot from outside the box remained the only real chance.
Villa began the second half with increased intensity, bringing more players up in their attacks and forcing mistakes out the Hammers’ backline.
However, it was a West Ham free-kick that would provide the best chance in the 53rd minute. Again, however, the necessary moment of magic was absent. Joe Haigh mistimed her header and Dagný Brynjarsdóttir couldn’t react quickly enough to get a shot away.
The game opened up somewhat as the second half progressed. The increased end to end action resulted in a flurry of fouls rather than quality chances. Yellow cards for Hawa Cissoko, Freya Gregory, Jodie Hutton and Asmita Ale brought the total up to six.
West Ham were getting into their stride somewhat as the game reached the 70-minute mark, but the goal never came. No nonsense defending and a good save from Lisa Weiss to keep out Svitková was enough to keep the sides level.
Cissoko solid at the back
Cissoko was the Irons’ guardian angel in defence. Time and time again, she neutralised any threat that Villa managed to create.
When West Ham failed to clear their box after Courtney Brosnan punched away Hutton’s free-kick, Cissoko finally headed away the danger in the six-yard box. A great run from Emily Syme had West Ham looking stretched, but her pass couldn’t reach Stine Larsen before Cissoko intercepted.
She even earned herself a yellow card for a tactical foul on Iwabuchi as she was breathing down on goal.
It was end to end in the closing stages of the game, but the game remained characterised by a lack of quality in the final third.
West Ham failed to capitalise on a number of well-delivered corners by Kenza Dali from which captain Gilly Flaherty just couldn’t get direct her headers on target.
Aston Villa were always a bad touch or loose pass away from creating a chance. In the final minutes of added time, Hayles’ heavy touch lost her possession before she could pass to Syme who was through on goal.
A match that certainly won’t go down as a classic, but one that leaves the WSL relegation battle wide open. Just two points separate West Ham in ninth place from both Villa and bottom of the table Bristol City.