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Golden Girls lose out in opening day battle with the Lionesses

Ladies | Millwall 3-1 Watford

Watford Ladies were defeated 3-1 away at Millwall Lionesses in their opening game of the 2017/18 WSL 2 season on Sunday. 

The new campaign couldn’t have got off to a much better start for the Hornets, who took the lead after only five minutes through Simona Petkova. However, Millwall turned the game around before the break, with goals from Billie Brooks and Leanne Cowan putting the hosts 2-1 up at the interval.

The scoring was completed when Ella Rutherford put her side two goals to the good with 59 minutes played. It could have been more but for a great penalty save from Jo Fletcher.

The starting line-up saw four of the Ladies' new signings make their competitive debuts for the club. Sarah Jones, Ellie Sargent, Laura-May Walkley and Bianca Bragg those featuring for the first time. 

It was an ideal start for Watford, taking the lead in the fifth minute. Bragg made an immediate impact, playing the ball across for Petkova to finish past Sarah Quantrill from close range.

A sloppy pass in the defensive third nearly allowed the Lionesses to hit back immediately, however Rutherford’s powerful strike from the edge of the area just went past the post.

Merrick Will was presented with a difficult chance to double the Golden Girls' lead, she turned and got good contact on the volley but couldn’t direct it on target.

The hosts managed to level the scores through a set-piece. Ashlee Hincks’ corner was delivered towards the back post and Brooks headed it home to make it all square.

Both sides had good chances to get their second of the game just after the half hour mark. Charlie Devlin’s first time shot was sliced wide, while Will couldn’t get her header on target having being picked out by Sargent.

With only a few minutes remaining of the first half, Millwall took the lead. The Watford players appealed for offside but the flag stayed down, Cowan taking full advantage of the opportunity, showing great composure to slot it past Jo Fletcher into the bottom left hand corner.

To the second half and Fletcher was called into action early on, producing a good save to push Devlin’s 25-yard effort around the post.

Just before the hour, Millwall extended their advantage. Ellie Mason’s powerful strike cannoned back off the crossbar and into the path of Rutherford, who guided the ball into an empty net.

It could have been 4-1 when Megan Wynne was fouled in the box. Rianna Dean stepped up to take the penalty but Fletcher produced a superb save to deny her and then got up quickly to smother the ball.

An important save almost ended up having double the impact. Under a minute later play was down the other end with Rinsola Babajide in space, who fired an effort against the post from a tough angle.

Babajide created another opening for herself with a quarter of an hour to play, after coming inside she got her effort on target but Quantrill gathered it well.

The task for Watford to get back into it was made harder when the referee sent Walkley off after a second yellow with just under 10 minutes to play.

No miraculous comeback materialised as Watford fell to defeat in a disappointing start to the new season.

GOLDEN GIRLS | Fletcher, Sargent, Maple (Fatuga-Dada, 70), Jones, McKeag, Nuttall, Walkley, Bragg (Albert, 57), Petkova (Kerr, 57), Babajide, Will. 

Subs not used: Kitching, Neal, McCarthy

Goal: Petkova (5)

Yellow cards: McKeag (55), Walkley (71)

Red card: Walkley (81 - Second yellow)

Attendance: 393

(Photo by AW Images)

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