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)


Under-23 Report | Watford 1-2 QPR

Marco Silva watched several of his fringe players in action this afternoon as the club’s Under-23 side went down 2-1 at the hands of QPR at the training ground in London Colney.
Silva stayed for the entire 90 minutes as Mauro Zarate, Stefano Okaka, Will Hughes, Jerome Sinclair, Miguel Britos and Daniel Bachmann all brushed off the cobwebs and got some competitive minutes under their belt.
Dion Pereira’s late goal, his sixth in as many games, sadly fell in the consolation category but this game represented more than three points at stake in the South division of the Professional Development League. 
Britos used the match as the chance to get his first match minutes since he was sent off against Brighton. He looked largely comfortable playing in third gear, although there was one moment of rustiness when he played an ill-judged square ball across the pitch. He was withdrawn after an hour with, you suspect, Saturday very much in mind.

Silva watches the Under-23s in action from the training ground grandstand

Zarate was Watford’s most creative player and he buzzed around with purpose all afternoon, twice hitting the outside of the same post in the first-half. This was, most importantly, his first 90 minutes since the serious knee injury he sustained against West Ham United.
Playing in the middle of midfield, Hughes was neat and tidy throughout, looking to link up with Zarate at every opportunity and unpick the QPR defence. He will feel better for this 90 minutes and will be pleased with the assist he laid on for Pereira’s late goal. 
Playing on the right of a midfield four, Sinclair was a willing runner down the flank and looked to get beyond his man at every opportunity without ever producing the penetrating delivery or attempts at goal he will have wanted. 
Okaka, meanwhile, struggled for service as the lone front-man but almost got free late in the second-half when Hughes picked him out over the top, but he couldn't quite accelerate away and the move fizzled out. 

Okaka received his first game-time since the opening day v Liverpool

And, finally, Bachmann couldn’t be faulted for QPR’s two goals and cut something of a commanding figure in the Hornets’ goal. He looks a more than useful number three. 
Encouragingly, Andrè Carrillo, Roberto Pereyra, Isaac Success, Sebastian Prödl and Younès Kaboul were all in the stand to watch their teammates in action and they were almost out of their seats inside a minute when Okaka and Zarate combined for the latter to hit the outside of the post. It was the sort of start that whetted the appetite and suggested there was more of the same to come. 
It didn’t quite pan out that way as QPR, short on first-team experience but high on energy, proved more than a match for the hosts. In the absence of Brandon Mason, who was Watford’s outstanding performer against Barnsley last time out, QPR enjoyed particular success down the right, and it was from a raid down that flank that they won a penalty.

David Sesay was adamant he won the ball, and so was the referee who pointed to the corner, but the linesman adjudged Sesay to have fouled Paul Smyth, allowing Aramide Oteh to beat Bachmann from the spot. 
Only a last-ditch header from Joy Mukena, the former Tottenham youngster, prevented Ilias Chair from making it two soon after. 
Zarate then hit the post again, this time on 20 minutes from a free-kick taken just outside the box. The keeper was beaten all ends up and the Argentine couldn’t believe it when he saw the ball strike the upright. 
The ex-Hammer would probably have been the nominated penalty taker had Sesay been awarded a spot-kick, as he felt he should have been, after a driving run into the heart of the QPR box midway through the second-half ended with him being sent tumbling. Referee Lee Brennan waved away the pleas, leaving Sesay and Okaka incandescent. 
It proved to be the turning point as minutes later, Giles Phillips made it two for the visitors after an initial acrobatic attempt by Oteh. 

Pereira scored a late consolation for Watford

Down but not out, the Hornets kept plugging away and they got the rewards their wholehearted efforts deserved when Zarate and Hughes, those two nimble-footed playmakers, combined to tee up Pereira to ram in with his right foot. 
The expected grandstand finish didn’t materialise and, in fact, it was QPR who came closest to scoring again, Bachmann making a smart save to ensure it ended only 2-1.
HORNETS | Bachmann (GK); Eleftheriou (C) Mukena, Britos (Rowan, 62), Sesay; Sinclair (Folivi, 62), Charles (Stewart, 74), Hughes, Pereira; Zarate; Okaka.

Subs not used | Gartside (GK), Williams.