Ladies 5 days ago

Ladies: Watford 3-1 MK Dons

Good things come to those who wait, and that was certainly the case for a thoroughly dominant Watford side who needed a two-goal cameo from substitute Andrea Carid to eventually see off MK Dons.

Much the better side throughout, Emily Hill’s early opener seemed destined to set the tone for a comfortable victory under the Orbital Fasteners Stadium lights at Kings Langley, but a Jessica Driscoll equaliser against the run of play threw a spanner in the works just before half-time.

Undeterred, the Golden Girls stuck to their task diligently and, having already seen a succession of chances come and go, finally put the game to bed with a brace of Carid strikes inside the final quarter-of-an-hour.

It was a victory for persistence and a fifth game unbeaten for the Hornets, whose FA Women’s National League promotion push continues to gather momentum.

It was a dream start for the hosts, who took the lead as early as the second minute thanks to their captain Hill. The defender planted the ball into the bottom corner with her right boot following a Watford corner, a real sign of intent from a confident looking side who were quickest out of the blocks by some distance.

Clinton Lancaster’s team spent much of the opening 45 camped in the opposition’s half, Alysha Stojko-Down showing a tendency to get into scoring positions and a willingness to shoot. The midfielder went close three times – two shots deflected just wide and an audacious third from some distance looping over scrambling keeper Emma Kirby and onto the bar.

All the more frustrating then that in a rare foray up-field, MK Dons hauled themselves level with just three minutes remaining until the break. Watford keeper Nina Wilson got a glove to Driscoll’s close-range shot, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the equaliser.

Only the woodwork denied the Golden Girls an instant reply. Adekite Fatuga-Dada’s header was tipped onto the cross-bar by Kirby, meaning the two sides went into half-time all-square at 1-1.

Perhaps aware of the need for extra ruthlessness in front of goal, manager Lancaster introduced Helen Ward from the start of the second half. The experienced striker – who replaced Katie O’Leary – could have been forgiven for feeling a little weary, having only flown home during the morning from Wales’ international in Belarus last night. The 33-year-old was an unused substitute in the UEFA Women’s Championship qualifier.

The chances kept coming for Watford after the break. Emma Beckett was heavily involved, first heading over then firing just wide of goal, before slipping in Fatuga-Dada, who drew a save from Kirby in a frantic few minutes of attacking play.

Megan Chandler went closer still – in fact we’ll probably never know whether or not the midfielder’s curling shot from 25 yards crossed the line after bouncing off the underside of the bar. Where’s goal-line technology when you need it?

Sooner or later, you felt, the Hornets had to make their dominance pay. Fatuga-Dada looked destined to restore the lead when presented with a one-on-one opportunity, but the winger was denied by Kirby. Then Ward’s placed effort with 70 minutes played was tipped wide by the Dons’ in-form keeper.

There was more than a slice of fortune when the goal eventually came. Substitute Carid’s shot took a wicked deflection on its way past Kirby, but the Golden Girls had earned their luck and were well worth their 2-1 lead.

Carid then put the result beyond doubt with the goal of the night on 89 minutes, firing an emphatic first-time shot beyond Kirby and into the far corner to round off an impressive cameo from the bench, and a successful night’s work for the Hornets.

GOLDEN GIRLS: Wilson (GK); Hill (C), Beckett, Meiwald; Rolandsen, Chandler, Stojko-Down, Vyse; Fatuga-Dada (Scanlon, 84), O’Leary (Ward, HT), Bell (Carid, 59).

Subs not used: Wiggins (GK), Richards.

Under-23's 6 days ago

Under-23: Crewe Alexandra 1-4 Watford

By Kevin Affleck

Hayden Mullins knows a thing or two about the art of midfield play so it's worth listening to him when he talks about the role Henry Wise played in the 4-1 Professional Development League win over Crewe Alexandra at Gresty Road.

The midfielder played a lovely side-rule pass for the first goal, produced a deft touch for the second and then swung over an in-swinging corner for the fourth. Less eye-catching but equally as important was the goal-line clearance he made one minute before joining the counter-attack the next, and then the recovery tackle he made on the Crewe left-back deep in his own half near the end.

"There were some very, very good performances out there today and Henry was one of them," said Mullins of the former Derby midfielder. "He has shown a lot of improvement, he sees a lot of the ball and he likes to pass forward, which is a good attribute. He can play in a pair with him and Callum [Whelan] and then Kaylen [Hinds] as the 10 and then in a three like he did today where he has a bit more license. He can do both and is a good all-round midfielder."

Joseph Hungbo added the garnish at the other end with a crisp finish for the first and then a howitzer for the third. He now has seven for the season ahead of a return to Crystal Palace on Monday.

"He's doing really well and I'm pleased for him as he works really hard," said Mullins of the explosive winger. "His goals and his performances have come through his hard work and it's a good sign for the rest of the team that hard work pays off. We are getting into their head about working hard for the team and that's where a lot of his goals have come from."

Sam Dalby got the second and fourth goals, the first a well-hit one with his left foot that went through the 'keeper's legs and the second a header from a corner. They were the former Leeds man's first goals in a month.

"I'm very pleased for Sam," said Mullins. "He gives us a real different option up there. We can go into him and he is a good team player. I'm glad the big lad is now chipping in with goals as all No. 9s want to score goals. He got two goals but, more importantly, he worked really well for the side."

The goals were just what Mullins was after following the hatful of missed chances at Plymouth in the Premier League Cup last week.

"We were clinical today," said the former Crystal Palace, West Ham and Portsmouth midfielder. "After Plymouth we spoke about being confident and expressing ourselves in the final third and we did that well today. It was a very good, mature performance. To score four goals is good for us. It keeps our run going this year. I've been quite pleased with the boys as they are developing a willingness to learn from what we do in training. We are really trying to push them. The goal we conceded was a negative for us. It was a slip from one of the players, which was a shame, as we would love to have got the clean sheet."

HORNETS: Parkes; Maclean (Spencer-Adams 71), Barrett, Balogun, Zeegelaar; Wise, Whelan (Forster 63), Adebiyi; Bennetts (Hinds 63), Hungbo, Dalby.

Subs not used: White, Conteh.