Ladies: Watford FC 5-2 Cardiff City Ladies FC
Watford FC Ladies started the new National League season in stunning fashion as they recorded a 5-2 victory against Cardiff City Ladies FC at Kings Langley, on Sunday afternoon (August 19).
It was a great team performance from the Hornets but plenty of plaudits will go to Helen Ward who netted a hat-trick and set one up.
Andrea Carid also got a brace on her debut having come on as a second half substitute. The visitors had their moments going forward during the game and Kylie Nolan netted a goal for Cardiff in each half.
The Golden Girls got off to the perfect start as they opened the scoring after just seven minutes.
Linda Afuakwah played it into the path of Ward, who was clean through from the half-way line, she had plenty of time to line it up before beating fellow Welsh international Laura O’Sullivan with a placed shot into the bottom left corner.
Cardiff created an opening as they looked to respond but Alice Griffiths’ powerful effort from distance was well parried away by goalkeeper Weronika Baranowska, who was making her senior debut.
In a frantic beginning to the game the visitors had another chance when they got a free-kick from 25-yards out. Kelly Isaac took it and called Baranowska into action who made a good save pushing it away.
Baranowska was eventually beaten with 18 minutes played as Cardiff got their equaliser. Nolan was afforded plenty of space in the penalty box and she beat the Watford keeper one-on-one from close range.
The Hornets had a couple of chances towards the half hour mark as Danielle Scanlon and Ward both had strikes off target.
Some half-hearted appeals for a Watford penalty was followed by a quick Cardiff counter which resulted in Nadia Lawrence forcing Baranowska to make another save.
The next appeal was a lot clearer. Leanne Bell played it into the path of Afuakwah who was taken down by the opposition defender, penalty given.
Ward stepped up to take it and got her second of the afternoon as she coolly sent O’Sullivan the wrong way to give Watford the lead at the break.
Katie O’Leary came on for her debut at half-time and she almost scored only ten minutes after coming on, her first shot was well saved by O’Sullivan and then Shannon Greenway superbly blocked the follow up effort.
Another change was made just after the hour as Andrea Carid was introduced and she made an instant impact, scoring after just two minutes on the pitch. Ward was involved again as she took a couple of touches in the box and then squared it across for the debutant to tap home from a few yards out.
With fifteen to go Carid got her second of the game to make it 4-1. It was similar to her first as she finished from close range, after being picked out by O’Leary.
It was a convincing display from the Hornets and a fifth came late on as Ward got her hat-trick. In a similar vein to the previous two goals, Afuakwah played a pass across the box from the left hand side and Helen made no mistake from in-close.
The visitors did add another to their tally with a consolation in the closing stages. Nolan scored it as she got her second of the afternoon from inside the box.
Both sides had chances in stoppage time as O’Leary’s lob went over and Grace Horrell’s long-range strike was tipped over the bar superbly by Baranowska.
That’s how it finished as Watford got their 2018/19 campaign off to a fantastic start, scoring five in a league game for the first time since June 2014.
Armand Kavaja’s side will be back at home next Sunday as they face Loughborough Foxes with the chance to make it back-to-back wins to start the new season.
Watford FC XI: Baranowska; Peck, Kettle (Baker, 73), O’Halloran, Huggins; Stojko-Down, Scanlon; Afuakwah, Bell (Carid, 62), Shakes (O’Leary HT); Ward (c).
Subs not used: Martin, Akerman.
Goals: Ward (7, 42, 84), Carid (64, 75).
Cardiff City Ladies XI: O’Sullivan, Greenway, Vine (Simpson, 76), Morgan, Jumratie (Rees, 74), Griffiths, Isaac, Nolan, Lawrence, Miles (Horrell, HT), Williams.
Subs not used: Guard.
Goals: Nolan (18, 87).