By Chris Smith
A first half penalty proved decisive as Watford FC fell to a narrow 1-0 defeat away at Chichester City Ladies.
After a collision in the box, the referee adjudged that a foul had been committed and pointed to the spot. Lauren Cheshire stepped up to take it and hammered it into the top corner.
The hosts’ defence proved a tough nut to crack and the Golden Girls couldn’t manage to find a way to get the equaliser.
Head Coach Armand Kavaja made two changes to the side that had beaten Milton Keynes Dons Ladies 2-1 a fortnight ago.
Helen Ward’s absence saw Samantha Hallsworth return to the starting line-up, while Weronika Baranowska was back in goal in place of Robyn Levett.
Chichester created a chance in the first minute of the game and Baranowska had to be alert to deny Molly Clark.
Some good interchanges between three Watford players almost broke down the opposition defence. From the resulting corner, Hattie Kettle rose highest and headed wide.
A driving run down the right from Leanne Bell saw her get into a good position, but pressure from Nadine Bazan forced her to shoot wide. Bell was again in the thick of it when her ball in found Alysha Stojko-Down, but she couldn’t get good enough contact on an acrobatic attempt.
When Helen Ogle won possession in a dangerous area it looked to be a great chance for Chichester to take the lead, but she couldn’t call Baranowska into action. The keeper did have to make a stop when Jess Lewry cut inside and then tested her, which she saved well.
Lewry then had another opening when played in, after chesting it down, she shot wide of the left-hand post.
The big moment of the game came when Chichester were awarded a penalty just before the break after a collision in the box. The spot kick was emphatically scored by Cheshire, who gave Baranowska no chance.
Not long after play resumed, the hosts had a chance to double their lead. Ogle was through on goal, but she couldn’t get enough power or placement on the strike and Baranowska held.
It was a frustrating half for the Hornets with any opportunities, even slight, at a premium. Chichester proved an incredibly difficult side to find a way past.
Molly Clark was a threat for the hosts throughout the game, she tried an ambitious effort from distance, connecting well with it but not finding the target.
There was also some good defending from Watford, clearing a dangerous corner in and a fine tackle from Kettle to deny the Chichester attacker.
With eight minutes of stoppage time there was plenty of time for Watford to find a dramatic equaliser. The game could have been sealed the other way though, with Molly Clark’s low free-kick stopped by Baranowska.
That would prove to be the last real chance of note as Chichester held on to secure the three points. While it was a tough afternoon for Watford against a good side, the Golden Girls will have an opportunity to get back on track against Gillingham next up.
GOLDEN GIRLS | Baranowska, Hallsworth (Richards, 67), Kettle, Edwards, Huggins ©, Kikomeko (Dickens, 83), Stojko-Down, Fatuga-Dada, Carid, Bell (Harney, 56), O’Leary.
LILLYWHITES | Dolbear, Cheshire, Bazan, Taylor, Molly Clark, Lauren Clark (Simmonds, 59), Lewry (Stephens, 66), Waine, Ogle, Stenning (Tubby, 85), Barron.
Goal | Cheshire (40 – PEN).