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.