Ladies Report: Watford 0-2 Cardiff City
By Kevin Affleck
Watford Ladies were left to rue the absence of Helen Ward as they slipped to a harsh league defeat at home to Cardiff City.
Ward, their captain, goalscorer and so often their inspiration, missed the first home game of the season with a calf injury and how the team would have loved her cutting edge in front of goal.
Armand Kavaja’s side reached double figures in terms of the chances they created, peppering the Bluebirds’ goal at time, but they just lacked that killer instinct to translate all their neat approach play into something tangible. They scored five times in the corresponding fixture last season but couldn’t muster one here, despite attempt after attempt.
There was no disgrace in losing to a Cardiff side who have finished in the top four in five of the last six seasons, including a runners-up spot last time out, but this one was very much there for the taking. The team will play much worse than this and win this season, that’s for sure. They will also probably not be on the receiving end of two sweeter strikes, one in each half from Jasmine Turner and then Chloe Lloyd, that settled this game.
It was that sort of afternoon when the Ladies tried everything to find the back of the net only to see Cardiff plunder the points with what felt like their only two attempts at goal, although they were mighty fine attempts.
The Ladies were entitled to wonder how on earth they were a goal down at the break. Either side of Turner’s sweetly-hit strike from long range, a bolt from the blue after 16 minutes, the Golden Girls made all the running and carved out chance after chance.
With Emma Beckett as their creative hub, switching play nicely from left to right and then back again, the Hornets were the more progressive of the two sides and Claire Skinner, in the Cardiff goal, was easily the busier of the two ‘keepers.
Leanne Bell shot straight at Skinner after a mistake by Shannon Greenway put her in the clear. Ryah Vyse then flashed one into the side-netting; a lovely reverse pass from Adekite Fatuga-Dada gave Anaisa Harney a shooting chance the tall forward may feel she should have done better with; the visitors’ ‘keeper pushed one around the post from Fatuga-Dada and then Harney sent a rising drive just over the bar. And this was all in the first 20 minutes.
The chances didn’t arrive so thick and fast thereafter, perhaps because it was difficult to sustain that early pace and because Cardiff got their act together defensively, playing five at the back. Beckett tried her luck from distance and then Bell snatched at one right on the stroke of half-time.
Head Coach Kavaja would not have been quite able to get his head round how his side trailed at the break, but he would surely have encouraged his side to keep playing on the front foot and keeping knocking on the door in the anticipation that the goal would eventually come.
One just needed to fly in from long-range or off someone’s backside. Anything would have done. Instead, Cardiff showed just how it should be done by scoring a second goal of the highest quality on 55 minutes, Lloyd finding the bottom corner from distance. It was a hammer blow and one that knocked the stuffing out of the Golden Girls.
Still, the home side kept coming, though. With Alysha Stojko-Down, the FA Youth Cup winner, on as a sub and the team going for broke, Ocean Rolandsen fired one over from left midfield and then Fatuga-Dada teased one across the face of goal. Stojko-Down then needed to show a bit more composure with a sight of goal just past the hour.
The home side knew it wasn’t going to be their day when Fatuga-Dada was thwarted by the onrushing Skinner when one on one and then Jennifer Kikomeko couldn’t find the target with the follow-up strike with the ‘keeper out of position. Fatuga-Dada threw her arms up in frustration when she curled one past the far post near the end and then knew her luck was really out when Skinner denied her from point-blank range soon after. She could have had a hat-trick in the space of five minutes. All in all it was all a bit of a mystery how this one finished 2-0 to the visitors.
GOLDEN GIRLS: Wilson; Meiwald, Hill (C), Richards (Chandler 70); Rolandsen, Beckett, Kikomeko, Vyse (Carid h-t); Bell, Harney (Stojko-Down 55), Fatuga-Dada. Subs not used: Huggins, O’Leary