Sunday, 21 May 2017

Watford Ladies 1 v 2 Millwall Lionesses

Saturday 20th May 2017
FA Women’s Super League 2 Spring Series
Gaywood Park, Kings Langley
Admission: £5.00
Programme: £2.00
Attendance: 226
Match Rating: 3

With the regular season having just about drawn to a close by now, I have now turned to women’s football for my last two competitive games to complete the season for me. Today’s match gave me the opportunity to tick off the home of Kings Langley, who have just retained their place in the Southern League Premier Division on goal difference.

Gaywood Park is about a half hour walk northwards from Kings Langley train station, with the entrance close to a busy main road. Spectators enter through an attractive green wooden turnstile block in one corner of the ground, and I got the feeling – to give the ground the benefit of the doubt – that I visited at the worst possible time in terms of its aesthetic appearance. Stretching along the length from the entrance there are a couple of fairly newly laid uncovered steps, with rather untidy surroundings. A stand constructed from scaffolding and corrugated iron covering seating straddling the half way line and would also not win any design awards. On the opposite side there are a couple of metallic stands located immediately adjacent to each other between the dugouts. Immediately behind one goal there is a small metallic stand, with just hard standing behind the other. Next to the entrance in the corner is the rather cosy clubhouse, which resembles a cricket pavilion and is the most attractive part of the ground, perched above a second football pitch and there is a tea bar window outside. The ground has a green and fairly attractive background, and a busy train line passed by a little distance behind one length. The 28 page programme was in colour and was informative enough, with all the relevant information and interesting reading material.

This was the closing weekend of the Spring Series, which is basically half a league season, with clubs playing each other just once, to bridge the gap as the FA Women’s Super League move from a summer season to a winter one. After poor seasons in last year’s regular season, when Watford finished bottom with just seven points from 18 league games and Millwall only two places and nine points better off in the ten team division, the Spring Season is going much better for them both. Watford were in seventh place, with two wins and two draws from their eight league games, and Millwall were in fourth place, having won four and drawn two of their eight games – all four wins coming in their most recent matches, and a win today could see them finish as high as second depending on results elsewhere tomorrow.

On a mainly dry and cool afternoon, but with wind and a poor quality pitch making conditions difficult, this was a close fought and entertaining game in which Watford gave a very good account of themselves, looking slightly the better team for long periods, although there were few sights of goal throughout the first half. The best chance fell to Watford on 25 minutes, when a lovely surge into the box by Rinsola Babajide ended with a shot that went narrowly wide of the far post. But it remained goalless at the break, with plenty for the home team to be encouraged about.

The second half started in a similar vein, competitive but with few clear chances being created, until Millwall took the lead on 65 minutes. A free kick to the left of the penalty area was dinked in and Billie Brooks headed home at the near post. Things got even worse for Watford three minutes later, when Danielle Puddlefoot was shown a second yellow card and then the red. But they carried on plugging away and got the equaliser they deserved on 76 minutes. Following a corner, the ball was not cleared and Merrick Will struck the ball high into the net from a central position. On 79 minutes, the host came agonisingly close to taking the lead, following a superb run from the right wing and then across the edge of the penalty area by Otesha Charles, before her strike on goal came back off a post. And indeed the looked the more likely to claim a winner, but it was Millwall who scored it five minutes into added on time. A low through ball sent captain Ashlee Hincks through on goal and she struck the ball low across the keeper and into the net, and they saw out the remaining moments to claim the win.

It turned out, following Sunday's game, that today's win would earn them Millwall Lionesses a very creditable third placed finish, giving them plenty of optimism going into next season, which starts in September. Watford finished in eighth place, an improvement on last season, which they will also look to build on.

Video footage of the goals can be viewed by clicking here

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