Watford FC Ladies 3-2 Cheltenham Town: Hornets pick up first pre-season win

Goals from Emily Hill, Leanne Bell and Helen Ward shed a bright light on a tough pre-season for the Golden Girls.

In preparation for the 2018/19 FA Women's National League South season, Watford FC Ladies recorded an encouraging result as they defeated Cheltenham Town 3-2.

After a difficult campaign last term, in which the Golden Girls were demoted to the third tier of women’s football, the following pre-season has been far from ideal either.

Unconvincing performances at Championship sides Leicester City Women and Lewes resulted in 10-1 and 4-3 defeats for Watford, putting extra onus on setting the record straight against Cheltenham.

Under the blazing heat of a sultry summer day, Armand Kavaja’s Ladies had to fight hard to earn a victory at the DN Fire Stadium with 152 fans in attendance.

Watford hit stride after a slow start

The hosts drew first blood, floating a corner into the box for the Cheltenham striker to powerfully head home in the 18th minute. Nevertheless, the Golden Girls provided an instant reply as Emily Hill rounded off an impressive individual move by coolly dispatching the ball home.

Watford then took the game into their own hands. Helen Ward displayed the cutting edge to some fine build-up play as she assisted Leanne Bell who sent the Hornets in front. The provider then turned into the goalscorer as Ward, Wales’ all-time leading goalscorer, volleyed home to give the Golden Girls a two-goal cushion heading into the break.

Kavaja clearly demanded even more, and Watford continued to pile on the pressure in the second half. Bell, Andrea Carid and Linda Afuakwah all came close to adding a fourth for the team in yellow and black. However, Cheltenham capitalised on a defensive mistake to reduce the deficit on the hour mark.

While Cheltenham continued to press for the equaliser, their efforts were in vain, largely due to young Amy Martin in the Watford goal. The 16-year-old was alert and showed incredible reflexes to diminish the opposition onslaught and maintain the Hornets’ lead.

A positive end to pre-season

Following the game, Martin posted on Twitter: “Good win today with the first team and buzzing to have got the 90 [minutes].”

Midfielder Georgie O’Halloran also took to social media on Monday morning to share her delight at the performance, saying: “Great to get a win under our belts yesterday. Happy Monday!"

The victory showed many encouraging signs for Watford Ladies who will now hope to end their pre-season on a high, starting with their penultimate fixture against Maidenhead United on Wednesday evening.