A Jo Wilson hat-trick and goals from Ashley Goddard and Paula Howells were more than enough for the Bees who left Vicarage Road with all three points.
Watford, who were still hunting their first win in WSL 2 this season, hit the front foot first. With the crowd fully behind them as they pressed the London Bees backline in the first minute, Imogen Riches - keeping her spot over first choice keeper, Sophie Harris, after a strong display against the same opposition in a recent Conti Cup game - only managed to find Kim Farrow with her clearance. Farrow gleefully accepted the ball but could only fire wide.
From there on out, Watford struggled to see the ball. The Bees settled into a smooth passing rhythm and tried to break down the hosts, but the Hornets stood firm. Their alert backline restricted Jo Wilson to trying to strike one from outside the box, but the ball sailed over the crossbar.
The Bees, using Paula Howells’ pace on the left as a winger, chased down everything and was a handful for an otherwise resolute Watford defence to deal with. Howells’ tireless work helped her team open the scoring just after ten minutes; her cross flashed across goal for Wilson to emphatically fire into the net, past a helpless Sophie Cheadle.
Three minutes of misery for the hosts
Jo Wilson doubled the advantage for the traveling Bees 20 minutes in. Pouncing a loose ball, a burst of pace saw her into the box and clear of any defenders, one-on-one with Cheadle; she slotted calmly past the advancing goalkeeper. Straight from the restart the Bees were applying more pressure on the Watford defence. Wilson tried to feed Howells on the left side of the box, but Farrow made the intervention to clear the danger. However, the ball fell for Ashley Goddard outside the area. The Bees skipper took the ball on the half-volley, striking low into the far corner and well out of the reach of Cheadle.
Anneka Nuttall called her players over for an emergency meeting before the Golden Girls made for the centre-circle. But it was for naught as the Bees hit Watford immediately from the restart (once again). A long hopeful ball went out to the left with Paula Howells speeding after it, just keeping it in by the by-line. Her cross into the box was too much for Evdokia Popadinova but absolutely perfect for Wilson, arriving into the box, to volley into the back of the net for a superb hat trick. Vicarage Road was stunned.
New signing, Giulia Ferrandi, did her best to get her team going with a shot from outside the box. The ball flew wide but the fans welcomed the effort with as much noise as they could muster. It was then the turn of Phoebe Read to try to spark her side into life, a scything run through midfield - with the Bees unable to touch her as danced through midfield - saw her hurdle Emma Beckett’s last-ditch challenge. But the Bees mopped up the danger after her lay-off to Ferrandi.
The Bees hit right back at the hosts with Popadinova working hard on the right to keep the ball. Her pass was over-hit for Wilson on the spot but dropped kindly for Howells with room on the opposite side of the box. Cheadle got down quickly to keep Howells’ goal-bound header out as it threatened to sneak just inside of the post.
Amber Tullett, who was in the mood to impress and create, found debutant Anne-Laura Davy. Davy, unable to get a clean shot off, picked out Ferrandi; her first-time shot once again, flying wide. Ferrandi had another chance outside the box and, encouraged by the home support to shoot, failed to find the target.
One more late chance fell for the Bees as Popadinova found Wilson around the penalty spot. Yellow shirts surrounded her but the ex-Hornet still managed to get her shot off, the ball rebounding against the post for Cheadle to pluck out of the air.
Watford working but Bees bored
Watford came out fighting in the second half, markedly improved across all areas of the pitch but the Bees seemed almost disinterested. It wasn’t hugely surprising and is seen all across the footballing world, when one team go in at half time already thinking the game has been won and subconsciously start to switch off. A stark contrast from the team just before the half time whistle, that was hungry for more goals, chasing down and winning every ball as if the scores were still tied.
Two minutes into the half and Ellie Mason went on a slaloming run through midfield - the players in orange standing off - Mason chanced her arm from distance nut her shot failed to find the target. Sahara Osborne-Ricketts was next to attempt the spectacular; the ball was half-cleared corner and her effort went harmlessly over.
The game wore on and Watford started using the full width of the pitch more and more, Tullett and Mason found space on the left to cause problems, the former whipping a quick cross in from the by-line. Read was on the spot to receive the ball but, sandwiched between the centre-backs, her header went comfortably wide.
Most of the second half took place in midfield, Watford were bright but the Bees still defended smartly; there was always a covering orange shirt on hand to deal with any danger. At the other end, Jo Wilson and Paula Howells were still running themselves into the ground at any and every break.
Watford did their best to assault the Bees goal at the death, desperate to take something from the game but still restricted to shots from distance that failed to trouble Riches. Everyone checked their watches as the game entered a seventh minute of stoppage time. Danielle Scanlon, on for the injured Hurley, played a ball out to Howells in acres of space. Read tracked back to cover but Howells’ cross/shot was already looping over Cheadle, creeping under the bar and nestling against the back of the net.
A thoroughly deserved goal – out of very little – for one of the best players on the pitch.
Revitalised Bees and sorry Watford
When David Edmondson took over as head coach of the Bees, he talked about his style of play and experience in Asia, he talked about possession based football and although he’s only been at the Hive for a handful of months his influence is palpable. After a large over-haul of players, he’s getting the best out of who he’s kept. A quibble with the Bees, last season, was that the potential was there but those in orange weren’t performing as they could.
Possession based football requires smart swift passing and a strong understanding between the players and that’s what was on show at Vicarage Road, new addition, Jo Wilson – a player with whom Edmondson has worked before – will be lauded for her hat-trick but her vision should be equally commended. Linking well with Popadinova, Howells, Goddard and Nikki Watts, Wilson was able to read their play and keep the attack flowing when she wasn’t at the focal point.
One of the undisputed stand-outs was England U19 international, Paula Howells, usually found at left-back, Edmondson favoured her higher up the pitch. Pace, determination and precision crosses that you’d associate with the likes of Alex Greenwood but deployed in attack so she’s only having to sprit 20 yards instead of 60. Her drive was far too much for Watford to cope with.
As for Watford, even when they came out fighting in the second half, they still had all sorts of problems fully breaking down the Bees defence which was steadfast throughout. As usual with Watford there were sparks, a suggestion of quality lying beneath the surface, but Katie Rowson has her work cut out for her if she’s to really make the Golden Girls shine.
|Watford Ladies||London Bees|
|Shots on target||4||9|
|Shots off target||12||8|