Aston Villa survive Watford fightback to win opener
Hosts looked to be cruising before visitors came back at them late in the game
FA WSL 2 match
14:00, Sunday 12 February 2017
Aston Villa survived a spirited Watford revival to kick off the FA WSL Spring Series with a narrow victory that sees them sitting top after the first weekend of action.
The hosts looked to be coasting to victory as Tash Baptiste, Beth Merrick and Jade Richards put them into a comfortable lead.
But Anneka Nuttall and Charlotte Kerr scored late on to set nerves jangling, but Aston Villa held on to sit top on goal difference after the opening four games.
Visiting goalkeeper Lucy Gillett was forced into three saves inside the first 11 minutes but could do nothing in the 22nd minute as Merrick’s right-wing corner was glanced home by Baptiste.
Merrick’s neat swivel and shot double the home side’s lead in the 38th minute before defender Richards netted from close range three minutes after half-time.
However, Watford captain Nuttall saw her 68th-minute free-kick from wide on the left beat goalkeeper Chloe Beattie to reduce the arrears.
Beattie was beaten again by a mishit cross by substitute Adekite Fatuga-Dada but it came back off the crossbar.
Fellow substitute Cherrelle Albert curled another effort just wide before Watford pulled another goal back in equally strange circumstances as Kerr’s corner curled beyond Beattie – but they couldn’t find a leveller.
Aston Villa defender Jade Richards said:
“I’m glad to have got myself a goal – but I’d have swapped that for a clean sheet because it’s my job to stop goals.
“It was difficult for us after they got it back to 3-1 because they had momentum. They got themselves on top and it was hard for us to get our rhythm.
“Sometimes last season it took us 20 minutes or so before we started creating chances but today we were well on top in the first 25 minutes when they only had a handful of attacks.
“We could have had three, four or even five in the first half considering the chances we created.
“We are disappointed with the goals we conceded – the quality of them. It wasn’t that they tore us open. They’ve scored from two set pieces that have eluded us.
Watford goalscorer Anneka Nuttall said:
“It’s a complete new start for us – new coach, new players, new facilities for our home games – and it showed today.
“The spirit here has always been good and we are determined to make it a different season.
“I thought we didn’t deserve to be 2-0 down at half-time and needed to rectify it – and we did.
“It was down to our want, our desire, our belief that we turned it around today.
“We got a couple of goals and if the game had lasted another ten more minutes I’m convinced there was another one for us. We deserved a draw.
“Nothing ever gets us down and I’m proud of all our players for their performances. None of them should feel down after this game.”
Aston Villa 3
Baptiste 22, Merrick 38, Richards 48
Nuttall 68, Kerr 89
Aston Villa (3-5-2): ChloeBeattie, Elisha, N’Dow, Jade Richards, Lucy Potter, Alice Hassall, Grace Smith, Mollie Rouse, Maddy Cussack, Amy West, Beth Merrick, Tash Baptiste
Substitutes: Lucy Shepherd for Alice Hassall (58)
Substitutes not used: Hayley Crackle, Kerri Walsh, Katy Moran, Alys Hinchcliffe, Nicola Potts, Chloe Dale
Red cards: none
Watford (4-5-1): Lucy Gillett, Meghan McKeag, Ruby Baxter, Lauren Jordinson, Vicky Neal. Rinsola Babajide, Anneka Nuttall, Chloe Bassett, Lilli Maple, Kerry Walklett, Charlotte Kerr, Leah Cudone
Substitutes: Cherrelle Albert for Kerry Walklett (55), Ade Fatuga-Dada for Meghan McKeag (65), Chloe Bassett for Lilli Maple (78).
Substitutes not used: Caoimhe O’Reilly
Red Cards: None
Referee: Akil Howson
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