Watford Ladies moved up to fifth in Group One of the Continental Tyres Cup, despite losing 3-1 to Reading FC Women at Broadwater.
After conceding two early goals to Laura-May Walkley and Bianca Bragg, it was an encouraging display from the Golden Girls against tough opposition. Stacie Donnelly ensured it was game on when she managed to pull one back before the break.
The slim margins were on display in the second half, with Watford missing a penalty to make it 2-2 before minutes later Emma Follis restored the two-goal advantage. That’s how it finished, with Reading advancing to the quarter-finals of the competition after a hard-fought win.
The visitors came flying out of the blocks and took the lead in the opening stages. Follis found Rebecca Jane, and her cross picked out Walkley who tapped home past Deger Zekai.
Inside the opening 10 minutes, the advantage was doubled. The first shot from a corner was blocked however it fell kindly to Bragg who made no mistake to get her side’s second.
It would have been very easy for heads to drop but that wasn’t the case. Anneka Nuttall was played through but she was denied by a good save from Grace Moloney in the Reading goal.
After a sustained period of pressure, it eventually told with Watford getting on the scoresheet. Donnelly took advantage of some hesitant defending, getting there before her marker to prod home and make it 2-1.
Apart from the goals, it had been a fairly quiet half for Zekai. She came up big when called into action, stopping Follis’ near post effort. The resulting corner was then headed onto the top of the bar.
Anyone who didn’t take their places for the opening 60 seconds of the second half missed plenty of action.
Nuttall’s pass gave Fatuga-Dada a chance however Moloney was quick off her line to just about get there first. When the ball was played back in, Harriet Scott was adjudged to have handled in the box, giving Watford a glorious opportunity to level it up.
Heaslip stepped up and took responsibility. Looking to pick out the top corner, she got it narrowly wrong and sent it over the bar.
It proved to be a key turning point in the match, as just a few minutes later, Reading extended their lead. Charlie Estcourt threaded it through to Follis, who calmly slotted home for her 13th goal of the season.
She would have had her 14th if not for a brilliant bit of goalkeeping from Zekai. Having found space down the left hand side, she shot across goal but was denied by a superb save.
In the closing stages, the away side were reduced to 10, Lois Roche picking up two yellow cards in a matter of minutes, however it was too late to have any influence on the game.
While Reading held on for victory and a place in the quarters, the nature of the performance from Watford will be a massive confidence boost for the remaining games of the season