Watford Ladies were defeated 3-1 by a strong Everton side on Sunday as the Golden Girls suffered their first loss at Berkhamsted in five games.
It was an even contest through much of the first half, but Simone Magill’s goal on the stroke of half-time changed the complexion of the game.
Millie Turner doubled the lead soon after the break, but Jenna Dear then gave Watford a way back into the match. However Lucy Whipp’s superb strike sealed the three points for the visitors.
The first chance of the game fell to the Lady Hornets; a poor clearance from Everton goalkeeper Megan Walsh found Kim Farrow, who then shot narrowly wide from 25 yards.
Shayla Burgess was called into action for the first time shortly afterwards when a strike from Whipp was heading into the bottom left corner, but she was denied by a great fingertip save.
Emily Heaslip picked up a knock with half an hour played, which forced Watford into a reshuffle – Ellie Butterwick came on, with Hollie Wride moving to the right.
After 39 minutes, there had only been a handful of opportunities but the last six minutes of the half proved frantic.
Dear looked to have played the perfect pass through to Kate Natkiel, however the linesman raised his flag in a very tight offside call.
Only a minute later, Burgess was proving her worth again, this time with arguably even a better save to deny Kelly Jones.
The ball then went down the other end, and some neat play between Stacie Donnelly and Natkiel ended with the latter finding a yard of space before testing Walsh in the Everton goal.
It’s disappointing to not come away with anything but we’ll pick ourselves up and go again for the Villa game.Watford Ladies manager John Salomon
With only a minute of the half remaining, the crucial breakthrough came. Magill who was in space six yards out could hardly miss and didn’t, despite the best efforts of Burgess, who managed to get a hand to the shot.
While it had been an even half for the majority, the Toffees’ performance in the last five minutes saw them have the upper hand at the interval.
Shortly into the second half, they doubled their lead. The ball was cleared from a corner but Lindsay Johnson sent a cross back in, finding Millie Turner who powered a header home to make it 2-0.
Despite the setback, heads didn’t drop as Watford looked to find a way back into the game, and good work from Natkiel resulted in a corner for the hosts.
From that, the deficit was halved. Dear sent in a teasing delivery right under Walsh which the keeper fumbled over the line.
The two-goal advantage could have been restored only 60 seconds later but the visitors were denied yet again by a fantastic save from Burgess; probably the best of her splendid afternoon.
Watford were putting pressure on the Everton defence as they looked to find an equaliser but they were proving to be stern opposition.
With a quarter of an hour to go, the away side got their third. Whipp cut inside before sending an unstoppable shot into the top left hand corner.
Dear almost got a goal back again in stoppage time, however on this occasion Walsh managed to hold on to her testing effort from distance.
The full-time whistle went and while it was a decent performance from those in a yellow shirt, there could be few arguments about the direction the points were heading in.
“I thought we did really well first half,” said Watford manager John Salomon. “We had a few good chances and kept our shape well. They’re a good side and we made it difficult for them.
“Conceding late on in the half was a bit of a blow to the girls; had we seen it out to half-time, that would have given us some solid foundations to build on.
“When you go 1-0 down against a side like Everton and you’re chasing the game it becomes difficult. We gave ourselves that tough task today and weren’t able to get back in the match unfortunately.
“It’s disappointing to not come away with anything but we’ll pick ourselves up and go again for the Villa game in two weeks’ time.”
Watford: S Burgess, Heaslip (Butterwick 29), Burgess, Robe, Gillard, Wride (Mallett 70), Green, Donnelly, Dear, Natkiel, Farrow (Mason HT).
Subs not used: Adamson, Scheffer.
Goals: Dear (61).