Golden Girls beaten by Oxford in opening game of the new campaign

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Watford Ladies fell to defeat in their opening league game of the season, losing 1-0 away at Oxford United.

The Golden Girls were unfortunate not to at least get something from the match, especially considering an impressive second half performance.

They couldn’t find a way past home keeper Demi Lambourne, however, meaning Sahara Osborne-Ricketts’ 20th minute free-kick proved decisive.

It was a quiet opening 15 minutes, with neither keeper having much to do. The only chance of note saw the ball loose only yards from the Oxford goal but Kim Farrow couldn’t get to it fairly.

Shortly afterwards the hosts were rewarded a free-kick, despite plenty of protests from the Watford players who felt it was harsh.

With it being just outside the area it was always likely to be dangerous and so it proved, with Osborne-Ricketts’ effort taking a deflection and finding the bottom left hand corner.

Looking to respond quickly, the Lady Hornets forced a number of corners. There could be no criticism of Hollie Wride’s deliveries but the U’s defence dealt with them well.

The last chance of the half was created out of nothing from Dawn Mallett. Picking the ball up on the half-way line, she went on a great run before testing Lambourne with a shot from 25-yards out.

Eager to double their lead, the hosts threatened early on in the second. A good move ended with Gemma Simmonds volley inside the box being well saved by Shayla Burgess.

It was Watford who would be stronger in the second half, though, having plenty of possession and passing it around well.

One such move almost brought an equaliser, with Kate Natkiel shooting just over from the edge of the area.

The same player had an even better chance just after the hour; a great ball from Chloe Gunn found Natkiel and her attempted lob was superbly denied by the onrushing Lambourne.

Oxford thought they had scored a second goal with 20 minutes left to play, however the ball only appeared to go over the line due to a foul on Burgess.

There was to be plenty of stoppage time and, looking for a dramatic equaliser, Watford sent Renee Hector upfront.

It almost paid off as a cross into the box was played towards her direction, but Lambourne again did just enough to keep her and the visitors at bay.

With the search for an equaliser, it was no surprise to see a chance at the other end. Osborne-Ricketts’ was inches away from getting a second, her shot hitting the bar.

It wasn’t to be for Watford, with the referee finally blowing for full time after more than five minutes stoppage time.

Hornets manager John Salomon felt his side deserved more from the game, saying: “We’re disappointed not to come away with anything because we really feel that we deserved something from that game; certainly one point if not all three.

“I thought we were dominant in the second half, had a steady first half and then made a change at half-time to bring a bit more balance to the team.

“It was a really strong second 45 and we’re frustrated to not come away with something as a reward for the players’ efforts.”

Watford: S Burgess, Gunn, Hector, Robe, Wride, Donnelly (Heaslip HT), Green, Natkiel, Mallett (Nuttall 77), Wynne, Farrow. Subs not used: Butterwick, Adamson, M Burgess, Deacon, Ward-Chambers.

Bookings: Gunn (82)

Attendance: 318