Golden Girls go top with Portsmouth win

Sarah Wiltshire fires on goal. Picture (c) Andrew Waller
Sarah Wiltshire fires on goal. Picture (c) Andrew Waller

Watford Ladies rounded off an excellent home campaign with their sixth home win of the season – sending the Golden Girls back to the top of The National Premier League.

A goal at the start and end of the first half were enough to give Watford the points against a combative Portsmouth side.

Kate Natkiel causing defence some problems. Picture (c) Andrew Waller

Kate Natkiel causing defence some problems. Picture (c) Andrew Waller

Manager John Salomon was happy with what he felt was a tough match, saying: “It’s another hard fought victory today and I’m pleased with the professionalism we showed to get over the line and secure another vital three points.

“We got off to an excellent start, but credit to Portsmouth, they had a strong second half and made it very difficult for us.

“We’ve created good chances and on another day we might have had a few more goals, but I’m very pleased with the win.”

In the bank holiday sunshine Watford took the lead after just 70 seconds as Sarah Wiltshire broke on to Cally Rowell’s through ball and produced a neat chipped finish to give Watford the best possible start. It was the Welsh international’s 18th goal of the campaign.

Watford were quickest to every ball and they continued to press and, after a Wiltshire corner was scrambled clear, the ball fell to Rowell whose effort whistled past the post.

Shortly afterwards, Wiltshire went close again – this time drilling a low cross that fizzed across the 6 yard box but no-one could apply the vital touch.

With just 12 minutes on the clock Watford could have been out of sight after some tenacious play from Fliss Gibbons and Chloe Gunn saw the ball break forward to Wiltshire who cut inside and found Megan Wynne who let rip from the edge of the box.

The strike looked destined to nestle in the back of the net only to crash against the post and be cleared to safety.

With Watford on top they continued to pile on the pressure, Rowell turning provider again only to see Gunn’s header across goal pawed to safety by the Portsmouth keeper with Wiltshire about to nod home.

Portsmouth gradually grew into the contest but with the game finally starting to settle down it was Watford that continued to look dangerous.

With a few minutes left on the clock in the half, Jo Wilson also notched her 18th of the campaign as she produced a lovely lobbed finished after Gunn slipped the ball into her path.

Portsmouth had a half chance late in the half as Gemma Hillier headed an effort over the bar but it was Watford who deservedly went in at half-time with a two-goal cushion.

Watford came out of the traps fast and looked to put the game to bed early. Wiltshire produced a superb cross that Wilson got a touch to but her effort went over the bar.

Kate Natkiel was then involved as she got to the by-line and crossed to Wynne who cut in and fired a shot that struck the keeper and Wiltshire and deflected over the bar.

Wilson was the next to go close producing a clever strike on the turn from a throw in that just went the wrong side of the post.

Missed opportunities came back to haunt Watford as Charley Wilson reduced the deficit for Portsmouth. Pompey pressure finally paid off as Wilson produced a clinical finish to put the game on a knife edge.

A frantic last five minutes ensued with both teams going close but it was the Hornets who held on for the points.

Manager Salomon was quick to praise the large crowd who got behind the team, before looking to the last match of the season.

“It’s great to finish with a win at Berkhamsted and the crowd were fantastic,” he said.

“I believe the attendance was around 250, which is almost double our average.

“I think watching our players applauding the fans at the final whistle is another sign of the direction our club is heading in and we’re very excited about the future.

“For now, our focus turns to Wednesday (tonight) and the opportunity to finish the season four points clear at the top of the league.

“It’s frustrating that we then have to wait to see what Leeds and Sunderland can accumulate in their games in hand, but another win will certainly put the pressure on them.”