Watford 1–4 Wolverhampton Wanderers
By Ben Gilby
Wolves created a big FA Cup shock with a comprehensive and fully deserved 4–1 win away to Watford, who are a division above them in the FAWSL system.
It was a second successive week that the Daniel McNamara’s side had knocked higher league opposition out of the FA Cup having seen off Northern Premier side Nottingham Forest in Round Two.
It was the FAWNL Division One Midland side who started the better at the home of their FAWNL Southern Premier opponents. Within two minutes, Lowri Walker played in Jade Cross with the home keeper Chrissie Wiggins having to come out and deal with the danger.
Watford’s first chance came with four minutes gone when Emma Beckett fired across goal but no-one could get on the end of it. Shortly afterwards Megan Chandler hit an effort over the bar for the ‘Golden Girls’.
But Wolves remained on the front foot and it was they who took the lead after nine minutes. Cross broke through, drew Wiggins and hit home from the right hand side of the box. It was another goal to add to her incredible record having scored seven hat-tricks last season, finishing as the divisional golden boot winner twice and being the club’s top scorer for the last five seasons.
The visitors were showing the greater energy, when defending they were getting in the faces of Watford and snapping at their heels.
It was increasingly apparent that the home side could not cope with Jade Cross as she continually threatened. Walker put her away once more and a corner was forced.
Watford slowly grew into the game and a dangerous ball in from Emma Beckett down the left was headed out by Anna Price, but fell at the feet of Chandler who hit a shot from the edge of the box which was just off target.
Wolves responded with a great cross field ball by Jamila Palmer for Walker who nipped into the box, but just as she was about to pull the trigger, a fantastic tackle from Francesca Ali denied the effort.
This was the start of the growing influence of Ali on the game as the half entered its final quarter of an hour.
Adekite Fatuga-Dada then got free down the right for Watford, laid off for Beckett who played a ball in and Katie O’Leary comfortably turned the ball in to level matters three minutes before the break.
Wolves had an opportunity to retake the lead just before the half-time interval when Cross found Alish Miller who in turn fed Tammi George. Her effort was narrowly over the bar and it was 1-1 at the break.
It might have been expected that Watford would come out and maintain this momentum at the start of the second half, but it was not to be.
Instead it was Wolves who pressed right from the start and within seven minutes regained the lead. A pinpoint free kick out on the left, just outside the box from Anna Morphet was met by the feet of Kelly Darby coming in towards the back post and the visitors were back in front.
Watford tried to respond but created very little, with their best opportunity coming just after the hour mark when Fatuga-Dada skipped down the right wing and then cut inside rounding several defenders before shooting just wide of the left hand post.
The Midland side went further ahead on seventy-one minutes when George was brought down in the box and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Up stepped Morphet and the 19 year-old former Aston Villa defender hit the ball into the bottom right hand corner.
Three minutes later and Wolves were in dream land when Palmer unleased a stunning strike from outside the box.
The remaining fifteen minutes were pretty comfortable for Wolves with Watford unable to mount anything like a comeback.
This was a quite magnificent win for Wolves over a Watford side who have consistently challenged hard for promotion to the FA Women’s Championship over the past few years.
With second tier side Blackburn Rovers travelling to the Midlands for the Fourth Round next weekend, don’t rule out another eyebrow raising result. This Wolves side mean business.
Teams: WATFORD: Wiggins, Higgins, Kmita, Beckett, Chandler, O’Leary, Vyse, Meiwald, Bell, Ali, Fatuga-Dada. Substitutes: McLean, Stojko-Down, Smith, Harney, Holt, Lewin, Humes, Biggadike.
Scorers: O’Leary 42.
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS: Thomas, Morphet, E. Cross, Price, Darby, George, Walker, J. Cross, Palmer, Edwards, Miller. Substitutes: Conod, Johnson, Riley, Conlan, Jones, Paraiso, Glover, Anslow, Dickon.
Scorer: J. Cross 9, Darby 52, Morphet (pen) 71, Palmer 75.