Match Report: MK Dons 1-4 Watford

Its been so long since fans in the National League have been able to go to a match, the maths to work out the days is too complicated for me after a tiring, great day out, back at the football.

Its been roughly seven months, for me it’s been nearly nine months since my last Watford first team fixture, I missed Watford’s last couple of away matches, with a load of storms postponing nearly every week, my last was Plymouth in the FA Cup at home in January!

So to my delight, the fixture list came out, fans allowed back and a 10 minute trip from my house to Stadium MK up 1st.

The pre-match build-up for members of the Watford FC Women Supporters Group has been fantastic, so many people ordering tickets. After the online ticket office failed many times, I managed to phone up and get a ticket for me and my daughter Lindsay. To my surprise, MK had done a Watford section, which had sold out!

So to the matchday, it was a typical opening day fixture, sun shining and blue skies. Temperature checks were taken and the MK staff were very clear, friendly and professional. Into the ground we went, following the arrows and keeping our masks on.

We took our seats as the players warmed up, plenty of space between bubbles. Team news then arrived. New signings Sophie Harris and Sarah Wiltshire, who was sponsored by Since-71 at Yeovil last season, started, in goal and up front respectively. Watford’s other summer signing Franny Ali was on the bench. Skipper Helen Ward was missing off the teamsheet as she is away with the Welsh national side. MK had a couple of new signings out too in former Reading and Millwall keeper Chole Sansom, midfielder Nicole Pepper and former Watford attacker Chez Albert.

Watford started the match on the front foot, after only 2 minutes, returning striker Sarah Wiltshire curled a lovely 20-yard strike over the keeper, off the crossbar and into the net, 1-0 Watford.

Only 1 minute after the restart and Watford were on it again, Adekite Fatuga-Dada, who was a menace all 1st half, got some space on the right-wing, crossing for Wiltshire in the centre, but the keeper, Sansom saved. Not long after, Watford had a penalty shout, the busy Wiltshire, cutting in from the left, got brought down in the area, but the referee was quick to say no penalty.

Watford continued to dominate, Wiltshire hitting a long-range drive straight at Sansom, Emma Beckett headed well wide from a Watford free-kick from the flank, Emily Hill, captain for the day had a header from a corner denied, the clearance fell to Megan Chandler who took a shot from 35 yards, the ball hitting the back stanchion.

The Dons fans thought they had equalised just after 20 minutes. The ball was floated in from a wide free-kick, debutant Sophie Harris dropped the ball into her own net, but the ref blew up for a foul on Sophie, much to the relief of The Golden Girls fans. Although having seen replays since, the ball never crossed the line, although it did look like it at the time!

Watford broke again not long after, again down the right, Fatuga-Dada again beating her opponent, pulling the ball back again for Sarah Wiltshire, this time she put it in the net for hers and Watford’s 2nd. Not long after, Ryah Vyse had the ball 22 yards out and hit Watford’s 3rd of the afternoon, right in the top bin, the goal of the day!

Almost straight from kick-off and another ball out wide for Fatuga-Dada to chase, again she beat her opponent, squared for Wiltshire, who put it away for a well-deserved hat-trick.

There was a couple of chances for MK in the last 5 minutes of the 1st half, Chez Albert hitting straight at Harris and Mollie Coupar doing the same, minutes later. A fantastic half for the Hornets who should have scored more!

1 change at half time for The Dons as Rhianne Rush came on for Dominika Netschova. The 1st action of the half saw a booking for a player on each side, Chez Albert fouling Ryah Vyse, Chez booked for the foul and Ryah for kicking out.

Dons were looking a much better side 2nd half, substitute Rush hit one straight at Harris after some excellent work from Albert.

Watford were still looking dangerous on occasion though. Anne Meiwald had a couple of efforts, one going wide and the other over the bar.

The dangerous Chez Albert then got a deserved goal for MK, some great skill shown and then fired a hard shot at goal which keeper Harris misjudged due to the ball’s movement in the air.

Watford made their 1st change, Ocean Rolandsen coming off, with Kat Huggins coming on and taking her place in the centre of defence, with Meiwald moving over to the right.

Chandler then hit one high and wide and a chance for both sides to make changes. Zoe Boote came off for Dons with Vicky Neal coming on, whilst Leanne Bell came off for The Hornets, with Katie O’Leary entering the field of play. O’Leary nearly scored with her 1st touch, Wiltshire squaring, but a defender made a last-ditch tackle to deny her.

Alysha Stojko-Down came close with an effort after Sansom was rushed to make a clearance, the effort just crossing the goal and falling wide. O’Leary had another effort, turning on a sixpence, but struck straight at the keeper.

MK were much better this half, Rush had a deflected effort fall into the hands of Watford stopper Sophie Harris. Watford broke straight away, Sarah Wiltshire was heading straight for goal but a lovely tackle was made by the impressive Dons defender Hannah Warren.

Emma Beckett surprisingly lost possession in the centre of the pitch not long after, Chez Albert had a spectacular effort which just went over the crossbar.

Both sides then made their final changes. Mollie Coupar off and Hannah Barrett on for Dons and Stojko-Down left the field for debutant Franny Ali to join the field.

Substitute Hannah Barrett soon got the attention of the referee, getting booked for a late challenge on Kat Huggins.

There were a few chances for Watford right at the end, Emma Beckett firing over from a Franny Ali lay off and in Watford’s final attack, Fatuga-Dada broke again down the right, cutting back for Beckett, whose strike was blocked by Hannah Warren, the ball falling for Franny Ali, she struck it low to the keepers left, but it was an easy save.

It was a well-deserved victory for The Golden Girls, especially after the 1st half performance, but The Dons battled hard in the 2nd period and probably deserved to win that 2nd half, a great performance from Chez Albert against her old side and right back Hannah Warren stood out for me in that 2nd half.

Player of the match for me though has to be hat-trick hero, Sarah Wiltshire, closely followed by Adekite Fatuga-Dada who was a menace all afternoon.

Next up for Watford a return home to Kings Langley to face Oxford United and a return to my volunteer duties. Can’t wait. I really enjoyed today, it was great to be back in the ground and a big thank you to everyone behind the scenes making that happen!

Photo: @WatfordFCWomen