Watford denied top spot by late City leveller

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Watford Ladies were unable to leapfrog Sunderland into top spot in the National Premier League after being held to a draw by a tough Man City side.

The result was a repeat scoreline of the earlier league encounter at Berkhamsted, but it needed an injury time penalty to snatch a point for the hosts.

It was Watford who made the brighter start of the two teams and Kate Natkiel was denied by a brave block from a City defender.

The hosts started to find their feet as the half wore on, though, and they had three good chances to open the scoring.

But it was the Golden Girls who opened the scoring in time added on at the end of the first half.

Renee Hector’s ball into the right channel was raced onto by Sarah Wiltshire and she went at the left-back before delivering a cross for Jo Wilson to head the ball past Andrea Worrell in the City goal.

If City felt aggrieved to be trailing after a half that they had dominated, it certainly was not the case after half-time as Watford raised their performance.

A quick counter-attack midway through the half saw Wiltshire burst into the City penalty area only to be bundled over as she was about to shoot.

The referee pointed to the spot and Wiltshire picked herself up to take the kick, but Worrell guessed right and made a superb one-handed save to divert the ball away.

Despite the miss, the Golden Girls were in control and it did not seem like City would find a way past the stubborn Watford defence until the match headed into injury time.

A free-kick from deep was pumped high into the Watford area and, in a melee of players, a City player went down in the box to earn a penalty for her side.

Sarah Danby, scorer of the goal that earned City a draw in the match at Berkhamsted, stepped up to take it and fired down the centre of the goal past Davey to tie the scores.

There was still time for City player Lynda Shepherd to earn her second caution of the match for an barge from behind on Wiltshire and receive her marching orders.

The point took Watford to just one point behind league leaders Sunderland, albeit with the champions having two games in hand.

It also means that with seven matches left to play for the Golden Girls, they have still only lost one match so far this season.

Manager John Salomon said: “Today was a bit of a roller coaster. We defended well first half and came in one up, then I felt we were the more likely side second half, only to be undone by a very controversial late penalty.

“Football can be cruel sometimes, but in a year we’ve gone from fighting for our lives at the bottom of the league to being disappointed that we are not top of the league tonight.

“We’re in a fantastic position – on reflection it’s a very good point and we now look forward to the challenge of Leeds United in the FA Cup.”

Watford’s next match is on Sunday, February 24 when they host Leeds United Ladies in the Womens FA Cup fourth round proper at Berkhamsted FC, kick-off 2pm.