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Watford 1 (Wilson 32) Aston Villa 1 (Merrick 60)
A superb second half free kick by Beth Merrick earned Aston Villa their first point of the season and ensured that Watford drew for the second time in a matter of days.
Watford had taken the lead shortly after the half hour mark through Jo Wilson, a blow for Villa who were beginning to ask questions of the hosts' defence. Cally Rowell's corner was swiped in by Wilson as she made just enough contact with a volley to hit the target. Maddy Cusack was positioned on the goal line but unfortunately for Villa she was unable to stop the ball from rippling the net as it bobbled on the pitch.
The home side had created more going forward and captain Sarah Wiltshire was looking dangerous as she carved out attacks from midfield. Defender Jade Richards dealt well with an early right sided run from the Welsh international, while Kate Natkiel almost found her team mate with a low ball in from the right which managed to evade everyone in the box.
Goalkeeper Caitlin Leach also reacted well as Natkiel bore down on goal, shielding the loose ball and scooping it to safety in the area.
Sherry McCue dragged a long-range shot well wide as Villa's efforts in the final third were lacking in sharpness - something which they certainly improved on after the interval.
There weren't many who would have expected Merrick to score directly from the set piece on the hour, such was the distance between her and the net. But the midfielder did just that as her 30-yard curving strike evaded the pack inside the box and nestled into the back of the net to Watford keeper Shayla Burgess' left.
Erin Vaughan and Mayling entered the fray in place of Cusack and goalscorer Merrick as the visitors gained a tremendous boost from the equaliser and looked determined to show what they could do.
Alicia Robinson was always threatening and kept Burgess busy as her tricky strike forced the 'keeper into a diving save with twenty minutes left.
An agonising miss by Chloe Jones was the peak of Villa's attacking efforts as the midfielder guided a Walker cross just over the bar. Watford were restricted to a few half chances by substitute Josie Green and leader Wiltshire, who came close late on but her quickfire shot was placed wide.
Watford: Shayla Burgess, Georgia Mays (sub Chloe Gunn 79mins), Ellie Butterwick, Renee Hector, Sarah Wiltshire, Bonnie Horwood, Jo Wilson (sub Magda Mosengo 75mins), Kate Natkiel, Megan Wynne (sub Josie Green 66mins), Cally Rowell, Emma Beckett. Subs not used: Lauren Davey, Emily Heaslip.
Aston Villa: Caitlin Leach, Maddy Cusack (sub Erin Vaughan 58mins), Lauren Walker, Sherry McCue, Dani Petrovic, Jade Richards, Beth Merrick (sub Sarah Mayling 68mins), Katy Moran, Carly Davies (sub Olivia Fergusson 79mins), Chloe Jones, Alicia Robinson. Subs not used: Elisha N'Dow, Natalie Courtney.
(Report by www.fawsl.com)
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