It was a game like no other as the Watford Ladies First Team helped create history when they played their league game against Brentford FC at the Gtech Community Stadium in front of more than 5,000 fans.
This was the first time Brentford Women had played at the stadium and it was an amazing experience for both teams, receiving exactly the same treatment as if it was a men’s Premier League fixture. The players had use of the changing rooms, there was a match announcer, journalists in the press box and the match was beamed onto the big screens.
The team was amazingly well supported from the stands as many younger players, teammates, parents, family and friends made the trip to West London to cheer on the girls. The crowd was warmed up with “Sweet Caroline” booming from the PA, freestyler Kumi Ward doing her tricks pitchside (watched by Buzz and Buzzette, the Brentford FC mascots), and with former Arsenal and England legend Rachel Yankey OBE being interviewed beside the Women’s Euro trophy.
The players walked out onto the pitch to a cranked-up “Hey Jude” with a flag-waving guard of honour to either side and accompanied by young Club mascots.
Ahead of kick off Brentford Women’s head coach, Karleigh Osborne, and Watford Manager Jordan Williams laid poppy wreaths on the edge of the pitch, which was followed by a one-minute silence.
Watford were not fazed by the occasion and made a bright start, but it was Brentford who had the better chances with a shot hitting the post and goalkeeper Tia Ginn forced into making a couple of important saves. After 14 minutes Lily Hall sent the away supporters crazy as she slotted home from close range and the visitors almost doubled their lead after a long shot from Iva Hrisimova. Despite Brentford looking dangerous Watford held firm, with Mia Bristol particularly impressive in defence, and made it through to half time 1-0 ahead.
Three minutes after the break though the Bees were on level terms when a header from a corner was deflected into the net for an own goal. After Naomi Jackson’s fierce shot was well saved the hosts hit the post again before taking the lead just after the hour mark. They soon made it 3-1 but as the game moved into stoppage time Safiya Dean was brought down by the Brentford keeper. The Watford substitute calmly fired her penalty into the top right corner, but any hope of a comeback was dashed as Brentford scored from long range to make the final score 4-2.
At full time both sets of players did a lap of honour, soaking up applause from all four stands accompanied by a light show and more cranked-up tunes - a truly memorable afternoon for players and fans alike.
Afterwards the manager was full of praise. Jordan said that despite the nerves the players put on a good show: “It was really difficult out there playing in front of so many people and you’re up against it, but I think the girls handled it really well, it was a great experience for them.”
Mia Bristol, Player of the Match, agreed: “It was an amazing experience, thank you to all the people for coming to support us. It was great fun and very eye-opening to see how it could be in the future for us.”
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