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      Report: Five star Palace Women start 2023 with a bang

      Crystal Palace Women
      Watford Women

      Crystal Palace Women returned to action in sensational style at Hayes Lane, beginning 2023 with a 5-1 victory over Watford in the Vitality Cup.

      How it happened:

      • Dean Davenport makes a number of changes to the starting eleven since the last game against Lewes, with Olding and Gibbons starting.
      • Olding opens the scoring early on.
      • Blanchard doubles Palace’s advantage.
      • Another from Blanchard makes it three just before half-time.
      • HT: Palace 3-0 Watford
      • Polly Doran adds a fourth within a minute of the restart.
      • Watford score a consolation on the hour mark.
      • Palace make it five via Hughes.
      • FT: Palace 5-1 Watford

      Dean Davenport made a few changes to his starting XI, with Hollie Olding and Fliss Gibbons starting, while Natalia Negri, who returned in goal, was terrific throughout.

      From the very beginning, Palace took control of possession, and they wasted no time in peppering efforts at the Watford goal. Polly Doran saw her ambitious effort parried, before Elise Hughes was denied when through on goal.

      But moments later, it was to be third time lucky. Olding spied an opportunity and took full advantage, striking powerfully to put Palace one up. With the hosts in the ascendency, there was to be no let-up and Annabel Blanchard finished off a tidy team move 10 minutes later.

      Watford had opportunities, and Natalia Negri saved well from a long-range strike as the game became more end-to-end.

      Three minutes of extra time were awarded before the break, which allowed Annabel Blanchard to send Palace into half-time three up.

      Palace had the same fire in their feet after the restart, as Doran’s wicked delivery snuck straight in for a fourth.

      Watford scored a consolation just after the hour mark, as Jade Bradley capitalised on a deflection to fire home.

      The visitors tried to regain a foothold in the game, but Palace’s desire for more was insatiable. Elise Hughes got in on the act when she scored the fifth goal of the game, with an inch-perfect assist from Paige Bailey-Gayle.

      A five-star performance from the Eagles takes them to the next round of the Vitality Cup, where they will face Durham.

      Palace: Negri (GK), Johnson, Waldie, Reilly (Filbey, 59), Arthur (Bailey-Gayle, 45), Gibbons (Noble, 81), Haines, Olding, Doran, Hughes (Sharpe, 81), Blanchard.

      Subs not used: Kitching (GK), Peplow, Guyatt.

      Watford: Ferguson (GK), Gibson, Meiwald, Rossiter (Bradley, 56), Davison, Ward (Baptiste, 56) Georgiou (Wallace, 75), Chandler, Wilson, Palisch, Fyfe (Fatuga-Dada, 65).

      Subs not used: Goldsmid (GK), Ali, Mehmet, Head.