First Team 17/08/2019

Match Report: Everton 1-0 Watford

By Kevin Affleck

The Hornets launched a record-breaking season last time out on the back of four straight wins. They are going to have to show they can mount one on the back of a tricky opening to this campaign after Everton left the Golden Boys still searching for their first goal let alone their first point.

The table might not make for pretty reading and the winless run at Goodison Park now stands at 14 matches, but this wholehearted performance on the blue half of Merseyside was definitely a step in the right direction, much more committed than the showing against Brighton. They played with more intensity and more rhythm and this team will be just fine if they play with this sort of spirit on a regular basis. This was more like a Javi Gracia side.

They took a while to get going and it looked like it might be a long afternoon after Bernard scored after just ten minutes, but the visitors stopped the rot, restored a bit of order than arguably played the better stuff for the last 55 minutes. Craig Dawson hit the bar, Jordan Pickford made two more saves than Ben Foster in keeping out Étienne Capoue - and then, more impressively, Troy Deeney - while Roberto Pereyra and Gerard Deulofeu, the two match-winners, showed signs of getting closer to full fitness and top form. There was also a debut for Danny Welbeck and he will only kick in now after what was his first football of any sort in nine months.

The Hornets had led in three of the previous four fixtures at Goodison Park but not this time. Bernard put paid to that with a goal after ten minutes. The situation looked harmless enough when he scooted down the wing, but he then cut suddenly inside on his favoured right foot, got half a yard on Kiko Femenía and then fired a low shot through his legs and under the dive of Ben Foster, who was hugely disappointed to have been beaten by a slight from Dawson. Bang went the hopes of a first league clean sheet since the home win over the Toffees in February.

The Hornets needed to batten down the hatches and prevent a swift second as then they would have been really up against it. They did it well and almost got an equaliser on 22 minutes Dawson, running at and full stretch, crashed a far-post header against the bar from a José Holebas free-kick. 

Dawson was then involved in the thick of things at the other end, Everton fans baying for a penalty after he tangled with Dominic Calvert-Lewin after a swift counterattack between the two sides. Referee Lee Mason thought about it but eventually decided it was six of one and half a dozen of the other. Phew.

Restored to a more familiar central role, Deulofeu was a livewire, popping up on the right, on the left and in the middle in a bid to create something out of nothing. He looked the player most likely to make something happen. There was one free-kick towards the end of the half that fizzed wickedly across the face of goal and really should have had someone on the end of it. 

He also petitioned strongly for a penalty of his own following a challenge from Yerry Mina, a player who arrived at Barcelona just as Deulofeu left. Several players surrounded the referee convinced there was contact, but VAR agreed with Mason that the Colombian had got the ball and a corner was award. That came in the Hornets’ best spell of the half, their most fluid spell and it almost yielded something tangible when Capoue tried to bend one in the far corner but Jordan Pickford read it and palmed the effort away for a corner. This was more like it. 

There was a Richarlison header just before the break that was a bit too close for comfort, but Gracia would have headed down the tunnel feeling his side got better as the half wore on, a belief backed up by the fact they enjoyed slightly more possession and more corners. The second period started well, too, with Holebas flashing a corner dangerously across the goalmouth. In fact there were three corners inside the first three minutes for the visitors.

The shift in momentum continued and should really have resulted in an equaliser just before the half. Capoue sparked off the counter-attack with a delightful nutmeg in the middle of the park on Andre Gomes and the ball eventually found its way to Deeney. He was one-v-one with Pickford and although he was slightly off balance, he would have fancied himself from there. Pickford, though, should be credited for a brave save, taking one full in the face from close range.

The ante was being upped and there were a few lively exchanges. Holebas took a yellow for a foul on Richarlison and picked a fight with the Brazilian. Pereyra was booked for going over too easily, and then Mina took exception to the way he went over in the box soon after. Things were starting to boil up rather nicely.  Richarlison headed a free-kick over at one end and then Pereyra did the same at the other end.

Neither coach could be accused of not going for it. Marco Silva threw on Theo Walcott and then Moise Kean, while Gracia went for broke by taking off Will Hughes, shifting Deulofeu to the right and Welbeck charging through the middle. Later on the Watford Head Coach really went for broke and threw on Andre Gray for a midfielder. 

There has been late, late drama in each of the last two fixtures here, but there was none this time and the finale was a bit anti-climatic if we are being honest. It wasn’t for the want of trying, though, and that bodes well for the game at Vicarage Road with West Ham United next weekend. 

HORNETS: Foster (GK); Femenía, Cathcart, Dawson, Holebas; Hughes (Welbeck 67), Doucouré, Capoue (Gray 83), Pereyra; Deeney (c), Deulofeu (Cleverley 79). 

Subs not used: Gomes (GK), Janmaat, Quina, Kabasele.

Ladies 17/08/2019

In Profile: Adekite Fatuga-Dada

By Kevin Affleck

Adekite Fatuga-Dada dreams big. And why wouldn't you when you are a 22-year-old footballer and go past the famous arch at Wembley Stadium four times a day. 

The hugely-likeable and grounded Watford FC Ladies forward makes ends meet by working at Converse at the Wembley Outlet, but when she's not getting this in a size four or that in a size five, she's looking longingly out at the famous stadium just across the way. She gets to see the stadium twice before she's even sold a pair and then a further two times on the way home during the short commute on the Metropolitan Line from Harrow on the Hill to Wembley Stadium.

“I just walk by and think, 'Some of my friends have played there' and that it could be me one day,” said Fatuga-Dada, who is eligible to play for England and Nigeria. “If we do well enough this season, I could be playing at Wembley. Why not? I go past on the train and see it and then again when I walk past, but to be on the pitch seeing the arch would be amazing.”

Reaching the FA Cup final with a team in the third tier of the Ladies football pyramid represents a long shot, but why not reach for the stars ahead of the National League South opener on Sunday against Portsmouth? Stranger things have happened. It would, if it happened, also shine a further light on Fatuga-Dada's story which is one full of triumphing against adversity and a real success story for the club's Community Trust work and programme.

Fatuga-Dada went to Albury Primary School in Harrow and there wasn't much to do after the bell rang and when term time finished. There was also danger on the streets. 

“There were a lot of stabbings going on,” she said. “I never saw any of it and obviously was never involved in it, but you can see how you can get dragged into it. That's when the Trust's Safe & Enable programme came about. They came into schools, gave flyers out and the kids then had something to do rather than hanging on the streets. We'd go to Harrow High School and kickabout for an hour or two. It meant you didn't have anything else to think about. If the Safe & Enables programme wasn't there, things might have been different.”

The Trust gave Fatuga-Dada hope, gave her purpose and kicked off an affiliation with the Hornets. The forward joined the former Centre of Excellence at the age of around 10 and barring a brief spell at Arsenal, who she scored for on her debut in pre-season, has been with the club ever since. She's now part of the furniture. 

“Ade adds huge value to our squad, on and off the pitch," said General Manager Grace Williams. "Her ability on the pitch and understanding of the game means she is a key member of the team. Off the pitch she is great role model to the girls, even at such a young age.”

She's a shining example of why any young girl should never give up, even when it must sometimes be tempting to turn your back on the game.

“I went for a trial at Harrow St Mary's and I was the only girl,” she said. “They all thought, 'She's a girl, she won't get in so we'll let her trial.' I ended up smashing the trial; I was better than the boys so they had to pick me. I went on holiday in the summer and when I came back they were like, 'No, we are not letting you in. We've picked some other people now.'

“It was a horrible experience and I had to go home. 100 per it was an excuse. 100 per cent it was because I was a girl. My uncle tried to shield it from me but I was quite self aware and I knew what was going on. I knew I was the only girl and they didn't want that burden of having a girl around boys.”

It's a story remarkably similar to that of Kelly Smith, the greatest female player to ever lace up her boots in this country.

“She is my biggest idol,” said Fatuga-Dada, her smile widening at the mere mention of Smith's name. “When at Arsenal I met her and I was so nervous. She came over to answer any questions we had. Everyone knew she was my idol. She asked if anyone had any questions and everyone looked at me. I just couldn't say a word. She was the first girl I knew playing football. She was amazing, even up until she retired. If she still played now she'd still be amazing. She's the best player we've ever had by far.”

Like Smith, Fatuga-Dada was your archetypal tomboy. “My uncle taught me how to play football,” she said. “There is a story my mum tells about how he wanted a boy and when he came to the hospital to see my mum and I was a girl, he stormed off. He eventually came back and has since taken me everywhere. He was the one who got me into football, which my mum hated at the time. She wanted me to be a girly-girl and didn't envisage me playing football, so she was like, 'She's your child." I'm definitely a tomboy. Everything I do is football or fitness. I'm not a girly-girl. I don't like pink, I'm just very tomboy. It's who I am and who I have always been.”

With her rich experience and personable nature, it's no wonder the Ladies' General Manager has Fatuga-Dada on speed dial when it comes to Trust and Community events.

“I used to be the girl wishing the players would share their stories and now I can do that,” she said. “It's crazy that it's come full circle. I'm now the person the kids are looking forward to meeting. I love it and enjoy it. I go to schools, I come to the stadium for NCS (National Citizen Service) programmes and I help the kids with their interviewing skills. The Watford programmes are amazing and it's great to be a part of. I tell them, 'I was you once.' They look up to me, I think, but I'm just Ade, I'm just me.”

Ladies' coach Armand Kavaja won't go too far wrong this season with someone as rounded as Fatuga-Dada in his ranks.