Ladies 1 week ago

Ladies Report: Chichester City 1-0 Watford

By Chris Smith

A first half penalty proved decisive as Watford FC fell to a narrow 1-0 defeat away at Chichester City Ladies.

After a collision in the box, the referee adjudged that a foul had been committed and pointed to the spot. Lauren Cheshire stepped up to take it and hammered it into the top corner.

The hosts’ defence proved a tough nut to crack and the Golden Girls couldn’t manage to find a way to get the equaliser.

Head Coach Armand Kavaja made two changes to the side that had beaten Milton Keynes Dons Ladies 2-1 a fortnight ago.

Helen Ward’s absence saw Samantha Hallsworth return to the starting line-up, while Weronika Baranowska was back in goal in place of Robyn Levett.

Chichester created a chance in the first minute of the game and Baranowska had to be alert to deny Molly Clark.

Some good interchanges between three Watford players almost broke down the opposition defence. From the resulting corner, Hattie Kettle rose highest and headed wide.

A driving run down the right from Leanne Bell saw her get into a good position, but pressure from Nadine Bazan forced her to shoot wide. Bell was again in the thick of it when her ball in found Alysha Stojko-Down, but she couldn’t get good enough contact on an acrobatic attempt.

When Helen Ogle won possession in a dangerous area it looked to be a great chance for Chichester to take the lead, but she couldn’t call Baranowska into action. The keeper did have to make a stop when Jess Lewry cut inside and then tested her, which she saved well.

Lewry then had another opening when played in, after chesting it down, she shot wide of the left-hand post.

The big moment of the game came when Chichester were awarded a penalty just before the break after a collision in the box. The spot kick was emphatically scored by Cheshire, who gave Baranowska no chance.

Not long after play resumed, the hosts had a chance to double their lead. Ogle was through on goal, but she couldn’t get enough power or placement on the strike and Baranowska held.

It was a frustrating half for the Hornets with any opportunities, even slight, at a premium. Chichester proved an incredibly difficult side to find a way past.

Molly Clark was a threat for the hosts throughout the game, she tried an ambitious effort from distance, connecting well with it but not finding the target.

There was also some good defending from Watford, clearing a dangerous corner in and a fine tackle from Kettle to deny the Chichester attacker.

With eight minutes of stoppage time there was plenty of time for Watford to find a dramatic equaliser. The game could have been sealed the other way though, with Molly Clark’s low free-kick stopped by Baranowska.

That would prove to be the last real chance of note as Chichester held on to secure the three points. While it was a tough afternoon for Watford against a good side, the Golden Girls will have an opportunity to get back on track against Gillingham next up.

GOLDEN GIRLS | Baranowska, Hallsworth (Richards, 67), Kettle, Edwards, Huggins ©, Kikomeko (Dickens, 83), Stojko-Down, Fatuga-Dada, Carid, Bell (Harney, 56), O’Leary.

LILLYWHITES | Dolbear, Cheshire, Bazan, Taylor, Molly Clark, Lauren Clark (Simmonds, 59), Lewry (Stephens, 66), Waine, Ogle, Stenning (Tubby, 85), Barron.

Goal | Cheshire (40 – PEN).

First Team 1 week ago

Gracia: “I Would Like Gomes To Stay”

By Kevin Affleck

Javi Gracia believes the relationship between Ben Foster and Heurelho Gomes is reflective of the spirit throughout the dressing room and is a big part of what is driving the team to new heights, and has said that he would like Gomes to stay beyond the end of this season.

Foster has said he would insist that Gomes plays in the final if, for some reason, the Head Coach decides to go against what he has done in previous rounds and play the summer signing from West Bromwich Albion in goal. Gomes, meanwhile, feels Foster is the best keeper in England and could have no complaints if Gracia went with the ‘keeper who has played in every Premier League game this season in the final on May 18. 

“You could see this not only in Heurelho and Ben, but all the keepers,” said Gracia. “When the game is finished, you could see the good relationship between all the players.

“It’s something that helps us to play the way we are. I am sure if we didn’t have this atmosphere in the team, in that game, when we are losing 2-0, we wouldn’t be able to score or to achieve the score we achieved. It’s because we have good players, but they have a very good relationship as well.”

You saw that by the way Gomes hurtled onto the pitch at full-time at Brighton to hoist Foster aloft after arguably the individual performance of the season. Foster did the same to Gomes at Loftus Road in the fifth round of the cup and then again at Wembley on Sunday.

“It's about the group, the team,” said Gomes. “I will not knock on the manager’s door to play in the final. If he needs me I will be there, if not we are well served by Ben Foster.”

Gomes has made no secret of the fact that he is all but certain to bring down the curtain on a 17-year career at the end of the season, but Gracia, ever the optimist, has not given up hope of convincing the Brazilian to play on for one more season.

“We spoke about that,” said the Head Coach. “Heurelho said he was close to retirement but I would like to speak with him before finishing the season and to know what he wants to do. After speaking with the club, I would like to see the best option for everybody. In my opinion, Heurelho is an amazing keeper and I would like to stay with him more time.”

Gracia has also revealed that his three sons were bouncing after the FA Cup semi-final win over Wolverhampton Wanderers and that the family home is reverberating to the sounds of Watford songs.

The Head Coach’s three sons, Jon (13) and 10-year-old twins Inigo and Mikel, were at Wembley on Sunday and Gracia said they would do The 1881 Movement proud with their rendition of all the songs about their father, the player and the club.
“The boys are so happy,” he said. “They are singing all the songs and driving me crazy in a good way. All the songs are now always in my head.”