Ladies 27/08/2018

Ladies: Watford FC 1-3 Loughborough Foxes Women

Watford FC Ladies suffered a disappointing defeat as Loughborough Foxes triumphed 3-1 at Kings Langley on Sunday afternoon (August 26).

The Golden Girls had chances throughout the game, but the visitors were clinical in the first half and led at the break thanks to goals from Rebecca Knight and Kate Lowder.

It looked to be a grandstand finish when Leanne Bell got one back with just under 15 to go, however the away side responded and replied almost immediately as substitute Charlotte Cooper got the final goal of the game to harshly make it 3-1.

There were four changes to the team that defeated Cardiff City the previous weekend. 17-year-old Amy Martin came in for her debut in goal.

Katie O’Leary and Andrea Carid made their first starts for the club, while Samantha Hallsworth returned in the centre of defence.

It was a miserable afternoon in the rain at Kings Langley

Both sides had opportunities in the very opening stages of the game, Rebecca McGrother sliced an effort of wide for Loughborough while Helen Ward had a shot saved by Amy Burle.

The opposition keeper was then in action again as she saved from Carid who had been picked out by O’Leary.

It was the visitors who got the opening goal and it came from a set-piece. Laura Steele’s free-kick was delivered into a good area and Knight headed home past Martin.

That lead would be doubled six minutes later. Eva Rogers showed some good work down the right-hand side, she picked out Lowder who finished from just inside the area, after evading a Watford challenge.

Kavaja’s side looked to respond to the set-back but were again thwarted by Burle, who this time produced a good save to deny Ward for a second time.

Watford were really starting to exert pressure before the break as they looked to get a goal back. Carid’s great pass picked out Bell but her shot was off target.

Carid was involved again shortly after as her cross was agonisingly beyond the outstretched boot of Ward. The Watford captain had another opening in first-half stoppage time but her strike went just wide of the right-hand post.

Helen Ward is just unable to get onto the end of a ball into the box

Martin was called into action twice in the early stages of the half. First, she dealt with a difficult effort with McGrother following in, and then she held Rogers’ strike.

Cooper then tested her again with just over twenty to play but she was equal to the powerful near post strike.

When the Watford goalkeeper was beaten the crossbar came to the rescue as Rogers’ great effort cannoned back off it.

In the 77th minute, the Hornets got the game back to within one. A teasing cross was headed on and fell to Bell at the far post, she took a touch with her chest and then fired it into the bottom corner, for her first senior Watford goal.

Leanne Bell scores her first senior Watford goal

Frustratingly for Watford, the two-goal lead was restored not long after. Rogers had been influential throughout and her pass found Cooper who gave Martin no chance with a composed finish.

Ward had been a source of worry for the Loughborough defence and she nearly capitalised on an opening as she chipped the onrushing Burle but it went narrowly wide.

The Golden Girls had one final chance in stoppage time. O’Leary put a wonderful cross in, but Laura Baker couldn’t keep a difficult chance down.

Laura Baker sees an effort go over as the Hornets are defeated

It’s a result that saw the away side keep their spot at the top of the table after two games. Attention for both teams will turn to the cup next week. Watford will travel to fourth tier outfit Poole Town in the determining round of the FA WNL Cup.

Watford FC XI: Martin; Peck, Hallsworth, O’Halloran, Huggins (Baker, 70); Stojko-Down, Scanlon; Bell, Carid, Ward (c); O’Leary.

Subs not used: Bolland, Currivan, Re.

Goal: Bell (77).

Yellow Card: Carid (90+2).

Loughborough Foxes XI: Burle, Eastham (Cassidy, 55), Brackenbury, Bartle, Matlock, Steele, Hicks, Rogers, McGrother, Lowder (Young, 72), Knight (Cooper, 55).

Sub not used: Perry.

Goals: Knight (22), Lowder (28), Cooper (79).

First Team 26/08/2018

Gracia: “Something Special, Something Amazing”

Watch Javi Gracia's post-match interview above, or read on below for reaction from his press conference.


By Kevin Affleck

Javi Gracia hailed Watford's start to the season as “something special, something amazing” after he became the first coach in the club's storied history to start a top-flight campaign with three straight wins.

The Golden Boys followed up triumphs over Brighton and Burnley with a gusty 2-1 win over Crystal Palace that lifted them up to the heady heights of second, and left everybody dreaming of the golden days under the late great Graham Taylor. 

Gracia is not about to start indulging in talk of European football, but what he is keen to do is make sure everybody celebrates wins and runs like this as he knows how hard Premier League points – let alone wins – are to come by.

“I am very proud to be Watford coach,” Gracia said. “It's very difficult to get results in the Premier League and to win three in a row is something special, something amazing. 

“We are enjoying the moment knowing that it's only the beginning all important steps. There are many steps to go, but this is important for good atmosphere in the team. Everybody is happy.”

Palace gave Watford a real searching examination of their new-found defensive resilience this afternoon and the Golden Boys had to dig real deep at times to keep them at bay. The fact Ben Foster, Christian Kabasele and Étienne Capoue were arguably their best players said a great deal about what sort of afternoon it was at times.

“Every game is different,” said Gracia. “In all the games there is a good behaviour of the team. Today we played against two strikers and you know you have to show good defensive work.

“They are a very demanding team, it is always a tough, tight game. Today it was the same. 

“It was a rainy day and the first half, okay, we played worse than the second. They created more chances in the first half and Ben Foster kept us in the game.

“In the second half, we were better from the beginning and we scored two goals. In the last moment maybe they score from the corner kick and it could have been a different result. But we worked a lot and I think we deserved the result.”

Roberto Pereyra set the Hornets on their way with his sixth goal in as many home games. Gracia has found the perfect place for the Argentine on the left flank and he looks a threat every time he drifts in onto his favoured right foot.

“He is an important player for us,” said Gracia. “I think in this moment he feels confident and he finishes very well his chances to score. He is working with a good balance with the rest of the team. 

“He's showing a good attitude when we lose the ball, pressing high. Most important at the moment is the attitude of the team, but everybody knows he is playing well.”

Pereyra is providing a touch of class at the other end, providing that moment of brilliance to complement the defensive work at the other end. Players are throwing their bodies on the line to keep the opposition at bay in a one-for-all and all-for-one display of unity. Capoue ran his socks off to the extent that he slumped to the floor at the final whistle, while the mountainous Kabasele made interception after interception.

“We are doing some very important defensive work,” said Gracia. “Kabasele, Cathcart, Janmaat and Holebas were amazing because they defended high-quality players. It was not easy. 

“We are showing different things in different games, but always with the team winning and competing.”

Gracia felt Anthony Taylor had a difficult task in managing a high-octane game and did well not to send anyone off after issuing the first yellow card with just three minutes played. 

“He managed things as best as he could,” said Gracia, who did not have a clear view of Capoue's tackle of Wilfried Zaha. “From my position, I am not able to say if that action was a red card.”

Troy Deeney felt Watford did not scale the dizzy heights they reached against Brighton and Burnley, but was pleased they showed they can grind it out and win ugly. 

“Palace missed some big chances but we got lucky today,” said Deeney. “Three wins on the bounce is the perfect start for us. We are far from the finished article but we are just taking the points and hopefully we can get back to the standard of the past two weeks. 

“We were poor by our standards but I think the grit and determination was clear. Ben [Foster] was great at one end and José [Holebas] was great at the other. Three points will give us great confidence.”