Under-23's 1 month ago

Under-23: Watford 3-0 Ipswich Town

By Kevin Affleck

Hayden Mullins said the secret to his side's storming start to the season is simple: hard work – and plenty of it.

The Lead Under-23 Coach has moulded a new group of players into a cohesive unit who work their socks off and the upshot has been a run of eight wins in 11 league games that has already put them eight points clear at the top of the Professional Development League South Division.

"We haven't won anything yet and we don't really get anything for winning the league, but where we are right now is a good reflection of where the boys are at," said Mullins, the former Crystal Palace, West Ham and Portsmouth midfielder. 

"It's all down to hard work. We speak about being a team, working hard as a team and staying as a team. They are also taking onboard information we are giving them before and during the game. That's great to see as a coach. They are working really hard and are doing really well."

You will not find a more level-headed individual that Mullins and he won't be allowing anybody to get too carried away with this run of form. He should, though, be quietly satisfied with a controlled and clinical performance against an Ipswich side who beat second-place Coventry last time out. The Hornets were at nothing like their best, but they got stronger as the game wore on and won it with goals from Henry Wise, Joseph Hungbo and Jayden Bennetts.

"There are always bits and pieces you can work on but I always like to look at the positives, which are a clean sheet, how hard the boys have worked, the information they have taken onboard and the goals they have scored," said Mullins.

Hungbo's in particular was a cracker, rifled in from long range to make it eight for the season for the winger signed after being released by Crystal Palace. His early second-half goal and another later on from Bennetts was a reward for the way the team stuck at it in the first half when it didn't all go their way.

"The first half wasn't the prettiest," said Mullins. "There were big periods in the first half when we weren't at our best but Ipswich are a decent side and we had to weather what they brought to us. Every game is different and we are not going to dominate every one from start to finish. You have to dig in sometimes and I am pleased with the way we kept our shape, kept our discipline and the second half was completely different."

First team assistant coach Dean Austin was at Clarence Park to watch the youngsters in action and he will have been pleased to see the depth of the squad, with Sam Dalby, Callum Whelan and Kaylen Hinds all given the afternoon off and Ryan Cassidy, Harry Forster, Lewis Gordon and Sonny Blu Lo-Everton, all players called up at youth level by their national side at one time or another, given some valuable minutes.

"It was fantastic," said Mullins. "It's a reflection of where we are at the moment. We can leave out good players and bring in very good players. We are just trying to help them and give them the best chance of having a career. But at no point will we be sitting back, relaxing and thinking we have got anywhere as we haven't. We are just trying to help every player we can, improve performances and results."

HORNETS: Parkes; Balogun (C) (Barrett, HT), Spencer-Adams, Hudson, Trialist (Gordon, 67); Hungbo (Lo-Everton, 53), Wise, Adebiyi, Forster; Bennetts, Cassidy.

Subs not used: Hoskins, Hinds.

Ladies 1 month ago

Ladies: Chichester City 2-3 Watford

Watford Ladies returned to the top of the table with a hard-fought 3-2 win away at Chichester City Ladies on Sunday afternoon.

Katie O’Leary put the Golden Girls in front early on, but Chichester responded immediately through Megan Fox. A goal from Gemma Simmonds just past the midway point of the half then gave the hosts the lead.

Helen Ward’s strike meant they wouldn’t hold on to that going into the interval. The Hornets then stepped up the pressure in the second 45 and eventually found a way through, as a great goal from O’Leary ensured Watford returned from the South Coast with all three points.

Head Coach Clinton Lancaster made four changes to the side that had won 4-0 at Gillingham a fortnight ago.

O’Leary returned up front, while Hattie Kettle featured in the centre of defence. Danielle Scanlon and Katherine Huggins were both handed their first league starts of the season.

Lancaster’s side have been scoring for fun recently, although much of it has been coming in the second half. That wasn’t the case here as Watford got off to the perfect start.

Ryah Vyse put in a good ball to O’Leary and she connected with it well first time, beating Isobelle Foster in the Chichester goal.

If there was hope that would set the tone for the afternoon, the hosts had other ideas. They were back on level terms only a minute after the opener, their captain Fox getting the equaliser.

The Golden Girls were threatening to restore the advantage, with Foster coming up big on a couple of occasions, first she denied Megan Chandler and then Andrea Carid.

Chichester came into this game without a league win, but you wouldn’t have known it by their performance on the pitch. Suddenly the game had been turned around when Simmonds’ chip gave her side the lead.

It looked like Watford would also immediately respond to going behind, but some brilliant defending from Nicky Lake prevented Ward’s effort from going in after she had rounded the keeper.

When the skipper got another chance though, it was taken. Ward pounced on a poor pass at the back and showed good composure to slot the ball past Foster and make it 2-2.

Watford have excelled in the second 45 so far this season, averaging 2.5 goals per game. Backed on by vociferous travelling support, the Hornets were peppering the opposition goal looking for the go-ahead goal.

A raised flag had already disallowed an effort from centre back, Hattie Kettle, before Ward had an opportunity which went just wide of the left-hand post.

O’Leary then came even closer, as she beat Foster, but her strike came agonisingly back off the crossbar.

Plenty of looks were falling to Ward, she shot wide from a tight angle and was then stopped by the opposition keeper, with no rebound given.

Eventually, the pressure told. It was a particularly fine goal from O’Leary, as she curled it into the top right-hand corner for her second of the afternoon and what proved to be the match winner.

It could have been more comfortable in the closing stages, but Watford just couldn’t get the fourth. O’Leary was denied her hat-trick by Foster and then Ward hit the post, with it bouncing back into the keeper’s arms.

Despite not being able to add to the tally, Watford looked assured in the final stages, closing out the game and securing the three points that saw the Golden Girls return to the top of the Southern Division.

GOLDEN GIRLS | Wilson, Hill, Kettle (Beckett, 57), Huggins, Rolandsen, Scanlon (Stojko-Down, 61), Chandler, Vyse, Ward (C), O’Leary, Carid (Fatuga-Dada, 68)

Goals | O’Leary (3, 72), Ward (39)

LILLYWHITES | Foster, Lake, Burke, Phelps, Simmonds, White, Capel-Watson, Bloomfield, Cook (Webster, 80), Fox (C), Wild

Goals | Fox (4), Simmonds (26)

Attendance | 75