First Team 2 weeks ago

FA Cup Reaction: Gracia, Deeney & Hughes

By Kevin Affleck

Javi Gracia was delighted with the attitude of his players as they saw off the spirited challenge of Woking in the FA Cup.

The Head Coach swapped his entire side for the third-round tie at the Laithwaite Stadium, but he got exactly the response he was after, with goals from Will Hughes and Troy Deeney garnishing a very workmanlike performance, just the type you need when you come to places like this.

“I think it was a good performance,” said Gracia. “We played with some players who have not been playing in the last games, but I was sure they were the best option for us, the best chance because we knew it will be demanding game, like it has been, and we are happy with the performance and the result as well.”

Gracia had spoken all week about the need to play with the same mentality the players had been in Premier League games, about not letting standards drop just because they were playing a team from the sixth tier.

“We came to respect them a lot and we've played well and respected them until the end,” he said. “I like the attitude of my players, players who are not playing in the last games. They show they are ready for the next game. We only have three players injured and some of them will come back quickly. I will have more options and it's good for the team and for the squad.”
Watford were always in the driving seat after Hughes whipped in the first-half opener, but the door was always ajar for Woking while the score was 1-0. Gracia sought to slam it shut by sending for Deeney and Ken Sema with just under 20 minutes remaining.

“I think we had the possession and had the control, but winning 1-0 there is always the chance they can score from a corner or a free-kick,” he said. “We have played well. I am delighted.”

The Hornets will now be in Monday night's draw – and Gracia is not viewing the cup as an unwelcome distraction. He's taking the competition seriously.

“The next game is another final,” he said. “If we lose, we don't play any more. We are ready to play five finals to get the cup.”

Deeney got to the semi-final with the club in 2016 and he was happy to come off the bench and play his part in launching another cup run.

“It's all about the mentality,” he said. “We've got to give them massive credit as they stayed in it until the end, but our professionalism showed over the course of the game. Hughes was fantastic and there was also Success and Peñaranda who did well for the team and set the tone. When I came on I just tried to add a bit more.”

Deeney's goal took his tally to six for the season, including three in his last two games.

“I like a little tap in,” he said. “I've worked on getting in the six-yard box a bit more as that is what I was known for in the Championship. I've got away from that in the Premier League, I tried to be more of a player. But I can let the other boys do that now. I've got three in two games and it will be nice to continue that run, but there is no point in getting carried away. You can go on a drought quickly enough so I'll enjoy this moment.”

Hughes' goal was the first he had rattled in since the cracker at Turf Moor in August.

“It was something we've been working on,” he said of the goal he whipped in from a corner. “Thankfully I found space and it went in. I was nice to get on the scoresheet and I'd like to do that more.

“We want to go far in the cup and we've given ourselves a platform now. Woking played really well and gave us a run for our money in the second half, but we came out on top.”

First Team 2 weeks ago

FA Cup Report: Woking 0-2 Watford

By Kevin Affleck

With minimal fuss and no trace of a scare, Watford ensured they were not the shock result of the round by doing a very professional job on Woking this afternoon.

Plenty had gathered at the Laithwaite Stadium in hope of what, in terms of league positions, would have ranked as one of the biggest cup upsets of all time, but the Hornets were in no mood to be giant-killed. They never racked up the cricket score Woking boss Alan Dowson had feared, but they were also never in danger of suffering their first defeat at the hands of non-league opposition in 42 years. 

Will Hughes whipped in the first and then Troy Deeney came off the bench to put the flame out on any flickering hopes Woking had of forcing a lucrative replay. It will not be a game that lingers long in the memory if Watford are to have a cup run, but this stage of the competition is not about making statements: it's about resting a few tired legs after an exhausting Christmas period and making sure your name is in the hat for the fourth round. To that end, it was mission accomplished.

Javi Gracia made 11 changes to the side who drew 3-3 with Bournemouth last time out, but he still managed to send out a side boasting six internationals and four youth internationals. This was no scratch side: it was one that meant business and who went out with the all-important mind-set needed in tricky ties like this. 

Enjoying plenty of joy down the right side, the Hornets set their stall out early on and flexed their muscles thanks to an overhead kick from Isaac Success and then two long-range efforts from debutant Adalberto Peñaranda, the second of which flashed past the far post. The Golden Boys wanted to strike the first blow and remove the possibility of an upset as soon as possible. 

They thought the breakthrough had come via the unlikely source of Adam Masina on 14 minutes when he stabbed a knockdown from Miguel Britos at goal, but it smacked the man on the post in the face and went behind for another set-piece. This time, the Hornets made no mistake. Masina cut the ball back for Hughes who had found himself in yards of space after the dummy runners had dragged the markers towards goal. Hughes didn't even opt to take a touch as he ripped the ball across his body and into the far corner. It was a goal of Premier League quality.

With any nerves now settled, Watford started to zip the ball around and started playing with surprising cohesion for a side thrown together this week. Enjoying 74 per cent possession in the first period, Success saw a chance at the near post saved well by Craig Ross, Domingos Quina smashed one over from distance and then Cleverley smacked a lovely free-kick against the bar. With Woking failing to muster a single effort at goal let alone on target, it was just a question of when Watford would kill the tie stone dead.

The very bright Peñaranda tried to do that ten minutes after half-time, but he failed to just get enough curl on a shot he tried to bend in the far corner after cutting in on his right foot. Woking were keen to show they had something to offer going forward and that it wasn't just all one-way traffic. Just past the hour mark, the Cards fashioned their first shot on goal when Armani Little forced Heurelho Gomes to make a save.

Perhaps that chance, which highlighted just how in the balance the tie was, was what prompted Gracia to send for the cavalry on 71 minutes. Deeney and Ken Sema, two of the heroes of the thriller at the Vitality Stadium, were sent charging on and it took the pair less than five minutes to carve out the match-sealing second. Sema muscled his way down the left, threaded the ball across the face of goal and there was Deeney to tap in the easiest goal he will score all season. 

And that was that. Woking's FA Cup run was over. Watford's, on the other hand, is just getting started. 


HORNETS | Gomes (GK)(c); Janmaat, Wilmot, Britos, Masina; Cleverley, Chalobah, Quina, Hughes (Navarro 80), Success (Deeney 71), Peñaranda (Sema 71). 

Subs not used | Dahlberg, Mariappa, Deulofeu, Femenía.