First Team 22/09/2018

Match Report: Fulham 1-1 Watford

By Kevin Affleck

The way Christian Kabasele thumped his right hand repeatedly on the turf in frustration said it all. The Hornets had got themselves in a brilliant position to record a fifth Premier League win in six matches but then undid their hard work by conceding a soft equaliser 12 minutes from time.

It was hard to tell whether Kabasele was annoyed that Aleksandar Mitrović had beaten him to the ball for the equaliser or whether he was pig sick at the Hornets throwing away a game they looked like winning with something to spare at one point. Either way, his feelings were shared by the travelling Hornets who had seen their team do so much right for so long at Craven Cottage. It looked like everybody would be celebrating a second straight away win.

It could have been worse though, the yellow army could have left with absolutely nothing as Fulham threw the kitchen sink at the Hornets at the death, with the pumped-up Mitrović heading one effort against the bar and forcing another save from Ben Foster. It was heart-in-your-mouth time at the end as Fulham really piled on the pressure.

In the end, the Hornets were happy to get out of here with a point, another to add to their growing tally and the fact that, at the final whistle, Daryl Janmaat was flat out on his back, the magnificent Étienne Capoue was on his knees and José Holebas was on his haunches said everything about how hard the Hornets had to work here and how Fulham had put them through the wringer at the end. There are no easy games at this exalted level, that's for sure. We may well look back at this one as a point gained in the final analysis. 

It would have been a travesty had the Hornets gone home from here empty handed. They bossed the first half, mixing up their game nicely with an assortment of dangerous balls into the box and some very bright interplay in and around the penalty area. They could quite easily have had the game sewn up at the break, they were that good.

They dropped off a bit in the second half, leaving the door open for Fulham to mount their comeback and the result was slightly rough on Troy Deeney and Capoue who should really have ended up on the winning side. 

Deeney was immense throughout and gave Alfie Mawson such a torrid time that the defender was hooked at the break. Capoue was colossal in midfield and there was a period at the start of the second half when he was absolutely imperious, making interception after interception. You'd be hard pressed to find another midfielder in Europe playing as well as the Frenchman right now.

With Capoue to the fore, the Hornets made the sort of start dreams are made of. An innocuous throw-in from Holebas down the left led to a dreadful mix-up in the Fulham defence, allowing Hughes to tee up Andre Gray. With just the keeper to beat, Gray slotted it first time past Marcus Bettinelli for his third goal of the season. 

The lightning start restored any confidence lost against Manchester United and got the Hornets off and running. They started to play with a real swagger and looked dangerous every time they swarmed forward. 

Deeney and Gray caused Mawson and Calum Chambers all sorts of problems and Deeney, in particular, had the pair on toast. The captain was a revelation in the first period, linking the play nicely, leading the line and also showing the other side of his all-court game by dropping deep. Everything the Hornets did well went through the captain.

The only thing that will have frustrated Deeney will have been that the Hornets only found themselves one goal to the good at the break. They deserved to have the cushion of at least one more.

They had double the amount of shots the Cottagers had on goal, with the best seeing Kabasele thump a goal-bound header into Ryan Sessegnon, Bettinelli pull off a fine flying save to deny Gray and then Roberto Pereyra almost bend yet another goal into the far corner.

Fulham struggled to get to grips with the inventive play of the Hornets and made three crude tackles on Pereyra, twice, and then Deeney. The last one, by Timothy Fosu-Mensah, was high and could easily have resulted in a red card.

There was much less angst at the other end. Foster came out smartly to smother an attempt from Luciano Vietto and the excellent Cathcart made a key headed interception to stop an André Schürrle cross reaching some danger men at the far post. But that was about it.

Indeed, it said everything about the balance of play when Slavisa Jokanović made two changes at the break, bringing off Mawson – his big defensive buy in the summer – and Kevin McDonald – his captain in the absence of the injured Tom Cairney. Jokanović knew he needed to stop the bleeding otherwise the Hornets were going to be out of sight.

There was no immediate uplift for the hosts. In fact, Gray went close to grabbing his second after some magnificent hold-up play from Deeney, but the longer the second half wore on, the stronger the Cottagers got and the more the Hornets retreated. 

The Golden Boys just needed to dig deep, have the courage to defend a bit higher and the win would have been theirs. But they left the back door slightly ajar and Fulham piled through it.

Mitrović, who was an absolute handful, prodded in the equaliser on 78 minutes for his fifth of the season and only the crossbar and the reactions of Foster prevented him from completing the most unlikely of turnarounds. The home crowd were sensing blood and they almost got it.

Still Watford came, though, and they fashioned two good chances of their own in the last five minutes. Deeney should either have gone on his own or executed the pass better for Isaac Success after he pick-pocketed Chambers, and then Success saw his low shot saved by the legs of Bettinelli. 

It was frenetic, end-to-end stuff in the closing stages and, if we're honest, a draw was probably about right.

HORNETS | Foster (GK); Janmaat, Cathcart, Kabasele, Holebas; Hughes (Femenía 68), Doucouré, Capoue, Pereyra (Sema 89); Deeney (c), Gray (Success 79). 

Subs not used | Gomes (GK), Mariappa, Masina, Chalobah.

Ladies 21/09/2018

Ladies: Gillingham Preview

By Chris Smith

Watford FC Ladies will be looking to extend their winning run to five games this Sunday as the Golden Girls host Gillingham Ladies.

Armand Kavaja’s side currently lie second in the FA WNL Southern Division, hot on the heels of current leaders Coventry United.

This weekend’s visitors are the only side to take a point off Coventry this season, but have struggled since, losing four of their last five games.

VIEWS FROM THE ASSISTANT COACH

With over 20 per cent of the league season already completed, has the encouraging start changed anything in the mind-set at the Hornets?

“Nope, our ambition is still the same and that is to win the league,” Clinton Lancaster told watfordfc.com. “It is a long season and we have many tough tests along the way, but we have started well and want to continue.

“We’ve been training hard and everyone has been competing for places, which is good for us as it gives us strength in every position.

“Everyone is happy and positive. The environment at training and on match days is a great one to be part of.

“However, we certainly take no teams for granted and are always focused on the next game.”

One of the main reasons for Watford’s success has been the performance in the final 15 minutes of games, outscoring their opponents by a combined score of 8-2 and helping to earn an extra seven points.

“Lots of hard work from everyone,” explains Lancaster on the reasons behind it. “The players want to better themselves and want to win the league as much as we do as staff.

“What is refreshing to see is a group of players who are all willing to run that extra yard, all willing to get into training early and get in the gym.

“We all have the same goal, and everyone is doing their bit to achieve it for the team.”

Gillingham provide the opposition as Watford look to continue to build on the recent impressive form.

“They have always been a tough side whenever I have come up against them before,” says Lancaster.

“We had a moment against QPR when we switched off and we were punished, Gillingham could cause us similar problems.

“However, we are good enough to win the game and if we play as well as we have been, we will get the result we want.”

THE VISITORS

It’s safe to say that the previous five seasons for Gillingham have been eventful, with drama at both ends of the table.

Back in 2013/14 they finished second at this level of football, only narrowly missing out on the title to Coventry United. The two sides actually met on the final day, but Coventry triumphed 3-0 to take top spot.

They also enjoyed a run in the FA Women’s Cup that season, eventually being defeated by Arsenal at the fifth-round stage. 2014/15 would prove to be more difficult as turnover in staff and players meant they finished 11th and were relegated to the fourth tier.

After finishing second to Crystal Palace in their first campaign in the WPL South East, Gillingham stormed to the title the following year, winning the league by eight points and having a goal difference of +90. Charlotte Gurr and Fliss Gibbons combined for 56 goals in the league between them.

Both moved on prior to their return to Step 3 last season and finding the back of the net would prove to be a problem, scoring only 24 in 22 games as they finished in 9th place.

Gillingham currently lie in 10th at the moment, with a record of 1-1-3 after five games. They’ve defeated C&K Basildon and gained a highly credible draw against Coventry United, but have already conceded 17 in all competitions.

LAST TIME OUT

Portsmouth 2-4 Watford

Team: Baranowska, Hallsworth, Hill, O’Halloran, Peck, Scanlon, Akerman (Carid, 58), Bell, Baker, O’Leary (Harney, 72), Ward

Goals: O’Leary (21), Harney (79, 85), Ward (89)

Gillingham 0-5 Oxford United

Team: Shanly, Poole, Waud, Patel (Niamh Jestin, 65), Manning, Huntley, Monaghan, Sammy Booker (Olivia Jestin, 65), Sword (Grant, 58), Bussey, Farrand

INFORMATION

Watford FC v Gillingham Ladies

FA WNL

Sunday September 23

2pm

Kings Langley FC

WD4 8BS

£6 Adults, £1 Under-18’s