First Team 05/10/2019

Match Report: Watford 0-0 Sheffield United

By Kevin Affleck

Every rebuild has to start somewhere, every project has a ground zero and this might turn out to be the foundation on which Quique Sánchez Flores' return spell is built on.

The Head Coach stripped it back this afternoon, went back to basics, got his ducks in a row, his low block in place and, together with the excellent Christian Kabasele, engineered that all-important clean sheet he has been searching for. It wasn't always pretty and he would have loved a goal at the other end (wouldn't we all?) but this, he will believe, will set the team up for a more consistent crack at getting out trouble. You can't, he will figure, draw 2-2 one week, lose 8-0 the next and then 2-0 the week after that. He needs a solid platform to build on and this could turn out to be the first building block. 

It probably felt like two points dropped given the precarity of the situation and the newly-promoted nature of the opposition, but you get nothing for free in this league and every point is hard earned. It's another point on the board and a first clean sheet since February is not to be scoffed at. It's a start and it's all about small steps at this stage.

The early goal everybody craved, the one Sánchez Flores went to bed dreaming about so nearly arrived on ten minutes. Roberto Pereyra found himself in acres of space down the right after springing the United backline. He had the choice of picking out the virtually unmarked Andre Gray or Danny Welbeck in the centre. He opted for Gray, who was closer to goal, rolling the ball across the face. The 'keeper's dive might have slightly distracted him, but he knows he should have scored from there. He will have expected to and won't need anyone telling him so.

The miss affected him as not long after he half-hit a pass bound for Welbeck and Abdoulaye Doucouré that would have seen either hare clear of the United backline. It was reflective of the sort of half where passes were under hit, overhit and things didn't really flow. There was no rhythm to proceedings. The main task was to get to grips with the new-look defensive system, which altered between three at the back and five at the back depending on your viewpoint. With that in mind, Sánchez Flores would just have been pleased to get to the break with a clean sheet, the first time he has done in the league since he returned. It gave the team a platform.

There were one or two hairy moments, like when Daryl Janmaat stopped a cross reaching Callum Robinson at the far post and when Ben Foster had to be at his most acrobatic to prevent a mis-cued clearance from Craig Cathcart beating him, but the low block by and large did its job, especially with the Blades having nearly 70 per cent possession.

The concession of the ball won't have bothered the Head Coach one iota. He would rather his team play on the break, like they did to almost devastating effect three minutes after the break. Welbeck streaked clear, left his man for dead and bore down on Dean Henderson. He shaped to go one side, went the other only to see Henderson stick out a leg and deflect the ball wide for a corner. It was another big, big chance.

The plans suffered a minor set-back when the decent Sebastian Prödl limped off 11 minutes after half-time. If that was an enforced change, there was nothing enforced about the decision to swap Gray with Deulofeu, though. Sánchez Flores sent for the former Barcelona man personally, summoning him back to the dugout just before the hour. Now was the time for his fellow Spaniard, he felt.

He did the same 16 minutes later in abruptly ending the warm-up of Ismaïla Sarr and ushering him back to the bench. He sensed, with the game opening up, this was the moment for the Senegal international. The chances you hoped would come the way of the big-ticket players never really materialised. Deulofeu fizzed and sparkled and added some dynamism but he didn't really see enough of the ball.

The one big opportunity fell the way of Craig Dawson in injury time, a header from just over six yards out, but it summed up the way things are going right now that Henderson was equal to it. It was a save that preserved a point for the Blades and they, given the fact the Hornets created three golden chances, were definitely the happier of the two sides with that result. 


HORNETS: Foster; Janmaat, Cathcart (C), Prödl (Dawson 56), Kabasele, Holebas; Cleverley, Doucouré, Pereyra; Gray (Deulofeu 59), Welbeck (76). Subs not used: Gomes, Chalobah, Hughes, Femenía

Ladies 04/10/2019

Ladies: Oxford United Preview

After the frustration of a postponement last weekend, the Golden Girls return to action this Sunday, as Clinton Lancaster’s side host Oxford United Women.

It’s the start of a run of home games in quick succession, with another league fixture in midweek which is then followed up by a game in the FA WNL Plate next Sunday.

The first opponent is an Oxford side whose season has been frustrated by postponements so far. They’ve won two out of their three league games but will be playing catch-up for a while, with three matches in hand on most and four on Crawley Wasps.

Views from the Head Coach

The wet weather caused half of the Southern Division’s fixture list to be called off last Sunday, with Watford’s game at Chichester one of them.

“It is always frustrating when games get called off,” Clinton Lancaster told watfordfc.com. “Especially as we have been playing very well and want to keep the momentum going.

“Sadly, we are hitting that time of the year now where games are at a higher risk of being called off."

With a home draw in the FA WNL Plate and the Oxford United game only just recently being announced for this Sunday, it’s going to be a busy week or so at Kings Langley.

“The only thing that changes in the preparation is that we prepare for what Oxford can bring,” explained Lancaster. “We have short notice for this game, but we feel ready and training has been very good.

“We have a good run of home games now and it is important for us to get some good results and put in some solid performances for the fans who come out to support us.

“I know the players will give everything to win each game, they desperately want to be successful and please the fans, as well as playing good football.”

The two teams have been familiar opponents since 2014, meeting 11 times in that period. Watford have won five of those games, with almost all of the encounters being evenly contested.

“We’re expecting a tough match, we’ve played Oxford many times at this level and the league above and they have always been a tough side,” said Lancaster.

“We need to keep playing the way we have been, dominating possession with the intention to play forwards if possible. We need to continue to work hard off the ball to make sure we limit their chances.

“We enjoy playing them as the matches are always very competitive. We are looking forward to what will be a good game, and one that we feel confident of winning.”

Flashback

Oxford United v Watford (April 30, 2017)

Watford made it seven points from three games in the Spring Series with an impressive 2-1 win away at Oxford.

Ellie Noble opened the scoring for the hosts early on, managing to beat Josephine Fletcher to Lauren Allison’s high ball up and head home.

Watford responded just after the quarter of an hour mark. Rinsola Babajide’s header to the far post found Charlotte Kerr and she smashed an effort off the bar and in from close range.

The Golden Girls were denied several times in the second half, with Demi Lambourne making a particularly impressive stop to keep out Babajide.

Not deterred, Watford took the lead less than a minute later. Babajide’s cross was towards Kerr who improvised and cleverly flicked an effort past the opposition keeper.

2-1 is how it stayed as the Golden Girls secured all three points. It’s been a popular scoreline in the away fixture recently, with this being the second of four victories for Watford by that outcome in the last five and a bit years.

Team: Fletcher, Poole, Nuttall (C), Neal, McKeag, Puddefoot, Maple (Jordinson, 90), Kerr, Will (Petkova, 74), Babajide, Cudone (Albert, 78)

Visitors

Oxford United competed in what was then known as FA WSL 2 alongside Watford for five seasons. They struggled in their first year, finishing ninth and only picking up 12 points.

Signs of improvement were there towards the end and this carried on into 2015. They achieved what would be their best finish that year, winning seven league games and ending up in sixth place.

The next full season and the Spring Series was a struggle, as Oxford finished second from bottom and then, for the first time, in last place. The 2017/18 campaign was their last at that level and the Yellows did slightly better, finishing eighth.

Having not been granted a licence for the renamed Championship division, the U’s played in the FA Women’s National League Southern Division in 2018/19.

Ultimately a poor start put paid to any ambitions of an immediate return to the second tier, despite an incredibly impressive run of form between October and March. They eventually finished in fourth, one point and place ahead of Watford.

They’ve kept the majority of that side together for this season, although there have been a few key departures. Ellie Noble, Lucy Thomas and Flo Fyfe all made the move to a higher level, with the former joining Lewes and the other two linking up with London City Lionesses.

There’s also been movement the other way, with the signing of Daisy McLachlan particularly standing out. She spent time with Portsmouth and London Bees last campaign, scoring 10 goals in 14 games on the South Coast, including one against Watford.

Only two players have played in every minute for Oxford this season and one of those is Kayleigh Hines. The U’s will be hoping the midfielder’s return to fitness will provide them with a big boost this campaign.

They’ve won two of their four fixtures so far, defeating Chichester City and Portsmouth and netting four times against both. Crawley Wasps have proved difficult opposition though, managing to get the better of Oxford in both the league and cup.

Last time out

Watford 2-2 Yeovil Town

Team: Wilson, Meiwald, Beckett, Richards (Hill, HT), Rolandsen (O’Leary, 87), Chandler, Kikomeko, Vyse, Fatuga-Dada, Ward (C), Carid (Stojko-Down, 78).

Goals | Ward (52, 57)

Crawley Wasps 3-1 Oxford United

Team: Watson, Clifford (Lancaster, 86), Sims, Beaver, Searle, Hines, Haynes (C), Williams, Gane (Moore, 77), Allen, Timms (Baker, 59)

Goal | Sims (51)

Information

Watford FC Ladies v Oxford United Women
FA WNL
Sunday 6th October
3pm
Kings Langley FC
WD4 8BS

Ticket Prices

Adults £6
Concessions £3
U18s £1
50 per cent off all admission prices for Watford FC Season Ticket Holders