First Team 01/04/2019

Team News: Fulham

Watch Javi Gracia's press conference above, or read on below.

By Kevin Affleck

Javi Gracia is preparing for the visit of Fulham tomorrow night without the services of Isaac Success and Adalberto Peñaranda after they joined Tom Cleverley on the injured list.

Success and Peñaranda could have been the shake-up for selection if the Head Coach decides to rest some of his regular starters ahead of the FA Cup semi-final, but the pair, who played so well together at Granada in the first half of 2016, have been ruled out.

“This moment we have Tom Cleverley, Peñaranda and Success out of the team,” said Gracia. “They are not available. Isaac played the last game, but he picked up a knock in his knee and is not ready to play in this moment. Peñaranda felt something in his hamstring and is not available. Isaac will be ready for the next game [against Wolves]. Peñaranda and Cleverley, I am not sure when they will be ready.”

Daryl Janmaat is fine, however. He came off at Old Trafford just after half-time, running straight down the tunnel as he felt unwell, but he trained this morning and is available to play.

Gracia made five changes for the game at Old Trafford on Saturday, swapping the entire back four and the goalkeeper. It will be fascinating to see how many, if any, tweaks he makes to face Fulham with just five days to go before the big one at Wembley.

“I think the best way to prepare for that important game we play on Sunday is to try and win the next game,” he said. “That’s the best way to respect the FA Cup and to respect the Premier League as well. I will choose the players I want but I am always thinking about the best formation and the best line-up to win the next game. In this moment, I am only focused on the next game. After Fulham, we have five days to prepare. It was more difficult to prepare for this game after only a couple of days since Manchester. We try to always keep the same mentality.”

Gracia left key defenders Craig Cathcart and José Holebas on the bench at Old Trafford and left Adrian Mariappa at home, like he did at the Etihad Stadium ahead of the quarter-final. However, Troy Deeney and Gerard Deulofeu were on the bench at the Etihad but started at Old Trafford, proving just how difficult it is to second guess the Spaniard when it comes to team selection.

“You never know what is better,” he said. “We have to play a game in a couple of days and my decision will be different. But after FA Cup, the next Premier League game is against Arsenal on Monday and we play Huddersfield five days later. It is the same time between this one and the FA Cup semi-final. We have time to prepare. I know some players are coming back from international break, like Craig Cathcart who have played more games. I think all my players are ready to play all the games in the future.”

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Ladies 01/04/2019

Ladies Report: MK Dons 1-2 Watford

By Chris Smith

Watford FC showed their expertise late on in games again, as the Golden Girls won 2-1 away at Milton Keynes Dons Ladies.

The match was still scoreless as it entered the final ten, but that changed in a hurry. Helen Ward opened the scoring and the lead was doubled not long after by Adekite Fatuga-Dada.

It was the 19th and 20th time that Watford had netted from the 75th minute onwards in games this campaign, which account for more than 40 per cent of goals scored.

Milton Keynes made it a slightly nervy finish when Alice Hughes pulled a goal back, but Watford held on for an important three points.

There were two changes to the side that had been beaten by league leaders Coventry United last time out.

Katie O’Leary returned to starting line-up, meaning that Fatuga-Dada started in a more defensive role. The other change was in between the sticks, as Robyn Levett made her second appearance for the club.

The hosts had a couple of chances early on, a shot was fired just wide of the left-hand post and then Leah Littlechild forced Levett into her first save, the keeper holding her powerful strike.

Watford did find the back of the net on the quarter of an hour mark. The ball found its way to Ward off a defender and the captain slotted home, however the flag was raised.

As the half wore on, the Hornets were gradually beginning to get more and more on top. Ward was picked out by Jennifer Kikomeko and she then returned the favour to the midfielder, who forced Sophie Shults into a save at the end of a good move.

A poor pass out almost put the opposition keeper in deep water when Leanne Bell pounced on it, however she recovered well to then deny O’Leary.

The offensive pressure continued when Alysha Stojko-Down’s touch set it up nicely and she connected well with her strike, testing Shults, who came up with a good diving save low to her left.

Probably the closest Watford came though was minutes before the break. O’Leary found Andrea Carid and her curling effort agonisingly came back off the crossbar.

Despite a dominant end to the half, there was a warning sign down the other end. Littlechild threaded a pass through to Amy Gooderham and like Ward earlier in the half, she found the bottom corner, but would be prevented from opening the scoring by a raised flag.

Watford started the second 45 as they ended the first, creating a number of opportunities as they looked to find the opener. Ward had the first attempt, curling one over the bar from the edge of the area. Only a minute later she again found herself with an opportunity, this time her shot went wide of the left-hand post.

It wasn’t one-way traffic though. Former Hornet Kim Farrow had a chance for MK, she also attempted to place it from just outside the box and narrowly missed the target.

In fact, the home side were looking the more likely during the mid-way point of the second half. Hughes’ header was saved by Levett and then the same player looked to have a fantastic opportunity after being picked out by Farrow, but her touch was just too heavy.

The last Watford 0-0 was back in October 2015, a streak stretching 74 games. With the scoreline looming as the game entered the final stages, the skipper soon ensured that the run would continue.

Kikomeko’s through ball was perfectly weighted towards Ward and she showed typical composure to find the bottom corner, leaving Shults with no chance and putting the Golden Girls in front.

The lead was doubled only a few minutes later. Ward’s shot was blocked, but she managed to pick the ball up again and then turned provider, playing it across for Fatuga-Dada to tap home from close range.

Watford looked to be now heading to a comfortable victory, but a goal in the first minute of stoppage-time ensured that wouldn’t be the case. A threatening ball from the left-hand side made its way through to Hughes at the back post and she beat Levett to give her side hope.

The three points could have been sealed when Ward again found Fatuga-Dada, however there was a lot more pace on the ball this time and Adekite couldn’t manage to keep the volley down.

With the game in the fifth minute of stoppage-time, Milton Keynes had one final chance from a corner and sent the goalkeeper up. The ball actually reached Shults, but fortunately for Watford she couldn’t get any contact on her shot and the final whistle blew shortly after.

A deserved win for Armand Kavaja’s side and a big one after results in recent weeks. The Hornets will look to build on this next-time out away at Chichester, as they attempt to end the final few games with a flourish and finish as high up the table as possible.

GOLDEN GIRLS | Levett, Fatuga-Dada, Kettle, Edwards, Huggins, Kikomeko, Stojko-Down, Bell (Hallsworth, 62), Carid (Peck, 86), Ward ©, O’Leary (Harney, 84)

Goals | Ward (84), Fatuga-Dada (87)

MK | Shults, Wright, Barrett, Bright, Naylor ©, Newman, Horwood (Gough, 88), Hughes, Littlechild (Newsome, 71), Gooderham (Clarke, 77), Farrow

Goal | Hughes (90+1)