First Team 26/04/2019

Team News: Wolverhampton Wanderers

By Kevin Affleck

Javi Gracia will have three extra players to choose from for the crunch clash with Wolverhampton Wanderers after José Holebas, Tom Cleverley and Adalberto Peñaranda were declared fit.

Holebas has not featured since picking up a hamstring injury in extra-time of the memorable semi-final win at Wembley, resulting in Adam Masina playing the last three matches. Cleverley has been out with a calf problem since a brief cameo against Crystal Palace in the quarter-final while Peñaranda has been out for several weeks. The Venezuelan international has not been in a squad since the FA Cup win at QPR in the middle of February.

But they all returned to training in the middle of this week, providing Gracia with an increased number of options as the season heads towards the business end of the season.

“All these players are in different situations because they have some injuries,” said the Head Coach. “We’ll see what we decide for the next game. What is important is that all of them are training with the team now. It’s good to have more options for the most important moment of the season as we are going to play three games in the league and a final as well. To have the chance to choose all the squad is good for the team.”

Gracia is particularly pleased to have Cleverley available again. He picked the 13-cap England international midfielder in his first league game and then had to wait 11 months to do so again. He’s only managed to hand him three league starts since due to the form of Étienne Capoue and Abdoulaye Doucouré, but he the Head Coach loves to have a player of Cleverley's experience, nous and ability in his squad.

“Tom is a player that can play in different positions, always with a good character, and with spirit,” he said. “I like that.”

Gracia has a few selection calls to make. He has a decision to make at right-back, which of the four centre-halves to play in the heart of the defence, if Holebas is fit enough to displace the improved Masina and who should start up front. The decision at centre-half is an interesting one as he replaced Craig Cathcart at half-time, threw on Kiko Femenía and played with a back three on Tuesday night.

“Craig was not injured, it was a tactical decision,” said Gracia. “I tried to change the game by taking some risks. We were only going to leave one at the back with many one-v-one situations and I wanted that to be Kaba. If we were going to play that way, I wanted a player less tired than Craig. I think it was a good decision as Kaba defended really well, we were able to play high and we got a point starting from good defensive actions. It was the right decision as I know Craig has played more minutes for me than anyone.”

Gracia is never one to reveal his hand in the pre-match press conference and he was particularly coy over what he may do up front when asked if he may need a physical presence in attack up against Willy Boly and Conor Coady. 

“We have played against them with different players both times,” said Gracia. “The first one we had Isaac and Gerard, the second one with Troy and Andre Gray. We’ll see what happens in the third one.”

Ladies 26/04/2019

Ladies: C&K Basildon Preview

By Chris Smith

Watford will look to build on last week’s 1-0 win at Gillingham, as the Golden Girls host C&K Basildon Ladies on Sunday.

There are only two matches of the season left to play, with both at Kings Langley. While the top three is now out of reach, the Hornets could still possibly finish as high as fourth if they can win both remaining games.

The first of those fixtures is against C&K Basildon, who are currently bottom of the table, with only two points to their name. They proved a tough opponent earlier in the season though, as Watford grinded out a 1-0 win.

Views From The Head Coach

The previous two matches have both seen the game settled by a solitary goal, with Watford on the winning side last weekend.

“We are happy with the result against Gillingham, especially with the manner in which we had to play the game,” Armand Kavaja told watfordfc.com.

“Due to unforeseen circumstances, we were rushed and had to name a starting line-up which was not the one we had planned for. The girls did very well to stay focused and do a job on the day.”

Even before those issues, both Elle Richards and Afiya Johnson were down to start, and they were the latest young players to showcase their ability with the first team.

“I personally have always been someone who gives opportunities to players who have good attitude and work ethic,” explained Kavaja. “We proved that last season by giving a debut to all the Under-23 players.

“This season we have found better young players, and we have not denied them their opportunity if they have shown good attitude and work ethic during training, or when they have played for the Under-23s with Laura [Dyer] and Amy [Shepherd].”

The 2018/19 campaign is drawing to a close, with this Sunday’s game against C&K Basildon the penultimate fixture.

“We hope to finish the season on a high and also keep our standards up there too,” said Kavaja. “We have been planning for next season, and the last few games have been about giving some minutes to players who we think have deserved it and have not had the opportunity during the season.

“Nothing really changes for us against Basildon, we will approach the game in a professional manner like we have every other game.

“We have been trying to set a professional culture on and off the pitch since the start and this won’t change now.”

The Visitors

After finishing second last season, it’s been a much different campaign this time around for C&K Basildon, with a summer of departures both on and off the field changing things.

There’s likely to be a slightly different look from when the two teams met back in October, not even half of their last league matchday squad was involved in the previous fixture against Watford.

Basildon’s season started poorly, they lost the opening two games heavily to Portsmouth and Cardiff City, while losing in the FA WNL Cup Determining Round to lower division opposition.

Things gradually seemed to be improving though, they earned a very respectable draw away at Loughborough Foxes and while they lost subsequent matches in the league 3-1 and 5-3, they were competing well.

Two more losses followed against Coventry United and the 1-0 defeat to Watford, but a second point was earned in early October as they came back to draw 3-3 with QPR.

Since then they’ve lost 12 on the spin in the league, and there’s been some heavy defeats amongst those. The last month or so has been particularly tough on their small squad, as they conceded eight to Chichester City, 12 to Oxford United and then lost the big game at the bottom against QPR.

They did manage to make the final of the Essex Women’s County Cup though, although they couldn’t beat a Billericay side who stopped them from winning the trophy for a sixth consecutive time.

Elsewhere, they were comprehensively beaten in the SSE Women’s FA Cup by Keynsham Town, their third defeat to a Step Four side, after also losing to Ipswich Town in the FA WNL Plate.

While it’s obviously been a difficult campaign, the experience gained by the players will almost certainly benefit them in the future. One of those to stand out has been Holly Turner, who has netted five times and been named opposition player of the match on six occasions.

Last Time Out

Gillingham 0-1 Watford

Team: Baranowska, Fatuga-Dada ©, Hallsworth, Richards, Afiya Johnson, Kikomeko, Scanlon (Harney, 90), Carid (Huggins, 57), Stojko-Down, Bell, O’Leary.

Goal | O’Leary (63).

Billericay 4-0 C&K Basildon

Team: Walker, Gillard, Deacon (Thomas, 46), Bowness, Debell, Bailess ©, Rhodes, Turner, Abela, Horn (Sillitoe, 46) Whitehead (Clarke, 65).

Information

Watford FC Ladies v C&K Basildon Ladies
FA WNL
Sunday 28th April
3pm
Kings Langley FC
WD4 8BS

Ticket Prices

£6 Adults, £1 Under-18s, 50% off for Watford FC ST Holders