Ladies 11/01/2019

Ladies: Cardiff City Preview

Watford FC Ladies return to league action for the first time in almost two months this Sunday, with a trip to Cardiff City Ladies.

While the Golden Girls have enjoyed success recently in the SSE Women’s FA Cup, they haven’t had a game in the FA WNL since the 1-0 victory over Chichester City Ladies on November 18.

Cardiff were the opponents on the opening day of the season, when Watford were victorious 5-2. Since that early defeat the Welsh side have shown what they can be capable of, winning five of their last eight league games.

Views from the Head Coach

It would be understandable for the side to still be on a high from the previous game, where Watford scored seven in a competitive fixture for the first time in more than a decade.

Armand Kavaja knows that his side will need to be focused on the job at hand this weekend.

“It was a fantastic performance against Middlesbrough in the FA Cup, but this is a different competition and it requires focus and a different type of motivation to continue to perform week by week,” he told

“We had a very good performance against Cardiff at the start of the campaign, but they did cause us trouble going forward, therefore we must be focused and disciplined defensively like we were against Chichester.

“Cardiff have a good midfield who create good opportunities for their strikers, so we must eliminate their time and space on the ball in central areas.

“We have had a look at their recent games and you can clearly see that they have grown as a team. They have had a few good results recently and will be a more confident side, they’ve also strengthened their squad with some good players.

“We have to stay focused and disciplined out of possession and continue to play our game when we have the ball.”

One of the big reasons behind Watford’s success so far this season has been the form on the road, with five wins out of six so far.

The Head Coach believes all of the attention to detail makes a difference.

“When we travel away, we have the whole group on the coach,” explained Kavaja. “This allows for everyone to talk and bond together.

“At the same time, it allows for the coaching staff to have one-to-ones with the players, discussing their roles and responsibilities for the game with good detail.”


It seems a long time ago that the two teams met on the opening day of the campaign. Watford were successful that day, winning 5-2 thanks to a hat-trick from Helen Ward and two goals from Andrea Carid.

Having suffered a rare disappointing season in 2017/18, Cardiff didn’t let it happen again. They won their next five games and scored 22 in the process, that included three league victories and progression to the last 16 of the FA WNL Cup.

The run was eventually halted as they lost 1-0 to a Chichester side in fine form. Suddenly goals were proving difficult to find as a 1-1 draw and a 1-0 loss followed in subsequent league games.

In their last five matches, they’ve again picked up some form. During that time, they’ve won their previous two in the league and progressed to the fourth round of the SSE Women’s FA Cup. The only loss in that period was a bit of a heartbreaker as they exited the FA WNL Cup to Loughborough Foxes, despite having a 3-0 half-time lead.  

They currently lie fifth in the league with a 5-1-3 record. Postponements due to international duty do mean they have games in hand, with as many as three on some teams.

Remarkably this will be Cardiff’s six consecutive home game and it’s been an area of strength this season, not losing a single game in 90 minutes so far. With Watford’s 5-0-1 record away from home, it has all the ingredients for a potential cracker this weekend.

Last time out

Middlesbrough 2-7 Watford

Team: Baranowska, Hallsworth (Baker, 66), Edwards, Hill, Huggins, Scanlon (Kettle, 82), Stojko-Down, Fatuga-Dada, Carid (Bell, 51), O’Leary, Ward (C)

Goals: Scanlon (7), Ward (10, 20, 81, 84), O’Leary (39), Hallsworth (61)

Cardiff 2-0 Bolton Wanderers

Team: O'Sullivan, Williams, Guard, Lawrence (C), Morgan, Jumratie, Cerys Jones, Isaac (Graham, 65), Miles (Emma Jones, HT), Nolan, Horrell

Goals: Williams (7), Nolan (15)


Cardiff City Ladies v Watford FC Ladies
Sunday January 13
CCB Centre for Sporting Excellence
CF82 7EP

First Team 11/01/2019

Gracia: “I Am Happy, But I Always Want More”

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


By Kevin Affleck

Javi Gracia said he will not base his game plan around stopping Wilfried Zaha, who has so often proved to be the Hornets' nemesis. 

Watford travel to Selhurst Park on Saturday needing no reminding of the damage the Ivory Coast international has inflicted on them in recent seasons, but Gracia said it will be short-sighted if they just focus on how to stop the mercurial Eagles’ forward.

“We try to do like we usually we do with rest of the teams: with a collective vision, with a collective plan, never thinking about an individual plan. We know he is an important player for them, but you see the quality of all the players they have,” he said.

“They are a very good squad, in Townsend, in Ayew and all of them are dangerous and good players. Zaha is different as he is a player who dribbles a lot and we know it and we have to be ready to control him, Townsend and other players they have. We have to be ready to do little adjustments against Palace.”

Gracia has not let the comfortable FA Cup win over Woking paper over the defensive cracks that appeared against Bournemouth. He spent Tuesday’s session emphasising the importance of keeping the back door shut and reminding them of the work that yielded clean sheets against Brighton, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Huddersfield Town and West Ham United.

“We always try to improve and try to work on things,” said Gracia. “In this case, we say we conceded two free-kicks against Bournemouth. We could do better in this. We tried this week to speak about that and to correct this situation.

“I think we are a team who defend well. It's true in the last games we conceded more shots than in other moments, but we are scoring more goals. We need to find the balance because I think we can defend better. We are trying to be better to be demanding and defending better.”

The Hornets kept a clean sheet at home against Palace last season, but they imploded at Selhurst Park on their last visit, conceding two in as many minutes to slip to a defeat that few saw coming in the previous 88 minutes. That game was before Gracia took over, but he knows that clashes with Palace are always hard fought.

“We know the games are very demanding,” he said. “We played against Palace last season and this season and all the games have been very equal and very demanding. I don't expect anything different in this case. We are ready to play, to compete and we try to get a good result.”

The Hornets are on a good little run right now. They've only lost one of the last seven – and that was to an Eden Hazard-inspired Chelsea side.

“I am happy, but I always want more,” said Gracia. “I always want to improve. When we start the season, I want to be the champion, I want to be the first one. I have that vision, that ambition. After that, we will be the best team in the competition. It's my expectation and I want to work with that mentality.”

Watford aren't going to finish first, but they are bang on course for their highest ever Premier League finish, eclipsing the 13th-place they achieved under Quique Sanchez Flores in 2016. But Gracia is still not deviating from the slowly, slowly, catchy monkey approach he has used all season.

“I prefer to speak about the next challenge, the next game and the next step to grow,” said Gracia. “Every game we play is a good challenge for us and is a chance for us to show what we are able to do. This point of view is better because at the end of the road we can see our achievement. I prefer to enjoy every day and be ambitious in every training session. We can improve in every little detail.”

Troy Deeney is renowned for doing extras and he's reaping the rewards of late, scoring three goals in his last two.

“If you see the goals, I agree [he is playing well] because in the last games he scored more goals than at the beginning,” said Gracia. “But he always kept the same level, the same attitude and the same commitment. The strikers have different moments to score and, in this moment, he is taking the chances we have and we try to extend his good moment.”