Ladies 07/01/2019

Ladies Report: Middlesbrough 2-7 Watford

By Chris Smith

A remarkable performance from Watford FC Ladies saw the Golden Girls progress to the fourth round of the SSE Women’s FA Cup in style, winning 7-2 away at Middlesbrough Women.

It was an extraordinary start to the game which saw four goals in the first 20 minutes. Danielle Scanlon and Helen Ward put the Hornets in front, before Emily Scarr pulled one back for the hosts.

Ward immediately restored the two-goal advantage, but Middlesbrough again hit back, this time through Holly Manders. The Hornets would not be denied from leading by two at the break as Katie O’Leary put them ahead by that margin for the third time.

Samantha Hallsworth made it 5-2 just after the hour mark and then Helen Ward added some gloss to the scoreline late-on, netting from two one-on-one opportunities for her third and fourth strikes of the game.

There was just one change to the side that had defeated Buckland Athletic in the previous round. Kat Huggins returned to the starting line-up, a move which saw Adekite Fatuga-Dada move further forward.

With only seven minutes on the clock, Watford took the lead. Fatuga-Dada’s corner found Scanlon who had got away from her marker and she picked out the bottom left corner with her header.

Just a few minutes later that advantage was doubled. Ward was afforded plenty of space in the box, she opened up and beat the keeper who perhaps should have done better with the near post effort.

Middlesbrough pulled one back when a long ball forward resulted in a mix-up in defence and Scarr took advantage, slotting home into an empty net.

Watford’s response couldn’t have been better, it only took 14 seconds from kick-off. A clever through ball from Fatuga-Dada found Ward and she lifted the ball over the on-rushing Ashleigh Trainer.

Before the half hour mark, the home side again pulled a goal back. Manders’ header from 15 yards out found its way in although Eleanor Dale might have got a touch to it.

The Hornets were constantly creating openings throughout the game and continued to look dangerous going forward. Ward’s shot across goal was parried away by Trainer and agonisingly away from O’Leary.

While the chance wouldn’t fall to O'Leary that time, when it did, she capitalised. Ward dug out a deep cross to the back post and she wasn’t going to miss the header from close range.

Middlesbrough had a glorious chance soon after the interval to continue the topsy-turvy nature of the game. Tyler Dodds showed great work down the right and then came inside but she couldn’t keep her shot down.

O’Leary put a difficult chance over for Watford but Boro had the better openings in the first 15 of the second half. Weronika Baranowska produced a good save to deny Scarr, while some decent defending from Hallsworth took the sting out of Manders’ shot, making it easy for the keeper.

Alysha Stojko-Down then had an effort off-target for Watford but there wasn’t to be long to wait for the fifth. Hallsworth pushed up the field and her cross-cum-shot completely deceived Trainer and found the corner.

There could have been a quick response after the goal again, but fortunately Dodds couldn’t find the target after some good work in the build-up.

Baranowska had to make her best save of the game with just over 10 to play. Dale tried to lift it over her, but she stood tall and made the stop.

If there was still any lingering doubt about Watford securing their place in the next round that was put to bed as Ward got her hat-trick. Fatuga-Dada won possession in the attacking third, played it through and the captain made no mistake one-on-one.

Ward was then presented with another one-on-one opportunity and she took advantage, getting her fourth of the game by slotting through the goalkeeper’s legs.

It could have been even more in the closing stages, but O’Leary fired narrowly over from close range and Leanne Bell’s strike came back off the crossbar.

GOLDEN GIRLS | 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).

BORO | Trainer, Hutchinson (Marshall, 73), Luke (Bass, 59), Birtwhistle, Foster, Watt, Dodds, Kelly (C), Dale, Manders, Scarr (Dobson, 59).

Goals | Scarr (19), Manders (28).

First Team 06/01/2019

FA Cup Reaction: Gracia, Deeney & Hughes

By Kevin Affleck

Javi Gracia was delighted with the attitude of his players as they saw off the spirited challenge of Woking in the FA Cup.

The Head Coach swapped his entire side for the third-round tie at the Laithwaite Stadium, but he got exactly the response he was after, with goals from Will Hughes and Troy Deeney garnishing a very workmanlike performance, just the type you need when you come to places like this.

“I think it was a good performance,” said Gracia. “We played with some players who have not been playing in the last games, but I was sure they were the best option for us, the best chance because we knew it will be demanding game, like it has been, and we are happy with the performance and the result as well.”

Gracia had spoken all week about the need to play with the same mentality the players had been in Premier League games, about not letting standards drop just because they were playing a team from the sixth tier.

“We came to respect them a lot and we've played well and respected them until the end,” he said. “I like the attitude of my players, players who are not playing in the last games. They show they are ready for the next game. We only have three players injured and some of them will come back quickly. I will have more options and it's good for the team and for the squad.”
Watford were always in the driving seat after Hughes whipped in the first-half opener, but the door was always ajar for Woking while the score was 1-0. Gracia sought to slam it shut by sending for Deeney and Ken Sema with just under 20 minutes remaining.

“I think we had the possession and had the control, but winning 1-0 there is always the chance they can score from a corner or a free-kick,” he said. “We have played well. I am delighted.”

The Hornets will now be in Monday night's draw – and Gracia is not viewing the cup as an unwelcome distraction. He's taking the competition seriously.

“The next game is another final,” he said. “If we lose, we don't play any more. We are ready to play five finals to get the cup.”

Deeney got to the semi-final with the club in 2016 and he was happy to come off the bench and play his part in launching another cup run.

“It's all about the mentality,” he said. “We've got to give them massive credit as they stayed in it until the end, but our professionalism showed over the course of the game. Hughes was fantastic and there was also Success and Peñaranda who did well for the team and set the tone. When I came on I just tried to add a bit more.”

Deeney's goal took his tally to six for the season, including three in his last two games.

“I like a little tap in,” he said. “I've worked on getting in the six-yard box a bit more as that is what I was known for in the Championship. I've got away from that in the Premier League, I tried to be more of a player. But I can let the other boys do that now. I've got three in two games and it will be nice to continue that run, but there is no point in getting carried away. You can go on a drought quickly enough so I'll enjoy this moment.”

Hughes' goal was the first he had rattled in since the cracker at Turf Moor in August.

“It was something we've been working on,” he said of the goal he whipped in from a corner. “Thankfully I found space and it went in. I was nice to get on the scoresheet and I'd like to do that more.

“We want to go far in the cup and we've given ourselves a platform now. Woking played really well and gave us a run for our money in the second half, but we came out on top.”