Ladies 19/08/2018

Ladies: Watford FC 5-2 Cardiff City Ladies FC

Watford FC Ladies started the new National League season in stunning fashion as they recorded a 5-2 victory against Cardiff City Ladies FC at Kings Langley, on Sunday afternoon (August 19).

It was a great team performance from the Hornets but plenty of plaudits will go to Helen Ward who netted a hat-trick and set one up.

Andrea Carid also got a brace on her debut having come on as a second half substitute. The visitors had their moments going forward during the game and Kylie Nolan netted a goal for Cardiff in each half.

The Golden Girls impressed on the opening day of the Women's National League

The Golden Girls got off to the perfect start as they opened the scoring after just seven minutes.

Linda Afuakwah played it into the path of Ward, who was clean through from the half-way line, she had plenty of time to line it up before beating fellow Welsh international Laura O’Sullivan with a placed shot into the bottom left corner.

Helen Ward scores the first of her three against Cardiff City Ladies FC

Cardiff created an opening as they looked to respond but Alice Griffiths’ powerful effort from distance was well parried away by goalkeeper Weronika Baranowska, who was making her senior debut.

In a frantic beginning to the game the visitors had another chance when they got a free-kick from 25-yards out. Kelly Isaac took it and called Baranowska into action who made a good save pushing it away.

Baranowska was eventually beaten with 18 minutes played as Cardiff got their equaliser. Nolan was afforded plenty of space in the penalty box and she beat the Watford keeper one-on-one from close range.

The Hornets had a couple of chances towards the half hour mark as Danielle Scanlon and Ward both had strikes off target.

Some half-hearted appeals for a Watford penalty was followed by a quick Cardiff counter which resulted in Nadia Lawrence forcing Baranowska to make another save.

The next appeal was a lot clearer. Leanne Bell played it into the path of Afuakwah who was taken down by the opposition defender, penalty given.

Ward stepped up to take it and got her second of the afternoon as she coolly sent O’Sullivan the wrong way to give Watford the lead at the break.

The Golden Girls went into the break ahead

Katie O’Leary came on for her debut at half-time and she almost scored only ten minutes after coming on, her first shot was well saved by O’Sullivan and then Shannon Greenway superbly blocked the follow up effort.

Another change was made just after the hour as Andrea Carid was introduced and she made an instant impact, scoring after just two minutes on the pitch. Ward was involved again as she took a couple of touches in the box and then squared it across for the debutant to tap home from a few yards out.

With fifteen to go Carid got her second of the game to make it 4-1. It was similar to her first as she finished from close range, after being picked out by O’Leary.

Midfielder Dan Scanlon carries the ball forward for the Golden Girls

It was a convincing display from the Hornets and a fifth came late on as Ward got her hat-trick. In a similar vein to the previous two goals, Afuakwah played a pass across the box from the left hand side and Helen made no mistake from in-close.

The visitors did add another to their tally with a consolation in the closing stages. Nolan scored it as she got her second of the afternoon from inside the box.

Both sides had chances in stoppage time as O’Leary’s lob went over and Grace Horrell’s long-range strike was tipped over the bar superbly by Baranowska.

That’s how it finished as Watford got their 2018/19 campaign off to a fantastic start, scoring five in a league game for the first time since June 2014.

Armand Kavaja’s side will be back at home next Sunday as they face Loughborough Foxes with the chance to make it back-to-back wins to start the new season.

Watford FC XI: Baranowska; Peck, Kettle (Baker, 73), O’Halloran, Huggins; Stojko-Down, Scanlon; Afuakwah, Bell (Carid, 62), Shakes (O’Leary HT); Ward (c).

Subs not used: Martin, Akerman.

Goals: Ward (7, 42, 84), Carid (64, 75).

Cardiff City Ladies XI: O’Sullivan, Greenway, Vine (Simpson, 76), Morgan, Jumratie (Rees, 74), Griffiths, Isaac, Nolan, Lawrence, Miles (Horrell, HT), Williams.

Subs not used: Guard.

Goals: Nolan (18, 87).

Attendance: 151

First Team 19/08/2018

Gracia: “It's Only The Beginning”

Watch Javi Gracia's post-match interview above, or read on for his thoughts from the post-match press conference.

By Kevin Affleck

Javi Gracia said he can sense the belief in this group of reinvigorated players after they made a real statement this afternoon with a comfortable victory over Burnley that few were expecting.

The Hornets had not won in 14 years at Turf Moor, not won away since November, and not scored on the road since January, but they set the record straight on multiple fronts with a thoroughly polished performance and three goals of high quality against the Clarets. It was the first time Gracia had tasted victory on the road as Watford Head Coach, and the manner of the display suggested this was not a flash in the plan.

“I was very pleased after the first game and today as well,” said Gracia. “I know it's not easy to get points here and I think we played a good game to have won and get the points. We have scored three goals, and the two early in the second half mean we could manage the game.”

The Hornets played with all the hallmarks of a well-coached team and one who had done their homework on the opposition. Every player worked their socks off against a Burnley side who were playing their sixth game in 25 days. The Hornets ran them into the ground, with the front two setting the tone by refusing to give the Burnley back four a moment's peace.

“It's good for our two forwards,” said Gracia. “They are doing a very good job, not only like today by scoring goals. They are creating difficulties for the centre backs and today we have been able to keep the line a little bit higher. A lot of the players did a very good job and I am very happy with them.”

Gray in particular is flourishing playing in a two-man attack. “He is a great player, a great person,” said Gracia. “Last season he didn't play so much but he was always helping the team. He deserved his goal today.”

James Tarkowski cancelled out Gray's third-minute opener and Burnley went into the break with the momentum. But the Hornets regrouped at half-time and came again, flooring the hosts with two goals in three devastating minutes.

“We didn't change anything at half-time,” said Gracia. “We thought we were doing very good things. We just needed to be more aggressive in the last metres. We have created more chances than them and we managed to score two good goals.”

It would be tempting to get carried away by a maximum haul of six points from two games and five goals of the highest order too, but Gracia has been around too long to get carried away. 

“We'll see what we can do, but in this moment, I am focussed on the game against Palace and giving out best,” he said. “I am not able to look far ahead. We did a very good job in pre-season and we can enjoy the good result. It's only the beginning and things can change in one day. It's important to keep calm, to create the rules, to create a style of play, to be confident in your style of play. In this moment the players believe. I am happy we have got a good result.”