21/11/2019

Cathcart: “An Ireland Play-Off Final Would Be Massive”

Craig Cathcart’s Northern Ireland have secured a play-off spot as they eye a route to Euro 2020, and the defender admitted a potential play-off final against the Republic of Ireland would be “a massive occasion”.

The Green and White Army finished third in their group, behind only Germany and the Netherlands, and will face Bosnia and Herzegovina in the play-off semi-final in March.

If they make it to the final, Northern Ireland could be facing off against their old rival for a precious spot in next summer’s tournament.

“We’ve got two difficult ties to get through to the final so we can’t look too far ahead, but a potential play-off final against Ireland would be a massive occasion if it does happen,” said Cathcart. “We just have to make sure we get through the first game and worry about it after that.”

The Hornets defender made his 50th appearance for Northern Ireland on Tuesday night, but all Cathcart’s focus was on the team’s accomplishment rather than his own.

“At the start of the campaign we knew we had the four games against Belarus and Estonia and we wanted to get maximum points from them, which we did in the end,” he said. “We wanted to give ourselves the best chance against Germany and Holland, as those were the last four games we played and they were the toughest in the group.”

Although Northern Ireland picked up only one point from their four games against the group leaders, they held their own in most of them and were unfortunate not to take away more.

Cathcart’s side led in the Netherlands before three late goals turned the result on its head and only a missed penalty kept them from beating the Oranje on home turf. Against Germany at home they were only killed off by a second goal in injury time and they even took the lead in Frankfurt before Joachim Löw’s side found another gear.

“In the games we were a bit unlucky at times, we pushed them all the way apart from the last game and I think we gave a good account of ourselves against two of the best teams in Europe,” Cathcart reasoned.

“We’ve got the play-offs now, we’re looking forward to them and we can take confidence from the games we’ve played so far. The performance levels were key in those games. We were a little bit unlucky and we were close to pulling it off, but they are the top teams and that’s where the difference is really.”

The performances were particularly encouraging for Cathcart and, looking forward, he fancies Northern Ireland’s chances against Bosnia and Herzegovina in the play-offs, having played against the upcoming opponents not long ago.

“We had them in the Nations League so we played them home and away and that was only maybe a year or two ago, so we know them a little bit,” he said.

“We lost in Sarajevo but we played quite well and were a bit unlucky again. The team has changed now, we were sort of going through a transitional period and we had young players coming into the squad at that time. Now the lads are more settled and the team is more experienced as well, so I think it’s going to be a tough game but we’ll be going into it full of confidence.”

Ladies 21/11/2019

Ladies: Oxford Preview

After a seven goal victory last weekend, the Golden Girls return to action this Sunday as Clinton Lancaster’s side host Oxford United Women in the second round of the FA Women’s National League Plate.

Watford’s previous round in the FAWNL Plate saw them at home against Kent United and, after another a nervy first half, managed to secure the 6-1 win with all six goals coming in the last 45.

Our opponents, Oxford, were knocked out of the FAWNL Cup by a narrow 1-0 defeat to Crawley Wasps. They then faced Norwich in the first round of the plate, where they had an 8-1 victory.

Views from the Head Coach

Lancaster and his side are looking to continue their unbeaten run of nine games but know this one won’t be easy.

“The coaches and I are really impressed with how the girls have been playing recently,” he told watfordfc.com.

“It’s one thing scoring the goals, but the build up play to these goals and how the girls have been holding the ball is outstanding. Every girl has a great attitude and is going out there to win – you can’t knock that.”

The two teams have seen a lot of each other since 2014, meeting 12 times in that period. Watford have won six of those games.

“We know it won’t be easy, Oxford always give us a good game and you can never predict the outcome with a team like that.”

“We need to keep playing the way we have been, and what we have been working on in training. We need to continue to dominate possession with the intention to play forwards if possible.”

In the previous round of the FAWNL Plate we saw eight U23 players make a first team appearance with six of them earning their debut.

“We enjoy these plate games, and we are ready for the competition,” said Lancaster. “These games give us the perfect opportunity to be able to give our younger players the chance to come into the first team and prove themselves.”

Flashback

Oxford United 1-2 Watford (May 2018)

For this issue we look at a game away at today’s opponents, as we go back to May 2018 when both teams were in what was then known as the FA WSL.

It had been a difficult season for the Golden Girls, but there was some light at the end of the tunnel, with a number of promising youngsters now being given their opportunity at first team level.

Prior to this game, the Hornets had failed to win a league fixture all season and only had a few more chances to ensure it wouldn’t be a winless campaign.

It looked like it could another tough day at the office when Oxford United got a slightly fortuitous bounce to take the lead. Ellie Noble curled a lovely effort from the edge of the box which hit the bar, fortunately for her it then hit Fran Kitching in the back and went in.

The response from Watford couldn’t have been more impressive. Helen Ward had a go from a similar distance and with Demi Lambourne anticipating the shot to go in the other corner, she couldn’t recover, and the game was level at 1-1.

It was a big goal not only for the team but also for Ward, who had netted for the first time since returning to the club. She would have a few looks to soon double that tally, but some impressive keeping from Lambourne kept her out.

There was nothing the Oxford keeper could do in the 64th minute, as the Golden Girls went ahead. Ward turned provider this time as she broke down the right-hand side and then played a ball across the six-yard box to Simona Petkova, who made no mistake from close range.

The closest the hosts came to an equaliser was through Chloe Chivers. It looked like her powerful strike was heading in, but Kitching came up with a fantastic stop to keep Watford in front.

She wouldn’t have to do too much more after that, with all in a red shirt putting their bodies on the line in the closing stages. Eventually the final whistle went, and the Hornets had secured their first league win of the 2017/18 season!

Watford: Kitching, Hallsworth, Hinchcliffe, O’Halloran, Kerr, Hill, Nuttall, Petkova (Dench, 75), Fatuga-Dada (Harney, 79), Afuakwah (Gregoriou, 85), Ward.

Goals: Ward (17), Petkova (64)

Visitors

Oxford United competed in what was then known as FA WSL 2 alongside Watford for five seasons. They struggled in their first year, finishing ninth and only picking up 12 points.

Signs of improvement were there towards the end and this carried on into 2015. They achieved what would be their best finish that year, winning seven league games and ending up in sixth place.

The next full season and the Spring Series was a struggle, as Oxford finished second from bottom and then, for the first time, in last place. The 2017/18 campaign was their last at that level and the Yellows did slightly better, finishing eighth.

Having not been granted a licence for the renamed Championship division, the U’s played in the FA Women’s National League Southern Division in 2018/19.

Ultimately a poor start put paid to any ambitions of an immediate return to the second tier, despite an incredibly impressive run of form between October and March. They eventually finished in fourth, one point and place ahead of Watford.

They’ve kept the majority of that side together for this season, although there have been a few key departures. Ellie Noble, Lucy Thomas and Flo Fyfe all made the move to a higher level, with the former joining Lewes and the other two linking up with London City Lionesses.

There’s also been movement the other way, with the signing of Daisy McLachlan particularly standing out. She spent time with Portsmouth and London Bees last campaign, scoring 10 goals in 14 games on the South Coast, including one against Watford.

They’ve won four of their eight FAWNL fixtures so far sitting sixth in the table.

Last time out

Watford 7-0 Keynsham Town

Team: Wilson, Vyse, Beckett, Huggins, Hill, Rolandsen, Ward (C), Fatuga-Dada, O’Leary, Chandler, Scanlon, Richards (75), Carid (56), Kettle (78)

Goals | Fatuga-Dada, Vyse, Carid x2, Ward, O’Leary, Rolandsen

Launton 0-32 Oxford United

Team: Watson, Kirby, Roberts, Mobbs, Hayes, Beaver, Moore, Baker, Bent, Timms, Johns, Sercombe, Williams, Searle, Clifford, Bough-French

Goals | Baker x4, Beaver x2, Johns x4, Moore x7, Roberts, Timms x6, Bough-French, Clifford x2, Searle x3, Williams

Information

Watford FC Ladies v Oxford United Women
FA WNL Plate Second ROund
Sunday 24th November
3pm
Kings Langley FC
WD4 8BS

Ticket Prices

Adults £6
Concessions £3
U18s £1
50 per cent off all admission prices for Watford FC Season Ticket Holders