First Team 2 weeks ago

Match Report: Watford 3-3 Tranmere Rovers

By Kevin Affleck

There is never a dull moment watching this team at the minute.

Not content with playing two games with ten men and four of the nail-biting variety in ten days over Christmas, the Hornets threw away a three-goal half-time lead, finished yet again with a man down and will now have to do it all again in a replay. Talk about the drama of the cup. 

While Nigel Pearson will privately be furious at the nature of how the team did not close this one out, throwing away a three-goal lead they forged inside 37 minutes, it will, he'll contend, be a reminder to everyone that there is plenty of work to be done and no-one should be getting carried away just yet. It was a reality check and his dressing-room debrief will have been fascinating. 

It also provides the chance for this group of peripheral players to put it right in the replay and experience what is likely to be a lively night at Prenton Park. It's all character building and no damage has yet been done. Despite the fact it felt like a defeat, last season's runners-up are, let's not forget, still in the hat for the next round.

For so long it looked like it would represent just about the perfect afternoon for the home side. It looked like being a day of firsts.

There were first starts for Daniel Bachmann, Bayli Spencer-Adams, Tom Dele-Bashiru; first appearances for João Pedro and Callum Whelan and first goals for Dele-Bashiru and, as a permanent player, for Nathaniel Chalobah. It was just a shame this wasn't the first routine win in weeks, as it's been edge-of-the-seat stuff recently, but where would the fun have been in that?

On the plus side, the players who had run themselves into the ground with four games in ten days got to put their feet up; fringe players Andre Gray, Roberto Pereyra and Craig Dawson got some minutes under their belt to ensure they will be sharp when needed, as they will be, while there was also a nod to the club's Academy, which is important in these parts. 

It all started so well. You got the impression the Hornets were going to be at it pretty early on. Domingos Quina dispossessed David Perkins with the sort of tigerish midfield play that so often sets the tone for the rest. Chalobah pinged one from left to right in a move straight out of Étienne Capoue's playbook and then Adam Masina thundered down the left. The portents were encouraging. 

Dele-Bashiru confirmed the Hornets were on the right track by crashing in the first, albeit with a slight deflection off Connor Jennings, and then Chalobah steered one in with his left foot. It was his first goal for the club since the cracker at Leicester in April 2013.

Right then, it looked a question of how many the Hornets would get. They added one towards the end of the first half when Pereyra popped up on the end of some approach play from Isaac Success and Andre Gray to curl one into the far post with his left foot. It looked like this one was done dusted at that point.

Pearson felt it was time to unleash Pedro at the break and he nearly made a fairytale start by almost rifling one in at the near post after a driving run from Success. That really would have put the icing on the cake and that would definitely have been game over.

The team were playing with such freedom that Dawson, up from centre-half, even cracked one over the angle of post and bar from distance. There was another change when Whelan came on with just under an hour to go and the former Manchester United youngster wasn't given an easy ride in the last half hour as Tranmere rallied, scoring through Jennings with 25 to play. Bachmann then had to pull off a smart save soon after, suggesting there was more to come.

And there was. Tranmere were not done there. Not by a long shot. Roared on by their magnificent support of 2,692, they put the game in the balance with a goal from the mountainous Manny Monthé with 12 minutes to go and then really put the cat amongst the pigeons with an equaliser from the spot with three minutes to go. There was a real fear they could have nicked it at the end, especially when Pereyra was shown a straight red.

It had shades of the dramatic nature of the game here against Tranmere in 1999. Having not played the Merseysiders since 1999, we'll now square off against the Super White Army twice in the space of ten days. 


HORNETS: Bachmann; Mariappa (C), Dawson, Spencer-Adams (Barrett 77), Masina; Chalobah (Pedro 45), Quina (Whelan 61), Dele-Bashiru; Pereyra, Gray, Success.

Subs not used: Parkes (GK), Sarr, Dalby and Hungbo.

Ladies 2 weeks ago

Ladies: Plymouth Argyle FA Cup Preview

The Golden Girls return from the Christmas break looking to continue 2020 where they left off at the end of last year.

Clinton Lancaster’s side are currently unbeaten in their last 12 in all competitions, with the winning streak currently at nine. A 5-4 victory away at Plymouth last time out was probably the most dramatic of those results, as Watford ensured top spot at the half-way point of the season.

The two teams will meet again to begin the new year, as the Pilgrims travel to the Hornets this Sunday in the Women’s FA Cup.

Watford will be looking to have another successful run in the competition, having pushed eventual winners Manchester City close last campaign.


Views from the Head Coach

It’s been a fine few months for Watford, but with a new year now upon us, eyes are firmly on the prize at hand.

“For us, 2019 had its highs and lows, but we couldn’t have asked for any better at the end of the year,” Clinton Lancaster told watfordfc.com.

“We are building something at the club and the players are buying into it, I now hope we can continue this throughout the rest of the season and hope it leads to promotion.

“Nine wins in a row and 12 games without defeat is a fantastic run, it is league winning form. I was in a similar situation at Palace and we went on and won the league without defeat.

“This certainly has a similar feel and I know the players believe they can achieve it, and they won’t stop working until the end of the season and they lift that league title.

“There’s still a long way to go, but we are in good shape and want it to continue.”

Plymouth are likely to be one of the Golden Girls’ rivals in that quest for the league title and, despite defeat, they showed the qualities that they possess against Watford in the previous encounter.

It’s a meeting in the Women’s FA Cup this time around, but there’s still plenty at stake this weekend for both clubs.

“The last game was incredible, but I’m certainly hoping for a more straightforward victory this time!” exclaimed Lancaster. “It definitely won’t be easy though as we play a very good team in Plymouth.

“Winning on Sunday is all we care about as it’s the next game. It doesn’t matter who it is or what competition, we just want to keep winning games.

“We desperately want to be in the hat for the fourth round, so we’ll be putting out a strong team in order to get us there.

“Last season’s FA Cup run was brilliant, but we want to go further this season, starting with Plymouth and then we will see what happens after that. At the moment, full focus is on Plymouth and we look no further than that right now.”


Last time out

Watford travelled the 219 miles to Home Park in their final match of 2019, knowing it was likely to be their toughest fixture to date.

The game started at a good pace, but it took until the 21st minute for the first goal. Helen Bleazard was the scorer for Argyle, and Bow Jackson added a second just three minutes later.

Ocean Rolandsen pulled a goal back right after kick-off and Watford were back in the game. Helen Ward then made it 2-2 in the 29th minute, ending a 10-minute spell that saw an incredible four goals.

Argyle went ahead once again when Zoe Cunningham struck from just inside the area before Emma Beckett rose highest to make it 3-3 before half-time.

Clinton Lancaster’s side came out of the blocks quicker in the second half and were rewarded as Beckett scored her second from a free-kick out on the left touchline. It was the first time the visitors had led but it only lasted 11 minutes as Rebecca Dandridge found space on the edge of the box to fire past Nina Wilson.

The drama hadn’t finished and Ryah Vyse was sent to the sin bin on 70 minutes. She would remain there for 10 minutes and Watford had to battle on a player down.

Incredibly, it was the Golden Girls who scored in that time and it was a fantastic goal worthy of winning any game. Adekite Fatuga-Dada had the ball out on the right wing and swung a brilliant cross over to the far post where Andrea Carid flew through the air to score a diving header that sailed into the top corner to make it 5-4.

Plymouth turned up the pressure, but Watford were able to hold on for a precious three points.

GOLDEN GIRLS | Wilson, Hill, Beckett, Huggins (Richards, 65), Rolandsen, Kikomeko (O'Leary, 73), Chandler (Stojko-Down, 56), Vyse, Fatuga-Dada, Ward, Carid

GOALS | Rolandsen (26), Ward (29), Beckett (43, 51), Carid (76)

PLYMOUTH | Middleton (C), Jackson, Huntley, Taylor, Burridge (Everson, 88), Dover, (Jones, 56), Lane, Cunningham (Pollock, 77), Bleazard, Knapman, Dandridge.

GOALS | Bleazard (21), Jackson (24), Cunningham (39), Dandridge (62)


Visitors

Plymouth were relegated from the third tier of women’s football back in 2015-16 but since then they’ve been heading in an upward trajectory.

The Pilgrims only dropped six points in their first season since relegation, but still narrowly missed out on promotion from the South West division at the first attempt.

Not deterred, they managed to better that the following campaign. This time they went unbeaten and clinched a well-deserved title and return to the third tier.

It was an up and down season last year, but they managed to win half of their league games as they secured a top half finish. Arguably their biggest strength was their scoring prowess, as they managed to find the back of the net in 19 consecutive games.

While that run would come to an end with a 2-0 defeat at Crawley Wasps on the opening day of this season, disappointment hasn’t been an emotion they’ve had to experience very often in 2019/20.

That result was followed by defeat to local rivals Exeter City in the FA WNL Cup Determining Round, but after that they went on a brilliant run.

Plymouth won 11 consecutive games in all competitions, scoring 55 goals in the process. During that span they went more than two months without a home game but managed to win six on the bounce on the road.

All good things come to an end and the streak was eventually ended by Watford, in a scintillating nine-goal game at Home Park back in December. That defeat was then followed by another loss as Oxford United were victorious 2-1 the next week.

Despite the recent setbacks, there’s plenty to be positive about, with Plymouth currently third in the table and still competing in a number of competitions.

They’ll be hoping to get regular goalkeeper Benjamin Kyle back this month and have a vast array of attacking talent to call upon, most notably Natasha Knapman who has netted 21 times in 14 games this season.


Information

Watford FC Ladies v Plymouth Argyle
FA WNL Plate Third Round
Sunday January 5
2:01pm
Kings Langley FC
WD4 8BS

Ticket Prices

Adults: £6
Concessions: £3
Under 18s: £1
Watford FC Season Ticket Holders: 50% off