Ladies 07/10/2019

Ladies: Watford 5-2 Oxford United

The Golden Girls certainly sent a message on Sunday (October 6), not just with the result, but the nature of the performance in a 5-2 home win against Oxford United Women.

Goals from Katie O’Leary, Adekite Fatuga-Dada and Leanne Bell had Watford 3-0 up and when the U’s did get on the board, a moment of magic from Emma Beckett restored the three-goal advantage immediately from kick-off.

Having got the first for Oxford, Emily Allen then pulled one back again for the visitors to make it 4-2. Any doubts over the result were put to bed when Fatuga-Dada got her second of the afternoon with just over five minutes to go.

It was a first home victory of the season for the Hornets and a result that saw Watford move up to third in the table. For Oxford, this was the first time they had conceded five in a game since February 2018.

There were four changes to the side that had drawn 2-2 with Yeovil Town Women a fortnight previously.

With Helen Ward on International duty with Wales, O’Leary’s recent scoring form from the bench was rewarded. Emily Hill returned to the starting line-up in defence and she took the captain’s armband. The other two changes saw Alysha Stojko-Down and Bell handed starts by Head Coach Clinton Lancaster.

With both teams expected to be challenging towards the top of the division, it was understandably a close encounter early on. Watford created their first chance when a good run inside from Ryah Vyse resulted in Aimee Watson being forced to make her first save of the game.

The clearest opportunity early on fell to the visitors, and they were left rueing not taking it. Cheryl Williams won possession in the penalty area and then played it across to Georgia Timms, but she sent a glorious opening wide.

It was arguably a key moment. Watford improved after that and deservedly took the lead just after the half hour mark. Fatuga-Dada found O’Leary and she curled an effort into the bottom right corner to break the deadlock.

Fatuga-Dada then had a chance of her own not long after the goal, but she couldn’t direct her header on target.

Some defending is as good as a goal and that certainly proved to be the case down the other end. Oxford appeared to have a clear opening, but Megan Chandler and Beckett put their bodies on the line to block Williams’ shot.

It was another part of the game that would have a big impact on things, with the Golden Girls soon adding a second in first-half stoppage time. The roles were reversed this time as O’Leary headed it on to Fatuga-Dada, and she made no mistake from inside the box.

It didn’t take long in the second half for the two goal lead to become three. Fatuga-Dada was through on goal but, rather than going for it herself, she unselfishly squared it across to Bell who calmly did the rest.

To their credit, Oxford responded well and managed to reduce the deficit shortly after. An incisive pass from Williams picked out Allen and she beat Nina Wilson one-on-one.

Game well and truly on? Beckett had other ideas. She spotted Watson off her line and decided to have a go from kick-off, sensationally beating the keeper and putting Watford three goals ahead for the second time.

Like with the previous goal, Oxford picked themselves up and went again. Allen was causing plenty of problems and she made it a brace by picking out the bottom corner from 20-yards out.

Allen would have a couple of chances to get her hat-trick and bring the match to within one, but she shot just wide on both occasions.

Eventually Watford could breath easily as Fatuga-Dada added a fifth late on. Beckett’s powerful free-kick was agonisingly close to going in off the crossbar, but Adekite was there for the follow up, as she headed in for her second of the game.

This was a big win for the Hornets against quality opposition, as the unbeaten run was extended to four. There’s a chance to keep building on that this Wednesday, as MK Dons Women visit Kings Langley.

GOLDEN GIRLS | Wilson, Meiwald, Beckett, Hill (C), Rolandsen, Chandler, Stojko-Down, Vyse (Richards, 80), Fatuga-Dada, O’Leary (Scanlon, 80), Bell (Carid, 62)

Goals | O’Leary (34), Fatuga-Dada (45+3, 85), Bell (52), Beckett (59)

U’s (Starting line-up) | Watson, Clifford, Beaver, Sims, Searle, Hines, Haynes (C), Williams, Johns, Timms, Allen

Goals | Allen (58, 63)

Attendance | 117


First Team 07/10/2019

Payne: “They Looked Like A Unit”

The Hornets looked organised and defensively solid against Sheffield United and created a strong foundation to build on this season, according to former Hornets midfielder Derek Payne.

“If you look at the whole game, they’ve kept the clean sheet and they’ve defended well as well,” Payne told BBC Three Counties. “It isn’t a clean sheet they got lucky with, they defended well as a unit, so that’s really pleasing.”

Quique Sánchez Flores switched to a back three against the Blades, with Sebastian Prödl returning to the heart of defence alongside Craig Cathcart and Christian Kabasele, and Payne thinks keeping things tight at the back has to be the priority.

“It’s small steps when you’re in this sort of situation,” he said. “Getting tight, getting compact, getting hard to score against is very important. The stats about the amount of goals that have been going in Watford’s goal don't look good, so straight away you have to get that area sorted out and be compact.

“They went with three at the back, which became a back five at times and it worked. Prödl came in and did really well, he was a calm head in there and you need these calm heads in these situations.

“They’ll now look to work on that structure, keep that defensive structure how it was. [Daryl] Janmaat did well covering, [José] Holebas did well covering.”

Once the groundwork is laid, Payne knows Sánchez Flores will work on making sure goals go in at the right end of the pitch.

“[The defence] worked, so they’ll build on that and they’ll look to add on the attacking areas so they can be a bit better going forward. But this process is not a quick process.

“It’s about getting the defence right, because they were conceding too many goals, and then once you’ve got a few results you can then maybe become a bit more expansive.

“But for the time being we’re going to see a lot of this in the next three, four, five weeks. Watford are going to be tight, compact and hard to break down.”

Although it has been a slow start to the season, Payne remains confident that the Hornets have the firepower available to start climbing the table soon.

“The squad is good enough to get out of this situation and I think this was a positive day because you’ve managed to stay compact and keep the clean sheet,” he said.

“Lately they’re having to score three or four goals to win the game. Now, knowing if they can keep it tight and get results, that’s going to give them confidence.”