First Team 27/08/2019

Match Report: Watford 3-0 Coventry City

By Kevin Affleck

Ismaïla Sarr had probably never heard of Coventry until he was told last week there is a cup game squeezed in between Premier League fixtures this week, but whatever career he goes onto have in this country with this club – and the expectation and the signs are that it will be a decent one – he will always remember the Sky Blues as the opponents when he got his feet under the table.

The Senegal international was denied the chance to turn Saturday's game on its head because West Ham scored the killer third just as he was receiving his final instructions from Javi Gracia, but he was afforded the chance to shape this one from the outset and he took his chance. He set the Hornets on their way with a nicely-taken goal after 37 minutes and the confidence seemed to surge through the veins of the 21-year-old after that.

There were a couple of turbo-charged runs down the right in the second half and enough to suggest this lad, with some more training, more minutes and further acclimitisation, could add some real stardust to the attacking end of this team. It was quite the night for the team's flair players as Adalberto Peñaranda rattled in a beauty just five minutes after coming on. It would have been the perfect night had Tom Dele-Bashiru scored, as he will have expected to, within minutes of coming on. As it was, three unanswered goals did very nicely indeed and this represented the result everybody needed after the first three matches of the season.

It took a while for the Hornets to get going. There was a slight apprehension and anxiety after Saturday's events and also a getting-to-know-you spell. This, after all, was a newly-figured side trying to establish some cohesion and a rhythm on the hoof. That said, there was still a fair amount of quality on show, with nine full internationals and one in Domingos Quina who is expected to go on and gain full honours. 

Quina showed exactly why he is likely to carve out a fine career with a lovely twinkling of the feet and swaying of the hips in the middle of the pitch after just six minutes. He ghosted past two players as if they weren't there and the portents, at the stage, look promising.

There was then a nice move involving Roberto Pereyra and Isaac Success that resulted in Sarr smashing one against a defender and you thought, 'Here we go'. But Coventry weren't in the mood to be dictated to and Callum O'Hare, the schemer on loan from Aston Villa, was proving a real bright spark. He flashed one past the post on 11 minutes and it represented a warning shot being fired across the bows. 

The home side just shaded the possession in the first period – 54 per cent to 46 – and with it they fashioned a free-kick that Nathaniel Chalobah flashed wickedly across the face of goal and then Danny Welbeck smashed one over with his left. Chalobah and Welbeck also showed they were not afraid to mix it, with Welbeck dumping a defender on the seat of his pants in front of the dugout and Chalobah crunching into O'Hare. It was exactly the spirit Gracia was after.

You always felt the the Hornets had that bit of extra quality in their ranks and soon after Pereyra forced a flying save from Ben Wilson, Sarr fired one into the bottom corner. There was some nice play from Chalobah in the build-up and a nicely-weighted pass from Success.

The Hornets kept their foot on the gas at the start of the second half. Welbeck had a couple of bites of the cherry early on and then Chalobah sent Sarr haring down the right flank. It was front-foot attacking play at its best.

There was a hairy moment when Adrian Mariappa didn't put enough on a back-pass to Heurelho Gomes, but from then on it was virtually all the home side. Daryl Janmaat cracked one in on 56 minutes to stake a big claim for a starting place at St James' Park on Saturday and then Peñaranda went one better 13 minutes later. It was the icing on the cake on a night when Gracia couldn't have asked for things to go much better. Now to transfer this momentum to the Premier League on Saturday.

HORNETS: Gomes; Foulquier, Kabasele, Mariappa (C), Janmaat; Sarr (Dele-Bashiru 72), Chalobah, Quina, Pereyra (Peñaranda 63), Success; Welbeck. Subs not used: Bachmann, Prödl, Deulofeu, Cleverley, Femenía.

Ladies 27/08/2019

Ladies: Portsmouth 2-0 Watford

Having defeated Portsmouth in the league last weekend, the Golden Girls couldn’t manage to repeat that success in the Determining Round of the FA WNL Cup, as Pompey won 2-0 after extra-time at Baffins Milton Rovers FC.

The game was scoreless at the end of 90 minutes, with both teams having chances in a closely contested encounter. That changed quickly in extra-time though, as goals from Tamsin de Bunsen and Rebecca Bath ensured the hosts progressed in the competition.

Despite the loss, there’s still a chance at silverware for Watford, with the Hornets now entering the FA WNL Plate.

With a strong squad at his disposal, Head Coach Armand Kavaja opted to make seven changes to the side that started at Portsmouth the previous weekend.

There was a debut for summer signing Ryah Vyse, while Emma Beckett and Ocean Rolandsen both started for the first time, after impressing as substitutes last time out. With Helen Ward dropping to the bench, Andrea Carid was handed the captain’s armband.

Jade Widdows had the first opportunity for the hosts as she tested Nina Wilson. Down at the other end, Beckett headed over for Watford.

Neither keeper was exactly busy in the opening half hour. Charmaine True fired an effort that went wide of the left-hand post, while Leanne Bell’s strike from distance was dipping but not quickly enough.

Wilson was soon called upon though and had to make a good save to keep it scoreless, stopping Bath who had been picked out by a fine pass from Widdows.

Watford had the ball in the net when Katie O’Leary finished from Carid’s ball across, but unfortunately for the Hornets, the flag was raised.

Kavaja’s side were beginning to get on top as the half drew to a close. Bell’s first touch was perfect to set up an opportunity and she then managed to get a good shot away, but Hannah Haughton saved well low down to her right.

O’Leary and Alysha Stojko-Down both had half-chances in the final few minutes, but neither could force Haughton into making another stop before the break.

Ward was introduced from the bench early in the second half and it didn’t take her too long to start making an impression on the game. She picked out Carid at the back post who was denied by Haughton, the rebound fell to Rolandsen, but the follow-up was blocked by a Portsmouth defender.

Not long after, Carid was testing the goalkeeper again. Her shot from an awkward angle had plenty behind it, which Haughton managed to deal with well.

The home side were starting to look more dangerous as the second half progressed. Some good work from Katie James saw her find some space inside, but she couldn’t get her strike on target.

What was arguably Portsmouth’s best chance of the 90 minutes fell to de Bunsen, from a good position, she shot just wide of the right-hand post.

With the hosts knocking at the door late on and any goal likely to be crucial, Vyse in particular was defending brilliantly. She made a key tackle in the box and then managed to head away two dangerous set-piece deliveries.

With extra-time underway, it didn’t take long for the stalemate to be broken. After missing earlier on, de Bunsen made amends with a fine strike from distance which beat Wilson.

Shortly after, that advantage was doubled. It appeared that Wilson had made a fine save as she tipped Bath’s effort onto the crossbar, but after some consultation between the officials, it was ruled to have crossed the line.

In the final minutes of the first half of extra-time, Haughton came up big for her side. Ward was picked out in the box and, with only the keeper to beat, she was denied by a great save.

The Watford skipper did manage to get the ball past the Portsmouth keeper early on in the second period of extra-time, but her shot trickled agonisingly wide of the post.

Wilson stopped de Bunsen from getting her second of the game and her side’s third, but with the Golden Girls down to ten late on due to injury, there was to be no dramatic comeback.

GOLDEN GIRLS | Wilson, Kettle, Beckett, Huggins (Fatuga-Dada, 63), Rolandsen, Stojko-Down, Scanlon (Hill, 79), Vyse, Bell, O’Leary (Ward, 55), Carid (C) (Chandler, 98)

POMPEY | Haughton, Tonks, Ingram, Southgate (C), Widdows (de Bunsen, 66), Bradley (Rowe, 66), James, Bath (May, 111), True, Lee-Stewart, Bridge (Currie, 96)

Goals | de Bunsen (93), Bath (97)