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London Bees v Brighton and Hove Albion Women - FA Women’s Continental League Cup

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Match Preview: Sunderland take on Watford in a live-streamed match today - Ha’way the Lasses!!!

Sunderland feature on the FA’s stream as part of Women’s Football Weekend, and your can get all the info ahead of our live alternative commentary on Twitter this afternoon right here.

Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Sunday 14th November 2021

Watford FC Women v Sunderland AFC Ladies

FA Women’s Championship

The Orbital Fasteners Stadium, King’s Langley, Hertfordshire, WD4 8JE

Kick-Off: 15:30


Tickets & Match Coverage

Tickets: Adults £12, Over-65s £5 18 and Under , £5 Students £5 available here

Travel info: Watford have provided a guide to King’s Langley for home and away fans.

Live Coverage: Roker Report will be providing alternative commentary live on the @RokerReport Twitter account from 3.20pm, with the game being live-streamed for free on the FA Player at 3.30pm.

Highlights: Highlights and a full match replay are available from Monday on the FA Player.

Podcast: Roker Report’s Lasses Podcast Live will be broadcast live on Twitter Spaces at a slightly later time of 8.30-9.30pm BST on Monday. Just go to @RokerReport to listen in.


The Build-up...

There are some big games this Women’s Football Weekend. We had the North London derby in the WSL yesterday, and at lunchtime today Durham play Liverpool at Maiden Castle while Everton with their new manager take on Man United. on Sky.

But one of the most significant games of the weekend will take place at King’s Langley FC where the two promoted sides in the FA Women’s Championship face off against each other.

Sunderland go into this game looking to prove that they are the strongest team to be raised up from Tier 3 in the summer, as they travel to the outskirts of the capital to meet a Watford side they last encountered in the FA Cup in 2020, when Jess Brown scored a wondergoal in a 2-0 home win for the Lasses.

It’s an important game, a win for Sunderland would see them keeping themselves in the mid-table pack and well away from any relegation worries. A loss, and three points for Watford, would leave Mel Reay’s side only four points above “The Golden Girls” and looking nervously over their shoulders ahead of three tough fixtures in league and Conti Cup.

Dutch forward Iris Achterhof was playing for Durham University last weekend, but we don’t expect her to be in the reckoning for this game, and Maria Farrugia was spotted limping in the stands at Eppleton last weekend.

Reay spoke with the club’s official website on Friday about putting the London City defeat last Sunday behind them after what was a tiring week, and the importance of this fixture during Women's Football Weekend:

It will be a tough game because they’ve picked up form in the last two games and they’ll want to take all three points, so we need to make sure we travel there fresh and ready to give our all Sunday.

There’s obviously lots of publicity [around Women’s Football Weekend] lots of footage going out there and it’s great that every game’s going to be live there on Sunday on the FA Player so it a fantastic opportunity for the fans to follow us from back home, and hopefully we can put on a show and bring back all three points.

I go back to when I played for this football club, and where it is now, there’s an unbelievable difference, especially with the standard that we’re at and where we want to go to as well. Watching games live on Sky Sports is great - when I played a don’t think any game was videoed, so it’s certainly come a long way in a short space of time and long may it continue to get better.

Watford’s boss, Clinton Lancaster, guided the side into prime position to be moved up to the FA Women’s Championship after being the dominant side in the FA Women’s National League South Premier during the two covid-19 curtailed seasons at tier three. Like Sunderland this is a welcome return to the WSL structures following their enforced demotion in 2018.

But things have not really gone to plan so far, starting with the opening day defeat to a very strong Durham team who, to be fair, they managed to peg back admirably in the second half after being overawed in the opening period. Since then they’ve struggled to pick up points, losing six in a row and looking like they were destined to fall back down the pyramid at the first attempt.

But the last two games have seen them pick up a draw at home to Crystal Palace, who we know are no pushovers, and an away win to the battling Lewes FC Women last Sunday. It’s seen them overtake Coventry United at the bottom of the league and finally move out of that single relegation spot. Lancaster, speaking with Watford’s official website this week, was in a positive mood:

It’s all about continuing what we’ve been doing so far. We’re slowly getting there, but we’re not getting too ahead of ourselves We just want to continue with this run that we’re on, but we’ll obviously take each game as it comes. We’re looking forward to getting back to Kings Langley, as we’ve had some good memories over the last few years and we’re always well looked after.

Lancaster was full of praise for the quality of players he has available and the strength of their bench, despite a number of key players being absent:

It’s good to have so many players to turn to, we’ve got an excellent squad. That was the plan at the start of the season, to build a strong squad. We’ve still got players who are out injured that will come back as well, but the girls who have come off the bench have made an impact.

One thing I’ve always said to the players is that if you’re on the bench and you come on, you’re expected to make an impact. They’ve certainly done that over the last couple of games.

However, the Watford Head Coach was under no illusions about the challenges involved in facing a Sunderland side seven points ahead of them after eight games:

They’ll be a good side, defensively they’re well organised. They’re a well-structured team out of possession and they’ll probably look to play really quickly when they’ve got the ball and try and hurt us as quickly as they can. We’ll just have to be patient when we’ve got the ball and find ways to break them down, which I’m confident we’ll be able to do.

What I want to see is us just continuing with the performances we’ve been putting in. If we continue doing that and the work that we’ve been doing in training, then I feel confident we can get something from this game.

Watford Ladies v Crystal Palace Ladies - Barclays FA Women’s Championship
Clinton Lancaster, Manager of Watford speaks with Rosie Kmita of Watford prior to the Barclays FA Women’s Championship match between Watford FC and Crystal Palace FC at Vicarage Road on October 31, 2021 in Watford, England.
Photo by Marc Atkins - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

The Stats...

The head-to-head stats on FootyStats.org come down pretty decisively in favour of Sunderland, which isn’t surprising given the difference in the two teams’ performances so far this season.

Sunderland’s average of 1.75 points per away game compares to a 0.33 home points average for Watford. Both teams are likely to get on the scoresheet, Watford averaging 1.33 goals at home and Sunderland a goal-a-game away. But it’s Watford who have the most to worry about, with 3 goals per game conceded at home meaning Sunderland have a very high chance of finding the net and the visitors conceding only an average of 0.75 goals on the road this season.

The XG stats for Sunderland away from home stands at 0.83 per game, so to capitalise on Watford’s XGA of 1.48 at home they will have to improve their chance creation stats. On the flip side, chances have been pretty few and far between at home Watford with an XG of 0.69 and Sunderland have been relatively frugal away from the North East, with an XGA of 1.14, which is sixth out of twelve sides in the Championship.

So undoubtedly all the stats point firmly toward Sunderland being strong favourites for this contest.


League Form

(Last 5 FA Women’s Championship Fixtures)

Sunderland AFC Ladies - DLLWL

Sunderland’s defeat to London City Lionesses last weekend dented an upturn in their form. The league win at Charlton was followed up by a Conti Cup win at Blackburn, but the traveling and lack of preparation time certainly took their toll. A week between games will certainly have been a welcome break and given Reay and Libbey time to prepare for the challenge ahead.

Watford FC Women - LLLDW

Two games without defeat, a draw with Crystal Palace, and an away win at Lewes, have seen the Golden Girls drag themselves off the bottom of the table for the first time this season. The stats for the season overall might look poor, but there’s definitely something of an awaking in Hertfordshire.


Head to head...

(All venues, all competitions, including friendlies)

Played - 3

Sunderland Wins - 3

Draws - 0

Watford Wins - 0

Sunderland Goals - 10

Watford Goals - 3


Last Time We Played at Watford...

FA WSL2 - 25 May 2014

Watford 2 - 4 Sunderland

Watford Goalscorers: Natkiel, Wiltshire (pen)

Sunderland Goalscorers: Mead (2 pens), Furness, Ramshaw

Read the match report in the Watford Observer

Millwall v Sunderland: WSL 2 Photo by Tom Dulat - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

One to Watch... Helen Ward

Former Sunderland player Jen O’Neill told Roker Report this week that Watford would cryogenically freeze veteran Helen Ward, to preserve her as a player if it meant she could stay with her beloved club. The London-born Welsh international is in her second spell with the club, having been lured away from the side that she joined as a nine-year-old by the glamour of Arsenal and then Chelsea.

After the birth of her first child in 2017, she returned home and has been a mainstay of the side ever since. She went out on a short-term loan to then Championship-side London Bees last year after the National League was stopped due to covid, but couldn't stop them falling out of tier two.

Powerful and skillful, with an eye for goal, she’s now back with Watford once more, and this 35-year-old Welsh legend - 44 goals in 96 games and counting - is still a formidable striker. Sunderland’s defence will need to keep quiet this afternoon if they’re going to take the win.

Wales v Estonia - FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 - UEFA Qualifier - Group I - Cardiff City Stadium Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images

OPINION!

How seriously should Lee Johnson take the Papa Johns Trophy game against Oldham?

TALKING TACTICS!

Talking Tactics: What’s going wrong defensively for Lee Johnson and Sunderland?

FAN LETTERS!

Fan Letters: “It’s no time to panic just yet!” says RR reader Thomas