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

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Lasses Match Preview: Mothers Day treat for Sunderland fans today - Ha’way the Lasses!

Sunderland play relegation-threatened Watford in a crucial FA Women’s Championship match for the visitors this lunchtime. We’ve got all the build up you need right here before you head off to watch the game. Ha’way the Lasses!

Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

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Sunday 27th March 2021

Sunderland AFC Ladies v Watford FC Women

FA Women’s Championship

Eppleton Colliery Welfare - The Hetton Centre, Welfare Rd, Hetton-le-Hole, Houghton le Spring DH5 9NA

Tickets: Tickets are £5 for adults, £2.50 for Over 65’s, £2.50 for Under 16’s and free for Men’s Season Ticket Holders and Under 14’s. You can pay online or at the gate on the day of the match.

Coverage: All the FA Women’s Championship games today are being live-streamed on the FA Player. Updates on Twitter via @SAFCLadies and we’ll be sharing photos, videos, and comments on the game throughout via the @RokerReport account.

Travel: Take the number 55 bus from Sunderland Interchange (Stand K) to Houghton Road-Caroline Street, Hetton.

Highlights: The FA Player will have highlights and a full match replay from Monday afternoon.

Podcast: All things being well, we will have the Lasses Podcast Live as usual on Monday night, 8.30-9.30pm.


Sunderland head into this fixture on the high of an incredible 4-1 victory over Sheffield United last weekend, a game in which they battled hard and proved to be clinical in front of goal. However, Watford also head into this fixture on the back of a surprising 1-0 win over professional side London City Lionesses, for their second win of the season.

On paper, this may well be a game in which Sunderland are classed as the favourites and should look to exploit a relatively weak Watford side. However, you cannot underestimate the impact and confidence a team can get after finally achieving a win they’ve fought so hard to achieve.

Both clubs will head into this game with high spirits and a belief that they can get the win. Sunderland have their remaining games of the season at home now, bar the “Wear Derby” away to Durham. Hopefully, Sunderland will make the most of their home advantage and be spurred on by the local support to edge past Watford.

The Lasses

Despite the poor performance by the Lasses standards a fortnight ago, they weren’t about to let sleeping dogs lie when they took on Sheffield United last weekend. Sunderland headed into the fixture with a chip seemingly on their shoulder, as they looked to prove a point and ensure they played to their usual standards.

It was evident that the lasses had worked hard all week to rectify the mistakes and errors made against Rovers and how to improve their game heading into the fixture against Sheffield.

They played United out off the park in emphatic style after conceding an early goal, a wake-up call they clearly needed. From then, the lasses were ruthless and exploited a slow Sheffield side with fantastic through balls over the top or in between the backline, with Emily Scarr and Maria Farrugia utilising their speed and pace to beat the defender and run onto the ball.

Every player gave their all, with Claudia Moan making some sensational saves and Abbey Joice dominating possession in the midfield. It was incredible to see, and Sunderland came away as the well-deserved winners and bring three points back to the North East.

The Opponents

Watford currently sit 11th in the league, nine points behind Sunderland. They head into this fixture after winning their last game in a surprise victory away to London City Lionesses, coming away the 1-0 victors for their second win of the season. In their last five fixtures, they’ve won one and drawn four.

The Golden Girls have the worst defensive record in the league, conceding 38 goals in 18 games. They also have the worst offensive record in the league, scoring 13. They currently sit with a – 25 goal difference and have the possibility of being relegated should they lose all their remaining fixtures, whilst Coventry United win all of theirs. Their only other win this season game is a 2-1 away win against Lewes back in November.

Watford have also experimented with various formations throughout the season but generally, play with a 4-3-3. Occasionally adopting a 4-2-3-1 or 3-4-1-2 depending on the style of the opposition. Statistically 22% of the time they opt to use a 4-3-3, but they are also not afraid to switch formations during the game.

In terms of playing style, the Golden Girls generally like to keep possession and play a passing game, averaging around 314 passes per game, with a success rate of 68.7%. They also average 82 recoveries per game and 45% possession.

Watford like to try to get the ball out the wings. Occasionally you will see the wing-backs overlap down the wings as they attempt to add pressure and presence going forward, so Sunderland will need to be wary of the wing-backs making deep runs in behind their back line.

Watford are a very physical side. Whilst it doesn’t always bear fruit, they aren’t afraid to utilise their strength to hold the ball up and it can be difficult to take the ball from them. They also aren’t afraid to get stuck into tackles and do commit numerous fouls. The players have had 23 yellow cards this season.

Watford Ladies v Liverpool Women - Barclays FA Women’s Championship
Rianna Dean of Liverpool in action with Helen Ward of Watford during the Barclays FA Women’s Championship between Watford Ladies and Liverpool Women at Vicarage Road on September 4, 2021 in Watford, England.
Photo by Marc Atkins - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

In terms of weaknesses, Watford are quite poor at creating in attack. Their passing isn’t great and are susceptible to giving up possession when holding the ball for too long, leaving themselves exposed for a counter. The average around 130 losses of the ball per game, with most coming in the centre of the pitch.

Some of the highlights I watched showed that Watford can panic when being pressed, opting to go back towards their own goal. Some passes by defenders have gone wayward or have been too weak when attempting to pass it back to the keeper.

The young goalkeeper Ferguson is also quite vulnerable when being pressured, often taking too long to clear the danger which has meant kicking the ball straight to an opposition player or in one case, kicking the ball off the attacker which then ricocheted into the net.

Given Sunderland’s pace and tenacity, they should look to press the Watford midfield and defence, forcing them back and perhaps double up when pressing and tackling a player to force an error.

Watford Women v Sunderland Ladies - Barclays FA Women’s Championship Photo by Richard Heathcote - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

Ideally, if Sunderland, can play like they did last week using their pace and long balls over the top, I feel that Watford will have a difficult game. Their defence is not particularly fast and struggle to get back when being countered.

They are susceptible to playing to high up or getting caught up the pitch, meaning when they are disposed it provides the perfect opportunity to play in a through ball. Perfect for the likes of Neve Herron’s pinpoint passing and Emily Scarr’s pace. The Golden Girl’s centre backs Ryah Vyse and Anne Meiwald don’t quite seem to have the legs to keep up.

Watford have also played 34-year-old veteran Emma Beckett at CB. So hopefully the likes of Scarr or Farrugia can exploit this. Particularly as Watford’s decision making and communication are questionable.

Some clips have shown Watford’s indecision when under pressure, which has meant clearances have been missed, headers have been timed wrong and they’ve given away possession just outside their own box.

Watford are also quite weak on set pieces, failing to mark on corners or follow the runner. The lasses should aim to make the most of their set-pieces, particularly on corners and make a run towards the back post to catch them off guard.

Recent League Form

Sunderland: LLWLW

Watford: LLLLW

Head to head...

(All venues, all competitions, including friendlies)

Played - 3

Sunderland Wins - 3

Draws - 1

Watford Wins - 0

Sunderland Goals - 11

Watford Goals - 4

Last time out...

Watford Women 1-1 Sunderland Ladies

The last time these sides faced off against each other was in November 2021, with both teams sharing a point as the game finished 1-1. Captain Keira Ramshaw opened the scoring in the 17th minute, with the lasses dominating the game, but failing to make the most of their chances. Watford equalised just after half time in the 51st through Leanne Bell.

Ones to Watch... Adekite Fatuga-Dada & Georgie Ferguson

Whilst she may not boast in terms of goals scored or assists, Adekite Fatuga-Dada, is a player who I think Sunderland will need to watch.

A fast and pacy right winger, Fatuga-Dada can be regularly seen making bursting runs down the wing or looking to cut inside. Her speed, dribbling ability and skill means that she can certainly be a thorn in the lasses side, and they should keep an eye out on her on the wings, particularly if Watford begin to counter.

Watford L.F.C. Portrait Session
Adekite Fatuga-Dada of Watford
Photo by Ian Gavan- The FA/The FA via Getty Images

I also feel that a quick mention should be given to 19-year old goalkeeper, Georgie Ferguson, who despite conceding 38 goals, is the reason why Watford have not lost by more. Whilst her confidence and lack of experience are clear, Ferguson has made some utterly fantastic saves to keep her side in it.

An agile goalkeeper who will dive at every shot and has on numerous occasions just got her fingertips to the ball to take the shot round the post. Sunderland will need to strike high and hard to beat her or utilise Watford’s overall weakness on set pieces.

Watford Ladies v Crystal Palace Ladies - Barclays FA Women’s Championship Photo by Marc Atkins - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

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