The slogan that the FA Women's Super League have been pushing this year is: "a season to remember". For Watford Ladies FC it has been anything but.
It is hard to argue the positives of a season when a team places last with goal difference deep into the minus numbers. However, there have been key developments for Watford Ladies to build upon following their second consecutive season at the bottom of the table.
For one, they recorded two more points than last season in the WSL 2. Another pointer to take from the seven months is that the team certainly is a unit when it comes to spirit. When it all clicks, they have been able to produce glittering moments.
The uphill battle
It did not look like things would end this way for the Golden Girls as their season began well. On a chilly March evening at The Hive, the home of London Bees. It looked as though the Lady Hornets were continue the same pattern from 2015 as they went 2-0 down to the Bees. That was until the clock only hit 80 minutes and Watford's dominance began, after taking over the ball Watford hit their London rivals for two, rescuing their first point.
Unfortunately the resilience of the team wore off, the losses began pouring in, six in a row to be exact. Defeats were heavy as Watford lacked a clinical edge in front of goal and defensive confidence. Throughout the six games that they were left luckless, they only managed to score one single goal, all while conceding 16.
Further into the season, it seemed that Watford could restart their season and lift themselves off the bottom. They impressively overcame Everton Ladies at home, outclassing the (then) promotion chasers. After resuming their losing ways against Champions Yeovil, the next game Watford stunned Oxford United with a similar degree of confidence as seen in their opening WSL 2 game. It all seemed to be a classic defeat in the making, with the game heading into the break - Oxford having a 2-0 advantage. That was until the Golden Girls hit back with three goals in 10 sweet minutes to win the game.
As much as those who support Watford wanted to hold onto the optimism from those two home wins, they were to be the last points that the team would earn. It continued fell apart for the team with their Head Coach resigning from the club. The instability resulting in the club having to endure defeats week in, week out right until the bitter-end.
They ended the season having only scored 14 goals while conceding 54, one away draw and two home wins. It is a shame for a team with such a long history in women's football to have placed last two years running but it is important to remember the slight improvements that the team have made this year.
Consistency is key
The main criticism from fans across social media and what could be heard at Berkhamstead FC is that former Head Coach Rowson, who left-mid-season, never had a solid starting XI. The constant rotation and sporadic new signings and existing players leaving the club left Watford in a bit of a pickle, and perhaps they could have had more performances like against they did against the Toffees .
Moving forward Watford Ladies must lock down three important things to ensure they build on from an important season.
1. Head Coach
After the departure of John Salomon, recipient of the 2011/12 FA WPL Coach of the Season award, the club was left unsettle left the club unsettled. They handed over the torch to Rowson, who was unable to continue the ethos of Watford Ladies and resigned in August, sending their season into further chaos.
They are currently hiring a new coach and given the amount of time between now and the Winter season, they have plenty of time to find the perfect front-person to grow a positive culture in Watford Ladies - on and off the pitch.
2. Solid back four
One of the most erratic elements of the squad has been the defence, while they have the depth and ability to field a strong defensive line - they failed to. Luckily there is time for the team to be strengthened and an established defence that will start most games is a must as the team leaked 54 goals in 18 games.
3. Strike force
In Charlotte Kerr and Anne-Laure Davy, Watford have a promising start in being confident in front of the goal. Once engaged in the correct position Kerr shone notably when they were subject to a 5-0 hammering at Vicarage Road against London Bees. The substitution of Kerr in a forward role made an instant impact.
Despite the pairing being exciting future prospects, both only scored three goals and the Lady Hornets need a short-term solution. Ultimately, a striker that can separate themselves on the scoresheet by managing upwards of six or seven goals
Midfield never seemed to be an issue throughout the 2016 season, with players like Phoebe Read, Amber Tullet and Jordan Littleboy who have all earned themselves a place in England U-19.
Watford have been able to control play well, often making use of the pace they have down the width of the pitch but it was a lack of striking ability that left them with only 14 goals scored in all competitions.
Despite a poor defensive record, there are positives to take moving forward. Whenever centre-back Mollie Burgess was added to the team sheet, the Lady Hornets’ nervey performances became much more secure, allowing them to focus on moving forward.
The addition of Ruby Baxter later on in the season also strengthened the look of the backline with an assertive presence, ensuring that she stays in
Above all, skipper Anneka Nutall handled the losses with the dignity and experience of a true leader. The team spirit did not die, though obviously two wins and one draw out of 17 games is likely to damage confidence. Watford fought until the last day.