SSE Women’s FA Cup preview: Doncaster Rovers Belles v Watford

The third round draw has provided us with some fascinating match-ups for the weekend, but perhaps surprisingly there are only two all-WSL ties: the London derby between Millwall and London Bees and this game – Doncaster Rovers Belles v Watford.

The Belles are fast becoming the WSL’s yo-yo team, having changed division more than any other side since the league’s inception, including their controversial relegation in 2013 to accommodate Manchester City’s entry to WSL1. They’ll be playing in WSL2 for the duration of the Spring Series and 2017/18 season at least, alongside their cup opponents this weekend Watford, after finishing bottom of WSL1 last year.

Watford’s record in the WSL could be considered to be the opposite of Donny’s – where Doncaster have been up and down the divisions multiple times, Watford have stayed resolutely in the bottom half of WSL2. What they both have in common though is the unenviable ‘achievement’ of finishing as the bottom placed team in their division last year.

Another less-than-auspicious commonality between the teams is that they were both eliminated from last year’s FA Cup at the first hurdle – Donny losing to Chelsea and Watford to Millwall.

Doncaster have shown dominant form during the most recent meetings between the teams. They have faced each other four times in WSL2 (twice in 2014 and twice in 2015) and all four games were won by the Belles. Both the games in 2015 finished 5-0, so Watford will need quite the turnaround if they’re going to progress.

This preview has had something of a negative vibe to it, something which I normally try to avoid, so to end on a positive: it’s a new season, and a blank slate, either (or even both) of these teams could turn their fortunes around and have a very successful year. Good luck to them both.

My prediction: Both of these teams found last season a bit of a struggle. They managed a combined total of three WSL wins (2 for Watford, 1 for Doncaster) from 34 games, so both will be desperate to start the year off with a victory. I think that Doncaster’s recent top-flight experience will be the difference between the teams, so I’m going for a home win.

The match

  • Date: Sunday 5th February
  • Kick-off: 2pm
  • Venue: Oxford Street, Rossington, DN11 0TE
  • Admission: £6
  • Public transport
    • Train: Nearest station is Doncaster (approx 5 miles away)
    • Bus: Take service 55 from Doncaster to Grantham Street, Rossington

The stats

Doncaster Rovers Belles (@DonnyBelles)

FA Women’s Super League 2 (level 2)
2016 final standings (WSL1): w1 d0 l15 gd-40 = 9th place out of 9 (relegated)

2016/17 FA Cup
Entering at third round

2015/16 FA Cup
5R – Doncaster Rovers Belles 1-4 Chelsea (level 1)

Watford (@WatfordLadiesFC)

FA Women’s Super League 2 (level 2)
2016 final standings: w2 d1 l15 gd-40 = 10th place out of 10

2016/17 FA Cup
Entering at third round

2015/16 FA Cup
3R – Watford 1-3 (aet) Millwall Lionesses (level 2)

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