‘We’ll close the gap’ vows Watford’s Donnelly

by Jamie Holt

IT HAS been a season to forget for Watford but midfielder Stacie Donnelly insists she will leave no stone unturned in order to avoid a repeat in 2016.

Heading into today’s final game of the WSL 2 season against fellow strugglers London Bees, the Hornets are guaranteed to finish bottom of the table no matter what the result.

One win in 17 games tells one story, yet being the league’s lowest scorers and most generous defence tells an equally harrowing tale of 2015.

The one saving grace has been the fact there is no relegation from the second tier as the WSL continues its expansion to 20 teams by 2017.

However, Donnelly is still desperate to ensure Watford learn from their miserable campaign – even if the 22-year-old cannot work out what went wrong.

“We never would have wanted things to go as they have, but we will learn from it,” she said. “We will go over and over what went wrong this season, but, to be honest, at the moment I can’t put my finger on it.

“It has been one of those seasons. We’ve performed well for the most part but just not turned up when it really matters.

“We lost a few players at the start of the season like Megan Wynne and Chloe Gunn, our captain and vice-captain, and that’s difficult when you’re lacking experience anyway. But the good thing is the girls who have stepped up now have that experience and will be ready for next season.

“It’s not a season we will want to remember, but we will do so we don’t go through this again hopefully.

“Fortunately we can’t get relegated, but I don’t think that played a part in our mindset because no one wants to finish bottom of the table. However, at least there will be no trouble for us in terms of going down, that is a plus at least.”

In the end, results caught up with Hornets boss John Salomon, who announced on Monday he will step down after today’s game against the Bees.

The 30-year-old has been in charge since 2011, and has also spent the past two years as general manager.

Yet despite an 11-game losing streak in the league, Donnelly insists Salomon doesn’t deserve any blame.

“John is a good manager, he’s been great over my year-and-a-half at the club and we have a good group of staff at the club as well,” added the former Republic of Ireland U19 international.

“It’s been a good couple of seasons, we are keen to keep developing as a team and I am sure we will.

“Surprisingly the mood in the camp is good considering how tough the season has been.

“We’ve already turned our attentions to improving next season. We need to work hard, stay fit over the break and work on our weaknesses.”

Donnelly began playing football at the age of five. She honed her talents playing for AFC Heathrow boys before a move to QPR U12s set her on course for a career in the game.

A six-year spell at Reading followed before she left for Watford in 2014 and Donnelly admits she’ll have her eye on both ends of the table this weekend. “I still know a few of the players at Reading so I’m delighted to see them go up, they and Doncaster Rovers Belles fully deserve it,” continued Donnelly.

“It’s going to be an exciting weekend to see who wins the title. I hope Reading win it but Doncaster have been excellent as well – they both deserve it in my eyes!

“We’re only hoping for three points against the Bees, nothing else will be good enough for us.”

*This article was originally published in the FLP’s Women’s Football Weekly pull-out on 18 October.

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