Discussion before the match centred on memories of dire games at this stage of the competition, the Accrington Stanley tedium taking centre stage. When there is little expectation of great entertainment, I tend to turn up “just in case”. As expected, there were nine changes from Saturday, but the strength of our squad meant that it was still a pretty formidable team. There had been speculation as to whether, following his indiscretion last week, Dyer would be picked. He was. The starting line-up was Bond, Doyley (c), Tamas, Hoban, Anya, McGugan, Andrews, Murray, Dyer, Ighalo and Vydra.
The walk from the West Herts to the ground in the half hour before kick-off was through eerily empty streets. But, inside the ground, the seats around us were well populated with a high proportion of kids and neutrals.
Doncaster gave a warning of what was to come in the second minute as Bennett found Tyson on the right whose shot flew just past the far post. At the other end, Vydra cut inside but his shot was blocked. Doncaster had another decent chance as Coppinger fired just wide.
The visitors should have been ahead when Tyson connected with a free-kick, but he headed the ball down and it flew just wide. Doncaster took the lead in the 12th minute as Tamas needlessly fouled Bennett in the box. Tyson stepped up to take the penalty firing it straight down the middle with Bond diving to his right. Watford fans in the Rookery thought we had equalized almost immediately as a shot from Lewis McGugan cannoned off the crossbar at the Vicarage Road end before bouncing down and out. Sean Murray’s follow-up was blocked. This was better from the home side as Ighalo robbed Coppinger of the ball and went on a run before passing to McGugan whose shot flew wide. Watford drew level after half an hour when Dyer broke forward and buried the ball past Steer. His celebration this week involved running away from the bench with his hand over his mouth. Tyson had an opportunity to regain the lead, but his shot was straight at Bond. Vydra and Dyer exchanged passes but the return ball was too heavy and the chance was gone. Just before half-time, Coppinger tried a shot that was well wide of the far post. It had been a half of few chances.
Five minutes into the second period, Bennett shot over the bar from outside the area. A minute later Doncaster retook the lead as a lovely passing move was finished with Wakefield turning a cut-back from Furman past Bond. Wabara nearly provided Watford with an unlikely equalizer as he mis-hit the ball goalwards and had to recover to clear off the line. Bennett threatened again with a shot from distance that was just wide of the far post. Bennett’s next shot was from a free-kick which Bond parried before gathering. Vydra won a free-kick on the edge of the box, but McGugan hit it straight into the wall and then skyed the follow-up. With 20 minutes remaining, Pudil replaced Doyley, who handed the captain’s armband to Tamas, and McGugan made way for Munari. The ever dangerous Bennett should have put the game beyond Watford’s reach with a shot from distance that was tipped over the bar by Bond. At the other end, Vydra did well to retain the ball, riding a couple of tackles, but his final shot was way off target and into the Rookery. Sannino made his last change at this point replacing Murray with Fabbrini.
On 75 minutes, Doncaster appeared to have scored a third as Keegan’s shot beat Bond, but the linesman flagged for an offside. De Val was booked for persistent fouling after taking Vydra down. Munari failed to connect with Fabbrini’s free-kick, the follow-up was blocked, the ball was played back into the area and Dyer shot over. With 5 minutes remaining, Pudil took a free-kick into the box which flew over the head of the leaping Hoban. In time added on, Tyson was booked for time-wasting after blocking Bond’s attempts to take a free kick. You have to wonder why he bothered as Watford really hadn’t looked like scoring for some time.
The final whistle went to boos from the Rookery. The home side were very poor on the night, although that should not detract from a very decent performance by the visitors. Sannino had picked a strong side, but there was little sign of those players fighting to be first choice, which was unforgivable. The game can be summed up by the fact that I could only find a pocket notebook in which to record the incidents in the game and I failed to cover more than a page and a half. I think I will put a link to this report on my calendar for next August to remind me to find something else to do during the early rounds of the cup.