Tag Archives: Matty Whichelow

The U21s Start their Season at Clarence Park

Jakubiak and Ovenden waiting for a corner

Jakubiak and Ovenden waiting for a corner

The main Watford news on Saturday morning was the signing of Colombian international, Zuniga.  While I don’t tend to get too excited about new signings until I see them play, the signing of an experienced wing back could only be a good thing.  But, with the first team flying out to their pre-season training camp in Austria, Saturday’s focus was on the U21s first game at St Albans.

I met Toddy in our usual pre-match pub for a lovely lunch in the beer garden before heading for the ground.

On arrival at Clarence Park, we bumped into Jon Marks and had a good catch up.  With many of last year’s U21s having been released, I wondered what the team would look like and was not surprised to see two trialists and a number who were in the U18s last season.  The starting line-up was Trialist GK, Eleftheriou, Stevens, Belkalem, Trialist, Murray, Ovenden, Stewart, Pereira, Jakubiak and Adeyemo.  The U21s had a very disappointing season last year and there was an impression that there was quite a distance between them and the first team.  Given that Mazzarri is a proponent of 3-5-2 and the U21s were lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, the first indications were not positive that there will be more of a collaboration between the development squad and the first team this season.

Lining up to defend

Lining up to defend

The young Hornets started brightly with Jakubiak setting up his strike partner, Adeyemo, who shot over the bar.  But, on a very warm afternoon in Hertfordshire, chances were at a premium.  The best came when Murray unleashed a volley that tested the City keeper, Russell.  Towards the end of the half, Jakubiak broke into the box and forced another save from Russell, but the first-half ended goalless.  The home side had had chances of their own, but none that tested the unknown goalkeeper.

There were a number of substitutions at the start of the second half with Watford bringing on two more trialists and replacing Jakubiak and Adeyemo with Folivi and Obi.  The substitutions for St Albans were a bit of a blast from the past as they introduced former Watford youngsters Matty Whichelow and Billy Gibson.  Whichelow, who was a player that I had a soft spot for, had the best chance of the game with a cracking shot that the Watford goalkeeper had to tip over the bar.  St Albans dominated the first period of the second half as captain, Theophanous, hit a shot wide and Whichelow again drew a save from the keeper.

Belkalem bandaged after the clash of heads

Belkalem bandaged after the clash of heads

The most notable event of the half for the Hornets was a clash of heads between Belkalem and his team mate Ryan.  The youngster had jumped late for the ball, causing the clash but, as he fell to the ground with blood pouring down his face, I thought Belkalem should have made sure he was all right.  It was then that I noticed that the Algerian, who had shrugged off the challenge, was also bleeding.  The St Albans physio saw to his injury and, being made of stern stuff, he was soon bandaged up and returned to the field.  Ryan, sadly, was unable to continue and, because Watford could not make any more substitutions, they were down to 10 men.  But the Saints’ manager, Ian Allinson, made the very sporting decision to withdraw one of his players (his captain) to even things up.  In the last minutes of the game, both of the Watford strikers had chances to win the game as, first, Folivi broke through and hit a shot that was blocked by the keeper.  Then Obi received a lovely pass from Stewart before shooting straight at the keeper’s legs.

So the game finished goalless on a very hot afternoon in St Albans.  It was not a happy start to the U21 season and I was disappointed to hear that their next game would be held at the training ground and so would not be open to fans.  I really hope that the U21s are given more opportunities to play in front of supporters next season and that they are integrated further with the first team as there are some great youngsters there that deserve that opportunity.

A Stern Test at Meadow Park

Warming up at Meadow Park

Warming up at Meadow Park

As we gathered at Meadow Park, the news on everyone’s lips was that Deeney was absent from the squad.  The conclusion was that we had seen the last of him in a Watford shirt, which is a great shame but, if it does come, nobody can deny that the lad deserves his move.  Since our last visit the ground has undergone a transformation, with the covered terrace along one side of the ground replaced with a shiny new stand.  Needless to say, I rejected its charms and took up a position on the open terrace behind the goal.

The Deeney-less starting line-up was Gomes, Doyley, Angella, Tamas, Pudil, Abdi, Battocchio, Tözsér, Anya, Vydra and Dyer.

Pre-match huddle

Pre-match huddle

The first chance fell to Dyer who went on a run down the left and unleashed an angled shot, but Courtnage was equal to it.  We were dominating early possession and Anya tried to chip the keeper but Courtnage reached up to catch the ball.  For the home side, a cross from Montgomery reached Shakes who shot well wide.  Abdi played a lovely ball towards Battocchio, but it was cut out and rolled harmlessly to Courtnage.  At the other end, Montgomery tried a shot that flew wide of the near post.  We should have taken the lead as Vydra ran on to a lovely ball over the top and left the defence standing, but his shot was wide of the target provoking groans from the Watford fans in the crowd.

Defending a corner

Defending a corner

Anya was the next to threaten with a low shot from the left, but Courtnage was down to save.  After half an hour, there was a break in proceedings seemingly to take on water.  It seemed a bit over the top as it was a lovely evening (I didn’t need my cardi), but hardly Rio temperatures.  The next goal attempt came from the home side, but Nunn’s shot ended up on top of the goal.  There were calls for a penalty for the visitors as Dyer went down in the box, but the referee gave the kick the other way.  Just before half-time, Montgomery had a great chance to give the home side the lead but his shot flew just over the bar.  Then Dyer went on a run through the defence, but Courtnage saved at his feet.  The final action of the half was a looping shot from Garrard that was straight into the arms of Gomes.  Watford had the lion’s share of possession in the first half, but goal chances had been at a premium and Boreham Wood had threatened on the break.

Whichelow versus Tamas

Whichelow versus Tamas

At half-time, there were a number of substitutions as Hoban, Ekstrand, McGugan and Ranegie replaced Doyley, Tamas, Battocchio and Anya.  Boreham Wood had the first chance of the second half, but the shot was straight at Gomes.  Watford really should have taken the lead as a cross from Vydra reached Ranegie but he headed into the side netting.  Then Ranegie and Vydra combined to feed McGugan who scuffed his shot straight at Courtnage.  Pudil crossed for Dyer whose first touch was too heavy before he hit a low shot that Courtnage dropped to save.  Vydra and Ranegie exchanged passes before finding Abdi in the middle of the box from where he somehow managed to screw his shot well wide of the target.  We had another great chance as Vydra met a corner with a back header that Courtnage did well to keep out.  From the subsequent corner Angella snuck in, but Reynolds got to it first to clear over the bar.

Vydra congratulated

Vydra congratulated after his goal

Montgomery latched on to a clearance and hit a shot from distance that required a decent save from Gomes.  We finally made the break-through in the 68th minute as Vydra ran across the field and unleashed a bullet that hit one of the Boreham Wood players on the way in and likely caused some bruising.  With 15 minutes remaining, Fabbrini replaced Dyer.  He was involved in the next goal attempt finding McGugan whose shot was tipped onto the crossbar, the ball rebounded to Abdi who couldn’t get into position for a proper header, which was a waste as Vydra was lurking behind him much better placed for a shot.  Then Abdi found McGugan in space, but he wellied his shot over the bar.  The final action in time added on was a shot from the former Watford youngster, Whichelow, which we were relieved to see fly wide of the far post.

It had been a good work out for the boys and, while we should have scored more, pre-season games are all about building up fitness and the Watford players knew they had been in a game.