Tag Archives: Wes Burns

Young Hornets Defeat the Baby Robins

Watford starting line-up

Watford starting line-up

Monday evening saw Watford visiting Bristol City for the second preliminary round of the Under-21 Premier League Cup.  Since it was a fairly easy journey down the M4 after work, I decided to make the trip.  The beauty of attending games like this is that you can park right outside the ground and take your pick of the seats, mine being a rather nice padded effort on the half-way line in the “premium” section.  I was paying for my seat but there was some confusion among those in front of me who had complimentary tickets, but were still asked to pay a pound to get in.  The explanation was that this was because it was an FA Cup game.  How odd.

Despite being an U21 competition, the rules state that you are allowed to field up to three overage players and an overage goalkeeper, which meant starts for Gilmartin, Cathcart and Smith.  The only academy scholar to start was Alfie Young.  The City team was a mix of U-18s and U-21s.  Watford’s starting line-up was Gilmartin, Doherty, Hoban, Cathcart, Young, Murray, Smith, Byers, Ikpeazu, Mensah and Jakubiak, which looked very strong on paper.

Mensah and Murray prepare for a free-kick

Mensah and Murray prepare for a free-kick

Watford started well.  Mensah had a shot saved in the early minutes.  He then won a corner which was taken by Murray and met by a flying header from Jakubiak which went wide of the target.  For the home side, a short corner was played to Hall on the edge of the box but he also powered his shot wide.  Morrell beat the Watford defence but shot over the bar.  Ikpeazu dribbled along the top of the box to get into shooting position but his shot was weak and easy for the City keeper.  Doherty intercepted the ball and played it out to Smith who played a chip into the box, but Ikpeazu couldn’t reach it.  The home side had a good chance to take the lead with a free-kick on the edge of the box, but Morrell’s set piece was headed wide by a Watford defender.  At the other end, Cathcart tried to release Mensah, but the through ball was just too heavy.  Jakubiak was the next to threaten, but his shot flew across the goal.

Uche Ikpeazu

Uche Ikpeazu

The home side took the lead on 18 minutes as the Hornets failed to clear a low cross which travelled the width of the box to reach Wynter who knocked it past Gilmartin much to the disappointment of the half dozen Watford fans in attendance.  A cross by Horgan was put out for a corner by Cathcart.  Young lofted a ball into the box but it was gathered by Richards with Ikpeazu closing in.  Morrell tried a curling shot but it was straight at Gilmartin.  Ikpeazu managed to break through the City defence, but mis-controlled allowing Richards to gather.  A free kick from Mensah was hit straight into the keeper’s arms.  Watford had a very good spell of possession but chances were at a premium as every forward run was met by a resolute defender.  On 39 minutes, Watford equalized with a lovely shot from Mensah that he curled just under the crossbar.  The goal was particularly appreciated by Bernard’s girlfriend and her pal who were sitting in front of me.  City could have hit back almost immediately as a dangerous ball was played through to Horgan, Gilmartin came to meet him leaving the goal exposed but, fortunately, the shot drifted wide.  In the dying minutes of the half, Murray played a pass out to Mensah who curled a cross into the box, but it was just too far in front of Ikpeazu for him to shoot.  At the other end the ball fell to Hall in space in the box, but his volley was ambitious and well off target.  The last action of the half was a Watford free-kick in a dangerous position, but Murray’s delivery was disappointing, flying well over the bar.

Byers, Smith and Gilmartin defending a corner

Byers, Smith and Gilmartin defending a corner

Mensah had started the second half limping after being clattered a few times in the first period, so he was soon replaced by Dennon Lewis.  City threatened as Hall crossed and Burns and Horgan leapt to head the ball but it eluded them both.  Doherty played Ikpeazu in, he did really well to beat the defender, but his shot was easy for the keeper.  At the other end, Hall had a shot deflected wide by Cathcart.  From the corner, Vyner headed over the bar.  For the visitors, Connor Smith played a clever back heel to Jakubiak, but the youngster’s shot was saved.  On 70 minutes Cathcart was replaced by Charlie Rowan.  Jakubiak really should have put the visitors in front as he beat the keeper, but the ball bobbled so he found himself with his back to the open goal and tried a back heel that agonizingly rolled wide of the far post.  At the other end, a powerful shot from Morrell flew wide of the near post.  Ikpeazu, who was playing his first game since a long injury lay-off had grown into the game and did well to skip into the box evading a couple of challenges but his shot was blocked by a defender.

A defensive wall

A defensive wall

Ikpeazu then played a through ball to Jakubiak, but the City keeper narrowed the angle so he shot just wide of the target.  In a rare second half attack for the home side, Horgan played the ball through to Hall but Gilmartin was out to block and the flag was up anyway.  Horgan threatened again with a shot that was just wide.  Ikpeazu was crowded out as he went for goal when he probably should have passed to Lewis who was in space.  An injury to Last forced City to make a substitution with Mafuta the replacement.  Watford continued to press for the winner but a Murray free-kick eluded Ikpeazu.  Then Lewis played a cross that was missed by everyone in the box.  City also had a late chance with a corner that was headed over the bar.  The final action of normal time was another Murray free-kick that Ikpeazu failed to connect with.

The goal celebration following the penalty was a blur

The goal celebration following the penalty was a blur

The home side dominated the opening exchanges of extra time as Horgan found Fry who was closed down before he could shoot.  Gilmartin pulled off an excellent save to a shot from distance by Mafuta.  For the Hornets, Ikpeazu broke into the box, beat a defender but overplayed the ball and it rolled through to the keeper.  Substitute Ronan got on the end of a corner but hit his shot wide.  Watford’s final substitution saw Folivi replacing Jakubiak.  Burns was blocked by Doherty on the edge of the box earning the Watford man a yellow card.  Then Gilmartin had to drop to save a low shot from Horgan.  City had a great chance to take the lead early in the second period of extra time as a shot from Morrell cannoned back off the crossbar, the follow-up from Horgan was saved.  But it was Watford who went in front soon after as Ikpeazu was bundled over in the box.  He stepped up to take the penalty himself sending the City keeper the wrong way to break the deadlock.

Connor Smith

Connor Smith

The home side could have broken back almost immediately as Mafuta hit a belter of a shot that Gilmartin did well to keep out.  City made a late substitution replacing Fry with Mattis.  Batten was booked for a foul on Folivi as the Watford man attempted to break.  Watford set up a defensive rearguard for the final minutes, but City were hopeful of taking the game to penalties as Burns went down in the box but the referee was no more convinced than I was of the merits of the penalty shout and the visitors emerged as winners.

We’d made heavy weather of it having the lion’s share of possession without making it count.  Hoban had an impressive game in the centre of defence notable for his encouragement of the younger players.  Mensah’s goal was a peach and Ikpeazu grew from a slow start to really take hold of the game once Mensah went off and he deserved his goal for his perseverance.  All in all, a good evening’s entertainment.

Yet Another Trip to Bristol in the Cup

The teams come on to the pitch

The teams come on to the pitch

For the second time in four days I set off in the rain to drive westwards wondering if there was to be a game at the end of it.  The postponement on New Year’s Day was very frustrating.  Particularly because the flooded roads on the way in to Yeovil had made the decision inevitable and there was a sneaking feeling that, without the promise of Sky money, the game would have been called off earlier and saved us a wasted journey.  On Saturday, I had arranged to visit friends after the game, so a postponement wouldn’t have been as much of a disappointment.  I had been tasked with choosing the pre-match pub and stumbled on one a short walk from where I was staying, which turned out to be a little gem.  Real ale, excellent pies served with delicious minty mushy peas and very friendly bar staff.  In fact, the pub was so delightful that we nearly forgot to leave for the game.  In retrospect that would have been a good decision.

Prior to the match, we had speculated on who would fill in at left wing back in the absence of Anya, Pudil and Bellerin.  The answer was Battocchio, an interesting and slightly worrying choice.  I was disappointed to hear that Doyley had been relegated to the bench, so the starting line-up was Almunia, Ekstrand, Angella, Nosworthy, Battocchio, McGugan, Iriney, Murray, Cassetti, Fabbrini and Deeney.

Almunia keeping warm

Almunia keeping warm

The game was played with a pink ball, which was one of the brighter aspects of the afternoon.  We started well enough and, in the second minute, McGugan broke into the box but shot wide.  City were on the attack on 7 minutes with a dangerous ball into the box, Almunia was nudged out of the way as he came to collect it, the ball went out of play and the free kick was delayed as the Bristol City fans in the Wedlock stand refused to give the ball back.  On 8 minutes, Fabbrini lost the ball in the middle of the pitch, Baldock went on a run and shot from distance but Almunia dropped to gather.  The Watford keeper was in action again soon after, plucking a cross from Bryan out of the air.  On the quarter hour, Fabbrini went on a great run down the wing and broke into the box where he went down under a challenge.  Given that Diego’s tumble was greeted with groans from the travelling ‘Orns, it was no surprise when the referee waved play on.  Battocchio tried a shot from the edge of the area, but Parish was equal to it.  City were soon on the counter-attack, but Reid’s shot was also from distance and was wide of the target.  At the break in play, the ref had words with Fabbrini.  On 20 minutes, Emmanuel-Thomas shot wide of the far post.  Then McGugan got the ball in the area ran across the box to get into a better shooting position but skewed his shot disappointingly over the bar.  Bristol threatened again as a cross was headed on to Bryan whose shot required a decent save from Almunia who pushed it around the post.  The corner fell to Elliott who shot over the bar.  Down the other end

Bryan clearing the ball

Bryan clearing the ball

McGugan hit a lovely shot towards the top corner and Parish had to leap to tip it over.  On 34 minutes McGugan hit a free kick from a long way out which flew wide of the near post.  Then a run and cross from Bryan had both Emmanuel-Thomas and Wagstaff coming to meet it, they got in each other’s way and the header was wide.  With five minutes to half time, Battocchio required a bit of  juggling to control the ball and give it to Fabbrini who advanced into the box and squared to McGugan whose shot was blocked.  From the resultant corner, the ball fell to Battocchio whose cross was met by a header from Angella that hit the top of the crossbar.  In time added on, a free-kick from Reid was headed wide by Osborne.

 

McGugan on the attack

McGugan on the attack

At half-time, our wing-back situation became even stranger as Cassetti was replaced by Smith who is neither a winger nor a back.  I thought moving Murray out may have been a better bet, with Smith playing in the middle, until I had a flashback to the game at Ashton Gate last season when Sean took Cassetti’s place and had a complete nightmare.  Bristol City made the running at the start of the second half as Emmanuel-Thomas played a through ball to Baldock whose shot was easily saved by Almunia.   Soon after, Almunia was in action again as Elliott got on the end of a corner but his header was straight at the Watford keeper.   Then a move started with a ball to Deeney that should have allowed him to break free, but instead we saw a sequence involving several awful misplaced passes by Watford players which finished with Emmanuel-Thomas shooting wide.  The only other notable events in the first 25 minutes of the half were a McGugan free-kick that he put over the bar and a tannoy announcement requesting that Watford’s Italian coach driver make himself known to the stewards.  I am still trying to work out if that was a coded message. 

Fabbrini on the attack

Fabbrini on the attack

Just after 70 minutes, Watford finally made their first attack of the half as Fabbrini played a through ball to McGugan who fell over in the box.  Then Fabbrini broke again and fed Deeney whose shot was saved by Parish.  Next a free-kick for the home team was headed back from the far post by Elliott to Osborne who headed it over the bar.  Fabbrini was on the attack again but this time his cross was headed wide by Burns. Then McGugan broke into the box but his shot was deflected for a corner.  On 83 minutes, we appeared to have won the game as Smith squared the ball to Murray.  I saw the Watford youngster shoot, but my view of the goal was blocked by the crowd in front of me standing up so I was a little late to join in the celebrations as the ball went in to the bottom

Goal celebrations in the Wedlock Stand

Goal celebrations in the Wedlock Stand

corner.  I had just remarked that we didn’t really deserve the lead when we no longer had it, as Emmanuel-Thomas scored at the other end, Burns having beaten Battocchio to set him up.  We tried to regain the lead as Fabbrini broke and played a ball for Deeney, but the defender was quicker to it and the chance was gone.  In the last minute of normal time, a shot from distance came in that was pushed over by Almunia, who was also required to come and punch clear from the corner.  The home side had one final chance to win the game as Osborne met a free-kick with a header, but Almunia was equal to it.  On the final whistle, my first thought was annoyance that I would have to endure that a second time.  It was not an enjoyable game.  I hope that some of the absentees are fit for Saturday or it could be a very difficult afternoon indeed.