There was a snapshot of the future and a reminder of the past last night as a youthful Watford side defeated Berkhamsted 3-1 after extra-time in the Herts Senior Challenge Cup.
In front of former manager Malky Mackay, who blooded so many youngsters during his time at Vicarage Road, the next generation of Watford players recovered from a goal scored by Alex Campana, who was in the club’s 2006/07 Premier League squad, to equalise through Ogo Obi and then win it in extra time with goals from Andrew Eleftheriou and Dennon Lewis.
This group of players form the basis of the Under-18 side who are second in the Professional Development League 2 South. Now they have put the club into the quarter-final of the cup.
“I think the boys showed really good character and it gives people game time that are desperate for some game time,” the club’s lead professional development coach Dave Horseman said. “So in the end, in a meaningful game, which is a tough game, to turn it around and to win is obviously really pleasing, and the boys were good tonight.”
Berkhamsted are fourth in the Premier Division of the Spartan South Midlands League, through to the last 64 of the FA Vase and featured, in attack, Josh Chamberlain, the former Tottenham trainee who scored the recent wonder goal from halfway that went viral.
“I wouldn’t say [playing against more mature opposition is] more beneficial, but I’d say it’s a different challenge,” said Horseman. “I think the U21s is a difficult league with some really good players in. But I think this is more physical, it’s more dealing with first and second balls and still having the bravery to play, which maybe you don’t get too much in the U21s, but the programme the 21s are getting is very varied and full of quality and challenges, and I think that’s beneficial for their development.”
Young professionals Josh Doherty, who captained the side, Mahlondo Martin and Lewis provided the experience while Treon Johnson, who joined at 16 from Charlton, Obi, who had a trial with Manchester United last year, and former Tottenham trainees Dion Pereira and Max Makaka were among the scholars fielded last night. Midfielder Josh Rose, meanwhile, is a Watford lad and is a very handy opening batsman for Langleybury Cricket Club.
“It’s about sharing game time and there’s players coming back from injury, there’s U18s that needed some game time tonight,” said Horseman. “It was a great opportunity just to give people that were lacking a few minutes some minutes just to get them back up to speed. So it was a really useful game.”
Watford’s goalkeeper was a trialist who we believe has been at Gillingham.
Watford: Trialist (GK); Doherty (c), Hall, Eleftheriou; T Johnson, Cook, Roe, Makaka, Martin; Lewis, Obi. Substitutes: Stevens, Ryan, Pereira, Carvalho, Mason.
Berkhamsted: Tasker, Towell, Weeks, Baldry, Rodrigoe, Hawes, Jowle, Carbery, Campana, Eboji, Chamberlain. Substitutes: Canham, Ward, Nash-Barker, Trevillion, Doolan.