Watford exited the Herts Senior Challenge Cup last night, losing 1-0 to Boreham Wood at the quarter-final stage. Aside from the injury to Joel Ekstrand and the continued return of Tommie Hoban, we look at other issues to arise from the game at Meadow Park.
It’s one of our pet hates here at WD Sport that professional footballers, who train five, sometimes six, days a week yet are so painfully one-footed. Imagine a professional tennis player, for example, only being able to play the forehand and not bothering with the backhand? The players of Watford are not alone here but we’re not sure you are really interested in what other players at other clubs are doing. There were two instances last night where Watford engineered an all-important overlap down the left only for the crosser to get his feet mixed up. First, Matthew Hall tried to pick up someone with his left foot from the byline and, at full stretch, made a hash of it and crashed into unsuspecting club photographer Alan Cozzi. Carl Stewart had even more time minutes later but he shanked his cross out for a goal kick. Granted the defender and holding midfielder are not in the side for their creativity but is it too much to ask players to be able to use both feet with a degree of proficiency? Just to compound things, Harry Kewell, the possessor of one of the sweetest left feet in the game, pinged a loose ball down the touchline with pinpoint precision to Cameron Mawer. “Don’t move,” said Kewell. Let’s see if the U21 coach can do it with his right.
Almost four years ago to the day Murray was announcing himself in an FA Cup tie against Tottenham Hotspur. Who would have thought, in 2016, he would be playing at Boreham Wood on a filthy night with his Watford career very much at the crossroads? Not him, you suspect. His application and professionalism has been questioned by some but he was lean, mean and extra keen here. His attitude was exemplary and he seems determined to revive his career. He sprayed the ball about, put his foot in, had several attempts on goal and was haring after the ball at the death to take a quick throw and get Watford back into the game. He’s got precious little chance of making Watford’s first-team squad but he’ll do well for someone on loan for the rest of the season if he carries on in this manner.
Men against boys
We’ve been effusive in our praise of Alex Jakubiak this season. He’s carried the U21s with his 15 goals and the highest praise we can give him is that he’s been Deeney-esque in his workrate. Yet with an outside sniff of making the bench at the City Ground on Saturday, the teenage striker disappointed here and fluffed Watford’s best chance of the match, heading wide a pinpoint cross from Andrew Eleftheriou hit on the run. It was the sort of chance he has gobbled up this season. His finishing isn’t in question but his ability to make the step up to senior football is. Any League Two and League One scouts watching last night will have left with reservations about the youth product’s ability to do so as he was outmuscled and outmanoeuvred by Boreham Wood’s two no-nonsense centre-halves, particularly classic Conference centre-back David Stephens.
Connor Smith may have left Watford for AFC Wimbledon but he’s not forgotten. The midfielder was at Meadow Park last night, in the stands with George Byers and Jorell Johnson, in what was something of a Watford reunion. Fitz Hall was present in a reminder of the days under Gianfranco Zola; former Watford academy prospect Cameron Mawer played right-back for Boreham Wood while Matty Whichelow, who scored three goals for the Hornets, captained the home side. Junior Lewis, who was assistant head coach with David Hockaday at Leeds United, was in the Boreham Wood dugout as their assistant coach. He played for Watford Sunday League side St Joseph’s a few years back.
Boreham Wood’s long-serving manager Ian Allinson resigned in October because the switch from evening training to daytime training was tough to fit in his increasing work commitments. Whether the home team’s white shirts were not particularly flattering, Watford’s players were superfit or Boreham Wood have abandoned training is unclear but the National League outfit looked horribly out of shape last night. Yes, people in glass houses should not throw stones but their team featured players of all sorts of shapes and sizes and their inferior fitness levels manifested itself in a series of late tackles. Luke Garrard ploughed through Dennon Lewis twice in quick succession, a flailing arm from Delano Sam-Yorke caught Sean Murray flush in the face while Sam-Yorke also picked a fight with Alfie Young and Murray as the half-time whistle blew. It was a real welcome to senior football for most of this relatively young Watford side.