The Canaries fought hard for their first win against a team announced as Watford Ex-aye, for eleven. As a matter of fact it was more of a Watford XX11 or, if you like, Watford ex-ex-aye aye. Whatever we call them, our Hertfordshire neighbours sent a mixed squad, including a number of trialists and played one selection each half.
Friendly thought it was it was a competitive game throughout with Hitchin defending an interval lead of two goals, conceding in the second and soaking up the pressure to prevent a likely equaliser in the late stages of the game, with Hitchin making six second-half substitutes fairly late on.
Playing tonight in all white, Watford soon found themselves needing to watch the sprightly running of the eager Hitchin lads whose first assault with Max Ryan and Rio Dasilva brought a prompt whistle for an off-side. The visitors coped with the Hitchin eagerness to get forward, and Dasilva, on a run sent in a cross from the left before noticing that no-one had caught up with him.
Understandable interest was expressed when the team sheet revealed that Maurizio Pochettino, son of the former Tottenham Hotspur manager was playing as well as Henry Wise, son of Chelsea’s Dennis Wise. In the Watford squad, no fewer than eight were simply listed as Trialist A to H, so there were some hopefuls there, eager to impress. This underlines the true nature of these encounters, which is to separate the possibles from the possibles.
After a wasted free kick from Watford, where a player had strayed off-side, Hitchin responded with a smart move involving the increasingly effective Dan Akubuine and the enthusiastic Dasilva, which was effectively defended. There was a probing cross from Max Ryan which needed the goalie, Myles Roberts to intervene, Pochettino’s shot at the other end was saved by Charlie Horlock, whose tactical exhortations were as constant as ever.
The game had a good, fast pace, with Watford employing the modern tactic of multi-passing to keep possession. They probed with patience but lacked potency. They won a corner, which Horlock plucked out of the air, as he did another from the anonymous Trialist C. Watford were pressing subtly, but Hitchin managed another shot from Dasilva which was saved and a fine run from Jake Davis, looked good but again lacked support. Alex Marsh saw his shot blocked, and as we went on it was clear that Hitchin were getting the measure of the opposition.
There was some exciting stuff just before the first goal went in, with Ryan’s cross causing mayhem and Dasilva having two bites at the cherry, both blocked before, aided, I think by a bit of a deflection, Ryan Smith netted the opener after twenty-six minutes. It was richly deserved as Hitchin avoided the over elaborate stuff that we have become used to. They took the direct route rather than the pretty one.
Then, two minutes later, Jake Davis was fouled and a penalty was awarded , with Alex Marsh scored in such a manner that had it been the Euros, it would be played repeatedly as a master stoke of cheekiness and confidence. Two – nil to the Canaries, and they were well worth the lead. We saw Alex Brown have a pop from range, which was worth the effort but Hitchin had played a good first half enjoying a bit more freedom than in the last two games.
The second Watford Ex-aye, took to the field and we wondered what difference they would make and the answer was not that much until the very late stages – but they did get a compensatory goal and came very close to an equaliser in the late siege on the Hitchin goal.
One of the Watford players rejoiced in the magnificent name of Sonny Blu Lo’ Everton, and we wondered if he had a counterpart in Sonny Red High’ Liverpool, but he has probably heard that one before. They had four trialists in this selection and at first they were a good deal more ponderous that the first lot. They did not manage anything on target for a good while, but the preparatory play was good. But if they won a corner it was hit too deep, and what was noticeable was Hitchin’s eagerness for the quick counter. They did not lose possession with the same insistence as in the last two games and Jake Davis after a fine run saw his shot go just wide of the far post.
Watford then had a period of more possession, but again without real penetration. This did not apply to Alex Marsh who cut in robustly from the right but his finish only found the side-netting. Dasilva had another run but his cross was cut out by Alfie Marriot. Watford had a real chance when Tiago Cokur broke through but saw his effort go just wide.
Kye Tearle, combining with Henry Snee saw their effort thwarted. There was a really fine shot from Alex Brown that was matched in quality by the save from Alfie Marriot. Dom Hutchinson’s shot went wide and Snee’s shot, under pressure was saved.
Watford rallied and for the first time in the match looked really dangerous, and this brought a goal with nine minutes of normal time to go, and the scorer was Cokur. Lewis Barker’s lob was speculative and almost a parting shot as Hitchin finished the match with a typical all hands to the pump defence. Watford pressed with a variety of moves but they could not penetrate the Hitchin defence, which has seen a lot of action in these pre-season games. They held out and it was pleasing to see the hard work from all result in a win.
The Development Squad are in action at Arlesey on Thursday and (presumably) the first team travel to Spartan League Harpenden Town on Saturday. I expect it will still be an experimental side, with the usual substitutions, but that is what it is all about.
Charlie Horlock, Dan Akubuine, (Sam Kelly), Alex Brown, Ryan Smith, GOAL, 26 MINUTES, (Lewis Clayton), Dan Webb, captain, (Stan Georgiou), Samuel Okoye-Aheneku, Max Ryan, (Lewis Barker), Rio Dasilva, Alex Marsh, PENALTY GOAL, 28 MINUTES, (Kye Tearle, cautioned), Jake Davis, (Henry Snee).
Unused substitute – Charlie Black.
Myle Roberts, Marc Navarro, TRIALIST A, Dan Phillips, TRIALIST B, George Langston, Maurizio Pochettino, Henry Wise, Stipe Perica, TRIALIST C, TRIALIST D.
Alfie Marriot, TRIALIST E, TRIALIST F, Derek Agyakwa, Jack Broome, Sonny Blu Lo’Everton, Kamil Conteh, TRIALIST G, TRIALIST H, Tiago Cokur, GOAL, 81 MINUTES, Dom Hutchinson.
OFFICIALS: Referee Mr C Martland, assisted by Mr J Keane and Mr A Tregoning
REPORT BY PIPEMAN