St Albans City vs Watford
St Albans City’s pre-season preparations continued with a 4-0 loss to Premier League new-boys Watford on Wednesday evening but the Saints caused one or two hairy moments of their own in an encouraging display.
The top flight side were never allowed to run away with the contest and after taking on League Two side Dagenham and Redbridge on Monday evening, two games in three days against higher opposition were always going to be a test for Jimmy Gray and Graham Golds’ men.
A first half brace from Odion Ighalo proved ample reward for the Golden Boys’ first-half endeavours before Troy Deeney thrashed home a third shortly after the hour mark before Connor Smith struck late to complete the scoring.
Unsurprisingly considering the five divisions between the two, it was Watford who made the brighter start on a bobbly pitch.
Yet for all their possession the Golden Boys were struggling to break down a resilient, well-organised and compact St Albans defence.
The first chance went the way of the Hornets, Almen Abdi prodding into the midriff of goalkeeper Ashlee Jones following patient build-up.
Fernando Forestieri – employed on the left-hand side of midfield – was next to try his luck, shooting low into Jones’ grasp.
And the impish Argentine went closer still after 22 minutes when he manufactured enough space to fire narrowly wide of the near post, rippling the side netting in the process.
But Gray and Golds’ side were not total spectators in what was their second outing of week following a 4-0 defeat by Dagenham & Redbridge on Monday, and twice in quick succession the lively Lewis Hilliard shot over.
First he stabbed narrowly over Heurelho Gomes’ goal after good build-up play down the left involving Rod Young before arrowing just over again when he let fly from 25 yards just a few minutes later.
The Saints were left to rue those misses, though, as in the 32nd minute Ighalo opened the scoring, demonstrating the predatory instinct which prompted interest from Chinese said Hebei China Fortune last week.
The breakthrough arrived when Anya bustled down the right and over-hit a cross which only the quick thinking of Pudil rescued, the Czech hooking back into the centre for Ighalo to nod home.
A second goal followed just two minutes later, Ighalo again on target following good build-up play which involved new-boy Capoue, bending low past Jones into the far corner in a crowded penalty area.
There were wholesale changes for both sides at the break, with Watford handing debuts to summer acquisitions Sebastian Prodl and Giedrius Arlauskis.
The first chance of the second period went the way of Deeney, who controlled a long ball into the edge of the penalty area with his thigh before stabbing over with the aid of a deflection.
Watford snatched a third in the 67th minute when Deeney slammed home on the run after substitute Lloyd Dyer had seen his shot cleared off the line by Saints substitute Darren Locke.
St Albans still retained a threat and never more so than when substitute Locke drew a fine point-blank save from Arlauskis following a corner.
Summer signing Billy Medlock went close soon after, testing the Lithuanian cap with a low shot from an acute angle.
Substitute Smith completed the job at the death, thumping home with the aid of a deflection from distance.
Inevitably the constant stream of replacements interrupted the flow of the game but the Hornets were comfortable in seeing out the win.