By Edward Henderson
Watford’s Under-23s were defeated 2-0 in the Premier League Cup on Thursday afternoon (February 15) by a competent Southampton side.
Two first half goals from Callum Slattery, one coming from the spot, secured all three points for the visitors in what proved to be a frustrating afternoon for the young Hornets.
The opening chance resulted in the first goal of the game, as Slattery curled a free-kick straight into the bottom corner. Arguably it wasn’t what he intended, as an unsighted Nathan Gartside in goal was caught out as the ball flew over several players as it made its way into the bottom corner.
Following the set-back, the Hornets almost grabbed a consolation as Andrew Eletheriou fizzed a fantastic ball across the box, which Dennon Lewis was just unable to get onto the end of.
Max Ryan too came close, this time following a free-kick whipped in by Carl Stewart, but the central defender’s header just bounced wide of the post.
However, with half an hour played the Saints were awarded a penalty. A mis-timed tackle just inside the box saw Siph Mdlalose upended and the referee pointed to the spot.
Goalscorer Slattery stepped up and smashed his effort into the left corner, to double both his and the visitors’ goal tally for the match.
The Hornets were almost quickly back in the game when Ben Jones forced Jack Rose into a finger-tip save, as he guided a looping header towards the top corner.
From the resulting ball into the box, the Hornets again almost had one back, as Joy Mukena was denied by a fine block in front of goal, as he looked destined to reduce the deficit for Hayden Mullins’ side.
Slattery, full of confidence, tried his luck from distance but Gartside was equal to his effort, doing well to hold the strike which was full of power as the half fizzled to an end.
The second period started brightly as Harry Forster made a darting run down the left and curled a great ball across the front of goal but frustratingly none of his teammates were able to get onto the end of it.
Midway through the half the Hornets were denied by a superb Rose save. Dion Pereira played a testing ball into the penalty area which fell invitingly to David Sesay. The midfielder took a touch and looked to place his shot into the bottom corner, but the Saints’ goalkeeper tipped it wide from point-blank range.
Mdlalose came close soon after, but he guided Nathan Tella’s cross wide at the far post as the Saints looked to extend their lead.
As the game neared an end Slattery linked up well with the impressive Jake Hesketh, curling a shot just wide of the far-post, before Pereira was also forced to clear a goal bound header off the line for the Hornets.
The hosts had a final chance through Jones as his header was cleared off the line, but it would have made little difference as the Saints secured all three points.
Hornets | Gartside (GK); Eleftheriou ©, Jones, Ryan, Mukena; Charles, Sesay D, Stewart (Kaikay, 70), Pereira, Forster; Lewis.
Subs not used | Hudson, Howes (GK), Empson, Sesay S.
Saints | Rose (GK), Valery, Wood, Rowthorn, Jones ©, O’Driscoll, Tella, Slattery, Obafemi, Hesketh, Mdlalose (Olamola, 79).
Subs not used | Vokins, Latham (GK), O’Connor, Robise.
Yellow Cards: Hesketh (79)
Goals: Slattery (5, 33)