Jack Grieves, George Abbott and Adrian Blake etched their names onto the scoresheet in a 3-1 win over Everton to earn their side a place in the fifth round of the FA Youth Cup, under the floodlights at Vicarage Road.

The Young Hornets got proceedings underway with a stunning strike from Grieves, volleying Aaron Benn’s cross into the top right-hand corner with the goalkeeper rooted to the spot.

Although Everton remained a threat in the attack for the remainder of the first-half, Watford battled well and went into the break in the lead. After the interval, Everton eventually levelled the match up through Martin Sherif, but the Hornets fired back virtually immediately with captain Abbott heading home from close range.

Blake would add gloss to the scoreline with his deflected effort rolling in from range to take the advantage to two, a lead that was professionally seen out by the Young Hornets to earn a place in the next round.

Under-18 Lead Coach Charlie Daniels made three changes from the team that beat Lincoln City convincingly 3-0 in the last round as Harry Amass, Benn and Andres Aguilar came in for Christos Batzelis, a trialist and Michael Adu-Poku - the latter had recently played 90 minutes versus Reading in the Emirates FA Cup third round.

In a tight opening period, Everton’s Sherif would be the first to get the chances underway, firing just wide of the post without forcing goalkeeper Gabriel Ortelli into anything meaningful.

Watford remained composed and produced a spectacular piece of play to break the deadlock with just over 10 minutes played. Benn’s pinpoint cross from the byline found Grieves in the right amount of space to unleash a venomous volley into the roof of the net.

As the home side looked to remain on top, Tobi Adeyemo smartly won a free-kick on the edge of the box, creating a good opportunity for one of Watford’s set-piece specialists to take advantage.

The ball was placed down and surrounded by Blake and Aguilar, with the latter spinning the ball over the wall and forcing Everton goalkeeper Sebastian Jensen to parry it wide of the goalmouth.

The Toffees stepped up their intensity as the match crossed into the half-hour mark. Sherif and Francis Okoronkwo hit efforts agonisingly close to the post following counter-attacks that the Young Hornets were unable to deal with.

It meant that centre-half Josh Mullins had to remain alert when full-back Roman Dixon made a run from deep, forcing the Watford-born centre-half to block his shot inside the box.

The Hornets came close to creating some danger of their own as they looked to press on following their opener. The chance stemmed from Aguilar, who fired his deflected effort just over the crossbar.

The resulting corner-kick from Blake was headed wide by Josh Mullins, but crucially the Hornets showed their intent for more as they went into the break a goal up.

After the interval, the match returned to a competitive state and the Watford backline had to remain alert as Owen Barker broke past the last line of defence. It was left to Mullins to make a crucial last-ditch tackle to deny the winger a potential equaliser.

The match would burst into life after 20 minutes of the status quo. The Toffees would be first to strike, eventually making their own breakthrough as Sherif powered an effort past Ortelli having collected Okoronkwo’s headed pass on the half-turn.

Daniels’ side showed impressive character to pick themselves up and respond instantly as Abbott headed Aguilar’s free-kick past the Toffees’ shot-stopper, retaking the lead from the Premier League academy.

Watford's confidence grew after taking the lead as they swiftly made it three just five minutes later, Blake’s deflected shot rolling past a misguided Jensen from the edge of the box.

The Young Hornets continued to apply pressure despite their lead as Blake’s finessed effort was tipped onto the crossbar by the Everton goalkeeper after neat work from Adu-Poku to fashion the opening for his teammate.

Although the away side ramped up the intensity in the final stages in search of a consolation goal, the Golden Boys stood firm and secured a memorable victory to progress to the fifth round of the prestigious youth competition.



Starting XI: Ortelli (GK), Balogun, Amass (Batzelis 87’), Davis, Abbott (C), Mullins, Benn, Grieves (Taylor 64’), Adeyemo, Aguilar (Adu-Poku 71’), Blake

Subs not used: Browne (GK), King, Sikiru, Goulandris

Goals: Grieves (11’), Abbott (66’), Blake (71’)


Starting XI: Jensen (GK), Dixon, Butler, Wilson, Samuels-Smith, Patterson, Barker (Beaumont-Clark 70’), Apter (Heath 86’), Sherif, Djankpata (C) (Bates HT), Okoronkwo

Subs not used: Pickford (GK), Wright, Jones, Smikle-James

Goal: Sherif (60’)

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