MATCH REPORT: Stevenage 0-2 Watford FC
The Golden Boys continued their unbeaten start to this year’s pre-season thanks to a 2-0 win over League Two outfit Stevenage in an entertaining encounter at the Lamex Stadium.
The goals came courtesy of an outstanding strike from midfielder Étienne Capoue, who fired into the top corner five minutes into the second-half, before substitute Jerome Sinclair headed home from close-range in the final minute.
Walter Mazzarri’s men really should have won by more, however, with Odion Ighalo twice having efforts cleared off the line while captain Troy Deeney was also denied a goal by a fine save from former Watford stopper Chris Day.
The Hornets began the match in Head Coach Mazzarri’s preferred 3-5-2 formation, with Allan Nyom and Miguel Britos starting on the right and left respectively of the central defender Tommie Hoban.
Nordin Amrabat kept his place at right wing-back with Steven Berghuis, Mario Suárez and Capoue fitting in alongside the returning José Holebas, who started on the right-flank.
This left captain Deeney to start just behind the more advanced Ighalo, who led the line for the Golden Boys.
It was the visitors who started the clash on the front foot, with an early sustained period of pressure leading to Ighalo coming within inches of opening the scoring. The Nigerian did well to lift Berghuis’ excellent through ball over home keeper Jamie Jones, only for a retreating home defender to recover in time and clear off the line.
In a competitive encounter, the next opening arrived after 16 minutes and again fell to the Hornets. Amrabat advanced down the right-flank before crossing low to Deeney in the Stevenage area. The Watford captain did well to lay the ball off to the onrushing Capoue, but the Frenchman could only blaze over from 18 yards.
The best opening arrived 10 minutes later, however, with Ighalo probably still wondering how his goalbound effort didn’t open the scoring. Capoue showed superb vision to slide last season’s top-scorer in on Stevenage’s goal, allowing Ighalo to round Jones and shooting goalwards, only for Fraser Franks to make a miraculous recovery and again clear off the line.
On a sunny evening in Hertfordshire, the game sparked into life just before the break when Stevenage full-back Andrew Fox objected to a Berghuis tackle. The final chance of the first-half fell to Matt Godden, but the Boro forward could only fire narrowly over from a tight angle.
The deadlock was broken shortly after, with the game’s first goal coming from an unlikely source after 50 minutes. Capoue picked up the ball on the Stevenage right before cutting inside and firing an unstoppable effort into the far top corner of Jones’ goal, registering his first strike for the Hornets in the process.
This led to a period of pressure for the Hornets, with two excellent chances arriving just before the hour-mark. First half-time substitutes Ikechi Anya and Abdoulaye Doucouré linked up well with the latter's goalbound effort well blocked, before the luckless Ighalo saw his close-range effort rebound off the crossbar with the goal at his mercy.
With a number of substitutions made by both sides, chances continued to be created by either team. First Deeney saw a low effort rebound of the post with keeper Day well beaten, while a Stevenage trialist then fired a good effort narrowly wide of the Watford goal from the edge of the area.
Deeney was replaced by Matej Vydra late on, but not before the skipper was denied a goal by an excellent save from the outstretched boot of 40-year-old keeper Day.
A dominant performance from the Hornets was complete in the final minute when Jerome Sinclair headed home Almen Abdi’s fine cross, grabbing his first goal for the club in the process and wrapping up a good evening for Mazzarri and his team.
BORO: Jones (GK); Fox, Franks, Wilkinson, Kennedy, Tonge, Godden, Liburd, Trialist A, Gorman, Henry.
Subs: Day (GK), Lee, Trialist B, Kerr, McKee, Gray, Donnellan, Wells, Akinyemi, Pett, Trialist C
HORNETS: Gomes (GK) (Arlauskis, HT); Nyon, Britos, Hoban; Amrabat (Doucoure, HT), Suarez (Guedioura, HT) (Success, 75), Capoue, Berghuis (Anya, HT), Holebas (Abdi, 61); Deeney (c) (Vydra, 82), Ighalo (Sinclair, 61).
Subs not used: Gilmartin (GK), Rowan, Oulare, Paredes, Stevens, Abdi, Ovenden.