MATCH REPORT: Watford 0-0 Anzhi Makhachkala

THE Hornets were held to a goalless draw by Russian Premier League side Anzhi Makhachkala in Austria this afternoon (Saturday July 23) as they extended their unbeaten run this pre-season to four.

In a tight and cautious encounter, chances were few and far between for both sides with Troy Deeney coming closest for the Golden Boys at the end of the first-half, while Heurelho Gomes was also required to make one superb fingertip save just before the break.

Walter Mazzarri once again used the match to experiment with his side, with just Deeney and Étienne Capoue playing the full 90 minutes, while first-year professionals Charlie Rowan and Brandon Mason were also introduced from the bench. 

The Hornets' Head Coach made six changes to the side that defeated FC Union Berlin 3-1 on Tuesday evening, with Gomes, Craig Cathcart, Christian Kabasele, José Holebas, Ben Watson and Jerome Sinclair all coming into the starting line-up.

This meant Gomes started in goal, protected by a back-three of Kabasele, Cathcart and Britos, with Ikechi Anya and Holebas occupying the right and left wing-back spots respectively. 

Watson, Capoue and Abdoulaye Doucoure began in central midfield, with Sinclair and Deeney providing the attacking threat in a 3-5-2 formation. 

On a lovely afternoon in Austria, it was the Hornets who created the first opening of the afternoon. Watson’s pass set the advanced Anya free down the right-flank, but his drilled cross somehow evaded everyone in the Anzhi penalty-area. 

Both Anya and Holebas were providing excellent width for the Golden Boys from wing-back, with Holebas’ fine cross well defended 10 minutes later with Sinclair lurking dangerously. 

In a tight encounter, it took until the 25th minute for Anzhi’s first clear chance. Svyatoslav Georgievskiy turned superbly on the edge of the area before slipping in forward Philipp Budkovskiy. Fortunately for the Hornets, Watson had recovered superbly to make a crucial interception before the Ukranian could fire towards goal. 

With the game heading towards half-time, the match exploded into life in the final few minutes with a great chance falling to either side. First Anzhi’s lively Georgievskiy broke into the Watford half, and with no support, fired towards goal from all of 35 yards. The ball seemed destined for the back of the net with Gomes advanced, but the Brazilian recovered superbly to tip onto the cross-bar. 

The Golden Boys then had a chance to go into the break one goal to the good, with Anya again involved. The Scottish international found himself once more beyond the Anzhi full-back, this time crossing to Deeney but the Watford skipper couldn’t quite find the target from 12 yards. 

The Hornets began the second-half on the front-foot, with an early penalty appeal turned down by the referee after Sinclair appeared to be tripped inside the area. An excellent move including Watson, Deeney and Sinclair then followed, but the advanced Doucoure was unable to trouble the Anzhi goalkeeper when well-placed on the edge of the area. 

With both teams looking solid in the sweltering heat, chances were few and far between as the game headed towards full-time. 

Substitute Allan Nyom cleared well under pressure when Anzhi did threaten, helping to keep a deserved clean sheet for the Hornets and keep Mazzarri's men unbeaten so far this campaign. 

HORNETS: Gomes (GK) (Pantimilion, HT); Kabasele (Nyom, 60), Cathcart (Prödl, 60) Britos (Rowan, 80); Anya (Zūñiga, 65), Watson (Suarez, 60), Capoue, Doucoure (Mason, 75), Holebas (Amrabat, 60); Sinclair (Vydra, 60), Deeney (c).  

First Team 20/07/2016

Rowan | “I Don’t Want This Experience To Stop”

Pre-season couldn’t have started much better for defender and first-year professional Charlie Rowan. 

The Hornets' former Under-18 captain - who signed his first professional contract during the close season - has been training regularly with the first-team and made his maiden appearance in the Golden Boys’ first pre-season friendly against Woking. 

Included in Walter Mazzarri’s travelling squad for the week-long training camp in Austria, Rowan also featured for nearly 20 minutes of yesterday evening's 3-1 win over Union Berlin, and the centre-back admits he's enjoying every minute.

“So far it’s been great, and I’m happy that the manager has faith in me to put me on,” Rowan told watfordfc.com.

“When I came on yesterday, I had [Craig] Cathcart talking in my ear telling me where to go, and I just need to take on their advice. 

“Even in training they're talking me through certain things such as my body position, when to play and when not to play, so I’m learning off the best."

The 18-year-old has had the likes of Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo to keep tabs on during early sessions so far, which he admits can only stand him in good stead going forward.

“I’m learning every day from the likes of Troy and Odion. You see the different movements they make," said Rowan.

“It can only make me better, playing against the best. I want to get up to their level and I’m trying my best against them. So far I’ve done well and so hopefully it continues."

Rowan has also been impressed by what he's learnt from working with Mazzarri, stating: "He’s a proper Italian coach. He knows what he wants from his players and he’s very tactical, which can only make me better. 

“I don’t want this experience to stop, I’m loving it.”

It's not just Rowan who has made the trip to Austria, fellow first-year pro Brandon Mason is also part of the training camp and Head of Academy Chris McGuane believes the opportunity for both players is very much deserved.

“It’s a great experience for them to be around the first-team, and they deserve it,” McGuane said. 

“They deserve the chance, and it goes to show that the club have got the youth players’ best interests at heart.

"This club wants to see young players progress and develop, and it’s great that Brandon and Charlie have their chance to impress the first-team players and staff.”