A young Under-18s side dug in and took their chances to pick up a 2-1 away win at Coventry City and keep them second in the Under-18 Professional Development League on Saturday.
Five Under-16s started and nine were on the pitch during the second half, as multiple regular starters were rested ahead of an important FA Youth Cup tie at Fleetwood Town on Tuesday night.
The young Hornets stepped up though, with Tom Horsewood scoring a goal in each half to earn an away win.
The opening goal came in the 10th minute when Watford attacked down the left flank, with a cross finding Horsewood in the six-yard box and the forward making no mistake.
Simon Clark’s side led at the break but had to substitute more regular Under-18s ahead of the midweek match, meaning the second-half team was even less experienced.
Shortly after the hour mark the hosts were level, when a penalty was awarded against Ryan Andrews for handball despite the ball hitting him from very close range.
However, the young Watford side battled back and went down the other end to score in the 85th minute.
A great ball from Ben Smith found Freddie Moriarty, who flicked the ball to Enoch Muwonge for the forward to play in Horsewood for his second.
Clark’s team shut the game out to earn a ninth league victory of the season.
“It’s a fantastic victory for the football club and the Academy, because our Under-16s have come in and worked really hard,” said Clark.
“You can generally cater for one or two Under-16s in the team, but when you’re playing half a game with nine, you generally get a lot of turnovers and you’re less cohesive. Their work rate was fantastic.”
The Lead Coach said his side had a tough task competing with the older opposition, but praised their application and said the experience would only help their development.
“Obviously they’re physically a bit short against the opposition so it’s really tough in the duels, because some of those boys are playing against people who are three years older than them, and that’s huge at that age,” said Clark.
“But we played some good periods of decent football and it’s really good for them to understand the demand that we put on them and the levels of performance that we want.”
HORNETS: Marriot (GK); Andrews, Evans, Sankoh, Trialist, Janjeva, Smith, Thompson, Horsewood, Muwonge, Manning.
Subs: Hill, Hudd, Hunter, Forde.
Images: Franziska Empl