Pre-Season: Brentford 1-2 Watford
Watford remain unbeaten in pre-season thus far after a Henrik Dalsgaard own-goal and Andre Gray’s third strike in four friendlies pegged Brentford back from their early lead.
Dean Smith’s Championship outfit raced into a fourth-minute lead thanks to Ollie Watkins, who was quickest to react to Ben Foster’s save from a 25-yard free-kick.
Not the ideal start at Griffin Park, but credit to the Hornets, who grew into the game and were worth their lead at the break – even if they had Dalsgaard’s bizarre miskick from six yards to thank for pulling them level midway through the first-half.
Gray, against his former side, then struck home to settle affairs nine minutes before the interval and Watford were able to hold onto their lead despite some pressure from the Bees in the second-half.
On a sunny, but thankfully cooler afternoon in west London, the hosts were quickest out of the blocks and they only required four minutes to break the deadlock, Watkins converting a loose ball from six yards after Foster had parried Emiliano Marcondes’ swerving free-kick.
The Hornets came close to an equaliser with 17 minutes played, thanks in part to some persistent play down the right-hand side from Daryl Janmaat. The Dutchman rode a couple of challenges before playing across to Roberto Pereyra, whose clever flick looped onto the cross-bar and went out for a goal-kick.
Gray then saw a first-time effort fly marginally over the bar, with Bees’ keeper Daniel Bentley beaten, after Under-23 midfielder Ashley Charles’ initial shot had been blocked.
The leveller did come on 25 minutes, and it was down to some clever Pereyra play and a slice of fortune. The Argentine took a neat touch inside his marker before pulling the trigger and forcing a fine save from Bentley. Dalsgaard had the simple task of clearing, but instead the Bees’ captain sliced into his own net, much to the bemusement of his Brentford teammates.
Gray then handed the Hornets a 36th-minute lead with a good finish from the edge of the area after being alert to a poor clearance from goalkeeper Bentley.
In stark contrast to the first-half, there was a slow start to the second, with Foster’s save from a curling Said Benrahma effort just before the hour the closest either team came.
As the clock struck 60 there were wholesale Watford changes, seven in fact, as Javi Gracia opted to once again give minutes to as many players as possible.
Isaac Success – one of only three from the starting XI to remain – embarked on a mazy and unpredictable run before poking wide from just inside the area, then at the other end Lewis MacLoed fired across goal and wide from an angle as the pace picked up a gear or two.
Pereyra had the ball in the net with 72 minutes played, nodding in from close-range after some trademark strength from substitute Troy Deeney had won the ball back out wide, but the former Juventus man was ruled offside.
The assistant referee’s flag denied Watford once more as we entered the final 10 minutes, and this time it was Deeney who was penalised having broken clear and lobbed over substitute keeper Luke Daniels and into the net.
Brentford pushed for a late equaliser, but Foster’s goal was rarely troubled in the closing stages and the Golden Boys were left to reflect on a third pre-season win, with just Sampdoria to go at next Saturday’s Graham Taylor Matchday.
HORNETS | Foster (GK); Janmaat (Navarro, 60), Kabasele (Prödl, 60), Britos (Mariappa, 60), Holebas (Masina, HT); Pereyra, Charles (Rodwell, 60), Capoue (C) (Wilmot, 60), Sema (Jakubiak, 60); Success, Gray (Deeney, 60).
Subs not used | Dahlberg (GK).