U23 Report | Watford 1-2 Birmingham
David Sesay rattled in a goal of the season contender but it failed to prevent the much-improved Hornets’ Under-23 side from suffering their first Professional Development League defeat of the season.
Sesay had the crowd in the Sir Elton John Stand up on their feet just past the hour when he fired a long-range piledriver into the back of the net from fully 30 yards. The Birmingham keeper, Jacob Weaver, stood absolutely no chance. It was a goal fit to win any game but, sadly, the visitors responded with two fine strikes of their own in the final nine minutes to snatch victory.
Buoyed by rattling in six goals in the previous two games, Watford started on the front foot and looked menacing going forward with Dion Pereira tucked in behind the free-scoring front two of Alex Jakubiak and Michael Folivi. And it was Pereira who fashioned the first chance for the home side, shooting wide after a threaded pass from Joy Mukena on 12 minutes.
Less than a minute later, Folivi was on target with a snapshot while just before the half-hour Charlie Rowan, up from centre-half, fired over a well-struck effort from long range.
At the end, Nathan Gartside had to be at his sharpest to deny Ronan Hale and then Wes McDonald in quick succession. But it was the Hornets who ended the half in the ascendancy, Jakubiak shooting hard and low across the face of goal and just past the far post.
Gartside had to be at his sharpest at the start of the second half to palm away a threatening centre from Hale that was bound for McFarlane until Watford’s Northern Irish goalkeeper got his big left hand to the ball and turned it away for a corner.
Pereira then showed a glimpse of just why he was involved with the first team in the second half of last season, displaying nimble and quick feet to advance down the left before lashing the ball into the side-netting.
Then, on 68 minutes, came the moment that lit up Vicarage Road. Marauding inside from left-back, Sesay drove at the heart of the Birmingham defence before unleashing a firecracker of a shot that dipped and swerved past Weaver in the Birmingham goal. The full-back celebrated wildly, like a man who has finally put his knee troubles behind him.
Sesay, however, did not corner the market in high-quality strikes. Kyle McFarlane equalised with a 20-yard effort that arrowed into the top corner and then, deep into stoppage time, Jack Storer won it for the visitors with another effort into the roof of the net. It was heartbreak for the young Hornets.
HORNETS: Gartside (GK), Eleftheriou, Rowan, Mukena, Sesay, Ryan, Stewart (Rogers 74), Charles, Pereira (Williams 78) Folivi, Jakubiak (Bradbury 63).
Subs not used: Lacy, Huja.