MATCH REPORT: Woking FC 1-1 Watford FC
WATFORD opened their 2016/17 pre-season friendly schedule with a 1-1 draw at Woking.
Steven Berghuis opened the scoring midway through the first-half with a strike from the left side of the area which deflected into the net.
The National League side struck back quickly through Charlie Carter, who capitalised on a goalmouth scramble to score from close-range.
It was a useful workout for the Hornets in Surrey, with new signings Abdoulaye Doucoure, Jerome Sinclair and Isaac Success all given game-time after the break for the first time in Watford shirts by Head Coach Walter Mazzarri.
The Hornets faced Woking on a sunny evening at the Laithwaite Community Stadium with captain-for-the-night Heurelho Gomes in goal, and a back-three of Allan Nyom, Miguel Britos and Tommie Hoban.
Nordin Amrabat and Ikechi Anya filled the wing-back positions, with Etienne Capoue, Mario Suarez and Berghuis in midfield.
Odion Ighalo was partnered by Matej Vydra up front.
Captain Troy Deeney missed out as a precaution due to a slight knock sustained in training, while Almen Abdi was not involved due to sickness.
After a quiet opening 10 minutes, Watford went close three times in quick succession.
Britos’ header from a Berghuis corner was cleared off the line, and from the subsequent corner the Uruguayan forced a save from keeper Michael Poke with another header. Suarez lined up the loose ball on the follow-up, and Poke excelled once more to tip the 20-yard volley behind.
Hoban then nodded wide of the target from another Berghuis corner, and it was via the same route that Ighalo drew a close-range save from Poke with just under 15 minutes played.
Watford did take the lead in the 20th minute, and it was Berghuis who marked what had been an impressive start to the game for the Dutch international. The 24-year-old received a clever reverse ball from Anya and sent a deflected shot past Poke from an angle.
It only took the hosts four minutes to equalise though, a big goalmouth scramble followed Gomes’ save from a Woking free-kick out wide, and early substitute Charlie Carter turned home from close-range to level the scores.
Suarez tried an ambitious first-time volley when Capoue’s cross was headed clear, but the Spanish midfielder’s 20-yard effort flew wide, then Ighalo blazed over from inside the area having linked up nicely with Capoue.
Mazzarri opted for six changes at the break, with Giedrius Arlauskis, Adlene Guedioura, Ben Watson, Doucoure, Sinclair and Obbi Oulare replacing Gomes, Suarez, Capoue, Berghuis, Ighalo and Vydra.
Sinclair twice went close 10 minutes after the interval. First the ex-Liverpool man turned and forced a close-range save after Britos’ delicate chip into the box, then he headed over from Anya’s left-flank cross.
Jose Holebas was introduced on the left flank just before the hour, with Amrabat making way, and then on 67 minutes new signing Success replaced Hoban and took up a position on the left-wing, with the Hornets switching to a flat back-four.
Max Kretzschmar fired in a good effort from 25 yards with 22 minutes to play, and substitute keeper Arlauskis parried it to safety with both gloves.
Academy graduate Charlie Rowan came on for the final five minutes, replacing Britos in a straight defensive swap.
Arlauskis was called into action one last time in stoppage time, saving Jaydon Thorburn’s shot low down, as honours remained even at the final whistle.
HORNETS: Gomes (GK) (c) (Arlauskis, HT); Nyom, Britos (Rowan, 85), Hoban (Success, 67); Amrabat (Holebas, 59), Capoue (Guedioura, HT), Suarez (Watson, HT), Berghuis (Doucoure, HT), Anya; Ighalo (Sinclair, HT), Vydra (Oulare, HT).
Subs not used: Gilmartin (GK), Stevens, Mason, Ovenden.
Goal: Berghuis (20)
CARDS: Poke (GK), Caprice, Gordon, Jones, Saah, Yakubu, Carvalho, Murtagh, Sam-Yorke, Kretzschmar, Saraiva.
Subs: Wise, Smith-Joseph, Ghesquiere, Sellars, Hall, Carter, Thorburn, Candi, Banya.
Goal: Carter (24)
Referee: Dean Treleaven