U23 Report: Watford 2-2 Crewe Alexandra
Watford’s Under-23 side went in search of their first win of the competitive season this afternoon, having suffered two losses and drawn one game so far, and were made to wait a little longer after a level contest against a physical Crewe Alexandra side ended 2-2.
Harry Forster put the Hornets ahead in the 27th minute, as he bundled home on the rebound after Michael Folivi and Ryan Cassidy had shots blocked.
Connor Heath and Lewis Reilly netted for the visitors in each half respectively, against a young Watford side that hit the woodwork three times during the game.
But, Watford pounced right at the death to snatch a point thanks to Cassidy’s looping header.
There was little of note in the game before Forster’s goal, and Folivi looked to have overplayed it after beating his man and cutting inside - he opted for a couple of step-overs and shot. But, that effort was blocked and it fell to Cassidy, whose shot was parried right into the path of Forster to tap in just a few yards out.
But the visitors grew back into the game after that goal, testing Sam Howes’ handling as Reilly latched onto a whipped cross, toe-poking it into the Watford goalkeeper’s gloves.
Reilly was to be the main threat, as he hit the post flush – the sound echoing around The Maurice Rebak Stadium – and Crewe tried to recycle possession through the tricky Travis Johnson after that, but Watford stood firm and defended well.
That resilience was undone though after a series of crosses into the box, when Heath produced a thunderous half-volley in the dying moments of the half. Howes was rooted to the spot as the ball flew into the back of the net from just outside the area.
The visitors would have gone ahead again after the break, if not for the combined goalkeeping and defence just about stopping a goal from a clear-cut opportunity, before Finney sliced an easy chance in front of goal from a low driven cross across the face of goal on the hour mark.
It was then Watford’s turn to threaten, as Cassidy saw a shot blocked, on the counter-attack following a strong run and pass from Forster. Dion Pereira had made an in-to-out run to drag out defenders and create the space, but the Alex put bodies on the line.
Reilly did finally get on the scoresheet, as he lifted the ball over Howes, after latching onto a long ball forward.
The visitors then set about trying to slow the game down and tighten things up – understandably, having come back into the game – but Pereira served them with a warning, as he hit the post with a low curling effort after jinking one way and back.
That post seemed to be the Hornets' worst enemy, as the sound of the ball hitting metalwork rang out again moments later from another Folivi strike.
That kind of luck – or profligacy, depending on your viewpoint – was Watford’s undoing, as they couldn’t find that goal to get them on level terms late in the game.
Finney hit the crossbar from a free-kick in the dying moments in a chance-ridden second period, but there was one more opportunity to come, and this time Watford took it.
Jayden Bennetts went down under pressure outside the area, and that gave the Hornets a chance to load the box with 90 minutes on the clock. The ball was swung into the crowded penalty area, and Cassidy rose highest to head home with a looping header into the far corner.
HORNETS | Howes (GK); Eleftheriou (c), Hudson (Bennetts, 46), Tricker (Suckling, 64), Holsgrove; Forster (Blu-Lo Everton, 84), Mukena, Maclean, Pereira; Folivi, Cassidy.
Subs not used | Hoskins (GK), Sesay.