Under-23 Report | Watford 1-2 QPR
Marco Silva watched several of his fringe players in action this afternoon as the club’s Under-23 side went down 2-1 at the hands of QPR at the training ground in London Colney.
Silva stayed for the entire 90 minutes as Mauro Zarate, Stefano Okaka, Will Hughes, Jerome Sinclair, Miguel Britos and Daniel Bachmann all brushed off the cobwebs and got some competitive minutes under their belt.
Dion Pereira’s late goal, his sixth in as many games, sadly fell in the consolation category but this game represented more than three points at stake in the South division of the Professional Development League.
Britos used the match as the chance to get his first match minutes since he was sent off against Brighton. He looked largely comfortable playing in third gear, although there was one moment of rustiness when he played an ill-judged square ball across the pitch. He was withdrawn after an hour with, you suspect, Saturday very much in mind.
Zarate was Watford’s most creative player and he buzzed around with purpose all afternoon, twice hitting the outside of the same post in the first-half. This was, most importantly, his first 90 minutes since the serious knee injury he sustained against West Ham United.
Playing in the middle of midfield, Hughes was neat and tidy throughout, looking to link up with Zarate at every opportunity and unpick the QPR defence. He will feel better for this 90 minutes and will be pleased with the assist he laid on for Pereira’s late goal.
Playing on the right of a midfield four, Sinclair was a willing runner down the flank and looked to get beyond his man at every opportunity without ever producing the penetrating delivery or attempts at goal he will have wanted.
Okaka, meanwhile, struggled for service as the lone front-man but almost got free late in the second-half when Hughes picked him out over the top, but he couldn't quite accelerate away and the move fizzled out.
And, finally, Bachmann couldn’t be faulted for QPR’s two goals and cut something of a commanding figure in the Hornets’ goal. He looks a more than useful number three.
Encouragingly, Andrè Carrillo, Roberto Pereyra, Isaac Success, Sebastian Prödl and Younès Kaboul were all in the stand to watch their teammates in action and they were almost out of their seats inside a minute when Okaka and Zarate combined for the latter to hit the outside of the post. It was the sort of start that whetted the appetite and suggested there was more of the same to come.
It didn’t quite pan out that way as QPR, short on first-team experience but high on energy, proved more than a match for the hosts. In the absence of Brandon Mason, who was Watford’s outstanding performer against Barnsley last time out, QPR enjoyed particular success down the right, and it was from a raid down that flank that they won a penalty.
David Sesay was adamant he won the ball, and so was the referee who pointed to the corner, but the linesman adjudged Sesay to have fouled Paul Smyth, allowing Aramide Oteh to beat Bachmann from the spot.
Only a last-ditch header from Joy Mukena, the former Tottenham youngster, prevented Ilias Chair from making it two soon after.
Zarate then hit the post again, this time on 20 minutes from a free-kick taken just outside the box. The keeper was beaten all ends up and the Argentine couldn’t believe it when he saw the ball strike the upright.
The ex-Hammer would probably have been the nominated penalty taker had Sesay been awarded a spot-kick, as he felt he should have been, after a driving run into the heart of the QPR box midway through the second-half ended with him being sent tumbling. Referee Lee Brennan waved away the pleas, leaving Sesay and Okaka incandescent.
It proved to be the turning point as minutes later, Giles Phillips made it two for the visitors after an initial acrobatic attempt by Oteh.
Down but not out, the Hornets kept plugging away and they got the rewards their wholehearted efforts deserved when Zarate and Hughes, those two nimble-footed playmakers, combined to tee up Pereira to ram in with his right foot.
The expected grandstand finish didn’t materialise and, in fact, it was QPR who came closest to scoring again, Bachmann making a smart save to ensure it ended only 2-1.
HORNETS | Bachmann (GK); Eleftheriou (C) Mukena, Britos (Rowan, 62), Sesay; Sinclair (Folivi, 62), Charles (Stewart, 74), Hughes, Pereira; Zarate; Okaka.
Subs not used | Gartside (GK), Williams.