Under-23: Watford 5-0 Hull City
By Kevin Affleck
Academy Manager Richard Thomas was thrilled with how cohesive the new-look Under-23 side appeared in their opening Professional Development League game against Hull City this afternoon, putting five unanswered goals past the visitors at Vicarage Road.
A trialist put them on their way with a cracker, Kane Crichlow scored twice, Marvin Zeegelaar scored one and grabbed an assist and Joseph Hungbo got the other in what was a very fluid and dynamic performance from a side that featured six debutants in the starting XI and another two off the bench.
“It was a good solid start for a new group put together over the last six to eight weeks,” said Thomas, new to the club himself having joined from Notts County in May.
“I was pleased for the boys and today was a good reflection of the time spent in pre-season. You've got to have an element of ruthlessness whatever level you play at and we had that today. They look like they've got a real understanding of the stuff Hayden [Mullins] and [Assistant Coach] Omer [Riza] have been trying to instil in pre-season and the attitude and character is the biggest positive to take.”
The club have recruited smartly to strengthen their Under-23 team with a raft of summer signings. Sam Dalby has come in from Leeds; nimble midfielder Callum Whelan was at Manchester United; Hungbo, the lively winger, has come in after nearly a decade at Crystal Palace; Jamal Balogun has made such an impression since joining from Reading that he captained the side from right-back; Crichlow trained so well in pre-season after signing from AFC Wimbledon that Javi Gracia took him to Austria while new signings Mason Barrett (ex-West Ham), Cameron Green (ex-Reading) and Henry Wise (ex-Derby) were also on the bench. Former Arsenal defender Bayli Spencer-Adams is also to be integrated.
“We've based our recruitment on attitude and character and then ability,” said Thomas. “We feel we've got a real good group of lads together with a good attitude, a good work ethic and they want to attempt to do things the right way: they want to listen and they want to learn.”
The fact Sebastian Prödl and Zeegelaar also played today for just over an hour will also do wonders for their development. Prödl talked throughout from the back, performed a nice drag back in the second half and cushioned over a cross with his right instep in a move that almost led to a goal, while Zeegelaar scored the goal of the game and created another for Crichlow.
“Both were class,” said Thomas. “They've trained with us a few times and they were exceptional in attitude and character and it gives the rest of the lads a great platform and a great example. It was like an old-school reserve team game and our boys will have learnt off those two very good pros today. Marvin scored a lovely goal and there were some great finishes. We've seen a bit of that in pre-season and bringing it into a game is exactly what we are after. It's a great start.”
HORNETS: Parkes (GK); Balogun (C), Prödl (Barrett 65), Hudson, Zeegelaar (Green 65); Trialist (Bennetts 71), Phillips, Whelan, Hungbo; Crichlow, Dalby.
Subs not used: Hoskins (GK), Barrett, Green. Wise.
Dan Phillips (pictured above) and Jayden Bennetts have both completed the paperwork on their respective one-year professional contracts.
The Hornets hold an additional one-year option on deals for the two Under-23 players.
Phillips is an 18-year-old midfielder who was named Academy Player of the Season in 2018/19, while Bennetts (pictured above) - also 18 - is a forward who has previously trained with Nigeria's Under-20s.