Woking 1 Watford 1
10th July 2016
Occupying a ‘window’ in time on a day otherwise replete with major distractions for ardent sports fans, Woking’s challenging first Pre-season Friendly against Premier League Watford attracted a decent-sized crowd to the Laithwaite Community Stadium on a pleasant, sunny and slightly breezy Sunday evening.
With only 8 players signed up for the coming season prior to the match, it was very much a case of ‘Spot the Trialist’ in the Woking team. There were, however, a couple of familiar names amongst the 12 of them on the teamsheet.
Watford fielded a very strong first team squad for what was also their first PSF. With household names like Gomes, Capoue, Ighalo, Vydra and others in the starting line-up, there were only a couple of youngsters with limited first team experience and no trialists. Even Troy Deeney put in a non-playing appearance, before a dramatic exit from the car park after the game in his new £180k Lamborghini.
Woking’s starting line-up included seven of the 8 contracted players, with Charles Penny being absent on the day. Ben Gordon (league experience) started at left back, with Wilson Carvalho (ex-Corby) and Max Kretzschmar (ex-Wycombe) in midfield, and peripatetic ‘old boy’ Delano Sam Yorke – last seen on loan at Boreham Wood from Forest Green Rovers – operating as the lone striker.
The game started fairly evenly with Woking’s first attack coming after 5 minutes with Joey Jones’s ball to the right-hand corner of the Watford box being cleared. On 11 minutes, Watford won a series of corners on the left; the first of these was headed wide, the second was saved by Poke in front of goal and the third pushed round the post by him. Poke saved again 3 minutes later after a run and shot from Berghuis.
On 15 minutes, Saraiva took his first real opportunity to show his skills with a free kick from the left, but a Woking player was adjudged to be offside.
A couple more Watford corners ensued before their goal, in the 21st minute, with Berghuis' shot from about 6 yards out being deflected in.
In the 22nd minute, Ismail Yakubu came off – slightly worrying, given last season, but understood just to be for fitness reasons – and was replaced by Charlie Carter (ex youth team), with Joey Jones moving back into defence. Within two minutes, Carter got the last touch on the ball for Woking’s goal, after a melee in the Watford goalmouth following another Saraiva free kick.
Ighalo and Capoue showed their undoubted skills with a clever interchange in the Woking box, but Ighalo finally shot over the bar.
Just before half time, a Woking player was fouled midway into the Watford half. Saraiva’s free kick just cleared a rising Gomes and the goal.
Half-time: Woking 1 Watford 1
Garry made a couple of changes at the beginning of the second half, bringing on Brandon Hall (ex-Ebbsfleet) for Michael Poke in goal, and Ryan Sellers (ex-Wycombe) for Ben Gordon at left back. Watford swapped 6 players at this point.
The second half was largely uneventful, with most players on the pitch feeling their way. In the 54th minute, Sellers put in a difficult cross but there was no one there to challenge the keeper. For Watford, Anya centred from the left only for Sinclair to head it over.
A string of Woking substitutions continued throughout the second half, with Charles Banya replacing Carvalho, Chike Kandi (ex Brighton U21) for Sam Yorke, Geoffrey Ghesquière (Belgian) for Saraiva, Aaron Joseph-Smith for Kretzschmar and Jaydon Thorburn for Saah.
On 67 minutes, Watford’s Guedioura’s shot was deflected over the bar; the resulting corner was cleared. Kretzschmar received a pass from Murtagh in the box, but his shot was saved by Arlauskis. Towards the end, right winger Aaron Smith-Joseph show deftness and a nice turn of pace in the Watford box.
This was a very encouraging team performance from Woking who were a match for their opponents on the day, with most of the ‘new faces’ acquitting themselves well. Kretzschmar displayed tenacity and skill in midfield, while Carter showed some deft touches and did well to get to the ball for the goal. Candi looked like he could be a handful up front. Ryan Sellers probably had a slight edge over Ben Gordon at left back. DSY did a solid but unspectacular job, while Banya was his usual enigmatic self. Brandon Hall had a quiet 45 minutes in goal, so the jury is out.
The established players performed as we have come to expect of them on their better days. Of the newcomers, Saraiva showed class in dead ball situations.
For their part, Watford’s expensively assembled (£50m, and that’s just the starting line-up) and decidedly cosmopolitan squad looked a tad ‘ring rusty’ on their first run-out for a while, with a few shots and crosses going comically wide. However, there should be enough quality here for them to stay clear of the Premier League danger zone again in the coming season. Of their lesser known players, Amrabat on the right wing impressed me.
Woking: Michael Poke (Brandon Hall 45), Jake Caprice, Ben Gordon (Ryan Sellers 45), Joey Jones, Brian Saah (Jaydon Thorburn 76), Ismail Yakubu (Charlie Carter 23),Wilson Carvalho (Charles Banya 50), Keiran Murtagh, Delano Sam Yorke (Chike Kandi 63), Max Kretzschmar (Aaron Smith-Joseph 74), Fabio Saraiva (Geoffrey Ghesquiere 69)
Subs not used: Harly Wise
Goals: Carter (23)
Watford: Heurelho Gomes (Giedrius Arlauskis 45), Allan Nyom, Ikechi Anya, Nordin Amrabat (José Holebas 60), Miguel Britos (Charlie Rowan 84), Tommie Hoban (Isaac Success 68), Étienne Capoue (Abdoulaye Doucouré 45), Mario Suarez (Ben Watson 45), Odion Ighalo (Jerome Sinclair 45), Steven Berghuis (Obbi Oularé 45), Matyj Vydra (Adlène Guedioura 45)
Subs not used: Rene Gilmartin, Connor Stevens
Goals: Steven Berghuis (21)
My MOTM: Difficult to call this one. There were no outstanding individual Woking performances, but most of those on the pitch put in a shift and looked determined to impress the management. I am going for Michael Poke who made some excellent saves in the first half.