Herts Cup Report & Reaction: Potters Bar Town 0-1 Watford
By Kevin Affleck
Head of Academy Darren Sarll felt his team took another decisive step in their football education by rolling up their sleeves to knock Potters Bar out of the Herts Senior Challenge Cup last night.
Sarll named an entirely teenage squad for the first-round tie at the Patex Stadium and was fascinated to see how they coped on a capricious pitch against hardened non-league players, some of whom could have been twice the age of members of his rookie team.
But they passed the test with flying colours, showing bravery to not only play out from the back but also the courage to put their head and foot in where it might get hurt. They won the match with an early second-half goal from Harry Hudson but the win was rooted in the spirit and application of this young group.
“It was a much better test for the players,” said Sarll. “They are spoilt as they get wonderful things at our training ground and yet here you get an unforgiving, bobbly pitch and they have to play properly.
“I said to them before that the minute you don't respect a non-league player, someone who works hard all day and then looks forward to this type of game all day, you do come unstuck. I've seen it before and you can end up with egg on your face.
“But I thought they were really professional tonight. It was lovely to have a clean sheet as we haven't had too many of them this season. It was also nice to score from a set-piece rather than a picture-perfect goal. I was also pleased they stuck together when the going got tough. They really mucked in.”
Hudson, the centre-half, emerged as the match-winner, poking home a loose ball from close range after the Potters Bar goalkeeper had made a hash of an in-swinging corner from Harry Forster. Hudson, 17, deserved his goal as he played well in the defeat at Millwall on Friday afternoon and was a rock at the heart of the defence against Potters Bar.
“He stayed on the move when the ball came in the box and scored what was a very decisive goal,” said Sarll. “Harry has done well of late. He has been forced to play up a lot and play under stress, but his performance tonight was good and his clearances when he opened his foot were excellent and important.”
Michael Mullings, Ben Tricker and Lewis Gordon also dug in defensively to ensure James Hoskins didn't really have a save to make, while Dan Phillips was again a powerhouse in the middle of midfield. Potters Bar are seventh in the Isthmian League Premier Division and provided the young Hornets with the type of searching examination you just don't get in the Professional Development League.
“The great thing about these games is that you don't face 42 sideways passes, 15 backwards before it comes forwards,” said Sarll. “You face a constant threat from set-plays and it was a real test for them to stay tight and get that first contact.
“I was really pleased with them tonight and these are great games. I'm really pleased I picked a young side and it's another layer of experience for them and that might stand them in good stead if they are out on loan and are playing Morecambe away on a Tuesday night.”
HORNETS | Hoskins (GK); Mullings, Tricker, Hudson, Gordon (Suckling 65); Sankoh, Phillips, Forster (Sesay 65), Bennetts; Cassidy (C), Hutchinson.
Subs not used | Baptiste (GK), Matthews