Jakubiak | “I've Done Well To Cope”

It wasn't quite the 21st birthday present Alex Jakubiak had hoped for. 

The home-grown striker had just blown the candles out on the milestone occasion in August when he lined up for the Hornets' Under-23 side against Birmingham at Vicarage Road. Hayden Mullins' side were drawing with the Blues under the lights when Jakubiak picked up possession in a forward area.

“I was on the left, beat my man and then when I cut the ball back, my right foot just got jarred in the ground and my body weight went over it,” he recalled. “At the time I thought it was worse than it was and that I was going to be out for longer. I knew straight away away it wasn't a break but it was still one of the worst pains I've felt.”

The fact the swelling subsided after a couple of days confirmed it wasn't a break but the pain and lack of mobility did hint at some significant ligament damage.

“It was the ligament on the outside of my right ankle that I damaged,” said Jakubiak. “It was a minor injury but it's kept me out for nearly three months. Initially we thought it would be six weeks.”

Jakubiak has been out so long – two and a half months, to be precise — that, in that time, the Under-23s have played nine games, the clocks have gone back and the leaves have fallen off the trees. 

Jakubiak damaged ankle ligaments against Birmingham in August

“It's the first proper injury I've had so, mentally, I think I've done well to cope with not playing for that amount of time but Dan, the Academy physio, has been great in getting me back, so I'd like to thank him. He made sure I didn't lose my head when I was injured. I know you can get frustrated and it affects you, but I made sure I got in early and used the gym.”

Jakubiak has been eased back into action and treated with kid gloves. He played half-an-hour of the 2-0 win over Bristol City and then the same again in the chastening 6-1 cup defeat at Blackburn. He was then, as part of a carefully thought out plan, played from the off against Crystal Palace yesterday and lasted the pace.

“I'm a bit tired but I feel good considering this is my first 90 minutes in nearly three months,” he said. “I'm still a bit rusty so I'm just building up fitness now. The only way I'm going to do that is by getting games so I'll just keep kicking on until January and then see where we go from there.”

Is a sixth loan spell a possibility?

“We'll see in January,” he said. “Nothing is set in stone. I'd like to be somewhere where I'm playing games regularly, week in and week out, preferably in the league somewhere. That would really help me develop as a person and as a player. We'll see what happens.”


Under-23 Report | Crystal Palace 3-1 Watford

Alex Jakubiak completed his first 90 minutes in several months this afternoon as Watford went down 3-1 to Crystal Palace at the Eagles’ training ground.
The striker has been sidelined with an ankle problem and has been gently eased back into action over the past fortnight, but he was given his head here and came through without any problems. Unfortunately his comeback didn’t end with a victory.
Michael Folivi put the Hornets ahead with a penalty midway through the first-half but, in front of Roy Hodgson and former Watford manager Ray Lewington, Palace came roaring back and scored three unanswered goals to bag the points in this Professional Development League clash. 
The Hornets, who were below par, could have few complaints about the result against a stronger and more cohesive Palace side who featured Dutch international and big summer signing Jairo Riedewald and Pape Souare, the Senegalese left-back continuing his comeback from a serious car accident.
There was a strong Watford presence on the sidelines in the shape of former centre-half Keith Millen and former coach Terry Bullivant, while ex-Academy coach Dave Reddington was in the Palace dug-out, and they will all have noted the fine one-handed save Nathan Gartside made from Levi Lumeka to keep the scores level early on.

Dion Pereira races forward for the Hornets against Palace

Palace enjoyed a monopoly on possession and looked the more likely of the two teams, so it came as a huge surprise when, from nothing, the visitors took the lead.

Brandon Mason split the Palace defence with a threaded pass to send Folivi haring clear. He drove into the box and was felled as the two Palace centre-halves converged on him. There has been a bit of debate of late over who takes the Hornets’ spot-kicks but after Brice Dja Djédjé missed one at Cardiff, there was no getting the ball off Folivi this time. The young striker confidently placed the ball down and his effort, to the left, had too much pace and power for Joe Tupper in the Palace goal.
Watford had not lost a league game this season when Folivi has scored but that record was to be broken here. Kian Flanagan levelled the match before half-time by firing through a cluster of players after Gartside failed to get purchase on a punch from a corner.

It was thanks to Gartside, though, that the Hornets went in all-square, with the Northern Irishman pulling off another terrific low save, this time from a Jason Eyenga-Lokilo free-kick from the edge of the box.
Gartside was at it again straight after half-time, getting down low again to deny Nya Kirby with a stop that will have thrilled goalkeeping coach Alec Chamberlain.

Dennon Lewis was back in action for the Under-23s

Palace would have started to wonder if they were ever going to find a way past Gartside when he made a great double reaction save from a corner but Lumeka managed to finally beat him at the third attempt to make it 2-1 on 49 minutes.
The visitors suffered another blow minutes later when Andrew Eleftheriou was forced off with injury and it looked, at that point, how many a dominant Palace might get. But Watford stopped the rot and then enjoyed their best spell of the game and started to look more vibrant, although a shot on the run from Dennon Lewis was the closest they came to testing Tupper, the home keeper. 
You hoped one big chance might fall Watford’s way and it did 15 minutes from time when Jakubiak threaded through Randell Williams. The former Palace forward had the chance to net the equaliser against his former club but Tupper denied him and the rebound fell out of reach of Folivi. 
Palace made the most of their reprieve to make the game safe nine minutes from time when Riedewald teed up his centre-half partner Michael Phillips from a corner. It was the third goal Watford conceded from a set-piece and that will certainly give coach Hayden Mullins something to work on on the training ground this week.
HORNETS | Gartside (GK); Eleftheriou (Sesay, 55), Rowan, Huja, Mason; Lewis, Djà Djédjé (Charles, 80), Stewart; Folivi, Pereira (Wiliams, 67), Jakubiak.

Subs not used | Lacy (GK), Mukena.