U23 Report: Nottingham Forest 2-1 Watford
By Kevin Affleck
Michael Folivi continues to rattle along at a goal a game after he extended his scoring streak against Nottingham Forest, but that first win of the season continues to elude the club's Under-23 side.
Folivi drew the Hornets level on 22 minutes at Alfreton FC to add to the goals he got in the defeat against Birmingham and draw against Sheffield United, but Virgil Gomis and Yassine En-Neyah scored either side of that to ensure the Professional Development League points went the way of the home side.
Forest are managed by ex-Hornet Jimmy Gilligan and they would have fancied helping themselves to a few more goals having scored seven in their first two games, but Watford had a good shape about them all night and did not let Forest have things all their own way. Indeed they might have snatched a late equaliser had Joy Mukena's header not drifted just wide. But a disappointing night was capped off when Tom Leighton was shown a straight red card for a late challenge on En-Neyah, the Forest match-winner, in injury time.
The early signs had been so promising for Watford when Harry Forster had an effort cleared off the line by Jordan Lawrence-Gabriel. But that proved to be a rare moment of goalmouth action for the Hornets as Forest dictated proceedings thereafter.
Gomis scored against the Hornets here in April and he was a menace yet again. The left-footed Frenchman was popping up in the space between the Hornets' midfield and defence and also playing on the shoulder of the last man. It was no surprise that he was the man to open the scoring after 15 minutes, the forward slotting low past Sam Howes. It was probably what Forest deserved for their bright opening.
It looked like the Hornets might get overwhelmed at that point as Forest pushed for a second. Brennan Johnson flashed a free-kick across the goal that somehow someone failed to get a touch on and then Gomis twice fired into the side-netting.
Now with the bit between their teeth, Watford stepped up their pressing game and were really at it. Indeed the manner in which Folivi closed down the centre-half to win possession was straight out of the playbook being deployed by the first team. The Hornets were also showing a fair bit of quality when on the ball and it look a flying one-handed save from Henderson to prevent Kieran Holsgrove from finding the top corner with a fine effort from distance. The Hornets ended the half with the momentum.
They quickly lost it ten minutes into the second half when En-Neyah bundled the ball over the line following a corner. It was a soft goal to concede and not the ideal start to the second 45.
But back Watford came and they certainly had a good go without ever getting in behind or forcing Henderson to make a save of note. They went for broke with ten minutes remaining by throwing on Sam Sesay for holding midfielder Ryan Maclean and playing three up top, but that equaliser never came.
In the end, though, the result did not matter and everyone's thoughts were with En-Neyah, who left the field on a stretcher and was taken to hospital by ambulance.
HORNETS | Howes (GK); Baxter (Leighton 66), Hudson, Mukena, Eleftheriou (c); Forster, Maclean (Sesay 80), Pereira; Holsgrove (Everton 72); Cassidy, Folivi.
Subs not used: Hoskins.