U23 Report: Watford 1-4 Charlton Athletic
By Kevin Affleck
It was a classic case of after the Lord Mayor’s show at the business end of the club's Academy season after the bulk of the side who stormed through to the quarter-final of the FA Youth Cup suffered a heavy Professional Development League defeat at the hands of Charlton Athletic.
The Under-18s thrillingly beat Ipswich 4-1 on Tuesday but, together with a couple of Under-23 players, they found themselves on the wrong end of the same scoreline on Friday afternoon to crash to their first defeat at their adopted home of Wingate & Finchley.
Things looked promising when Harry Forster quickly cancelled out Wilberforce Ocran’s seventh-minute opener, but Charlton were quicker, stronger and sharper all over the park and kept pulling further clear with goals from Wassim Aouachria, Abraham Odah and Alfie Doughty.
“There was a little of a hangover from the FA Youth Cup,” said Hayden Mullins, the club’s Lead Under-23 Professional Development Coach. “We were kind of expecting them to be a bit flat after such a high, but we’ve still got to be professional and approach the game right.”
While the monumental effort against Ipswich would have sapped the teenagers mentally and physically, Mullins knows all too well the thick and fast nature of the games is what you can expect playing as a professional outside of the Premier League.
“It was one of the those games that was always going to be tough after the effort they put in on Tuesday,” Mullins. “We are asking this group to play for the 18s and the 23s at the minute, so there are going to be times when it’s going to be tough. But they are going to have to expect that if they play in the Championship where you play Saturday, Tuesday most weeks. You have to get hardened up to it pretty quickly.”
That said, Charlton were a useful side and they have now won four of the last five. The watching Lee Bowyer would have been impressed.
“They were a good side and had an experienced defender in Jason Pearce who I played with at Portsmouth,” said Mullins. “He’s played a few hundred games in the league, so that’s good for our lads to come up against him.”
There was a scare ahead of the big FA Youth Cup tie a week on Wednesday with the sight of Ryan Cassidy, who has scored four in two FA Youth Cup games, coming off five minutes after half-time.
“He didn’t feel the best today,” said Mullins. “He had a bit of a headache and a few other bits and pieces. He wanted to give it a go and he did, but he still said he wasn’t feeling well after half-time so we pulled him off. Harry Foster is on a return-to-play programme [after injury] so he was on reduced minutes as well, so we gave him a rest.”
A couple of positives were the performance of Adam Parkes in goal – “Adam had a bit to do and he kept us in the game,” said Mullins – and another all-action performance in midfield from Dan Phillips, who captained the side for the first time.
“Dan always gives you good consistent performances,” said Mullins. “He wins the ball high and we made him captain today which is a reflection of how he’s been playing of late. I didn’t think anyone stood out, but at least Dan was consistent. We were our own worst enemy at times, giving away the ball so sloppily and in bad areas. We just made too many wrong decisions.”
HORNETS | Parkes (GK); Maclean, Leighton, Tricker, Hudson; Sankoh, Phillips (C), Adebiyi; Bennetts, Cassidy (Trialist 50), Forster (Trialist 63).
Subs not used: Trialist, Baptiste (GK), McKiernan.