Under-23: Watford 3-0 Ipswich Town
By Kevin Affleck
Hayden Mullins said the secret to his side's storming start to the season is simple: hard work – and plenty of it.
The Lead Under-23 Coach has moulded a new group of players into a cohesive unit who work their socks off and the upshot has been a run of eight wins in 11 league games that has already put them eight points clear at the top of the Professional Development League South Division.
"We haven't won anything yet and we don't really get anything for winning the league, but where we are right now is a good reflection of where the boys are at," said Mullins, the former Crystal Palace, West Ham and Portsmouth midfielder.
"It's all down to hard work. We speak about being a team, working hard as a team and staying as a team. They are also taking onboard information we are giving them before and during the game. That's great to see as a coach. They are working really hard and are doing really well."
You will not find a more level-headed individual that Mullins and he won't be allowing anybody to get too carried away with this run of form. He should, though, be quietly satisfied with a controlled and clinical performance against an Ipswich side who beat second-place Coventry last time out. The Hornets were at nothing like their best, but they got stronger as the game wore on and won it with goals from Henry Wise, Joseph Hungbo and Jayden Bennetts.
"There are always bits and pieces you can work on but I always like to look at the positives, which are a clean sheet, how hard the boys have worked, the information they have taken onboard and the goals they have scored," said Mullins.
Hungbo's in particular was a cracker, rifled in from long range to make it eight for the season for the winger signed after being released by Crystal Palace. His early second-half goal and another later on from Bennetts was a reward for the way the team stuck at it in the first half when it didn't all go their way.
"The first half wasn't the prettiest," said Mullins. "There were big periods in the first half when we weren't at our best but Ipswich are a decent side and we had to weather what they brought to us. Every game is different and we are not going to dominate every one from start to finish. You have to dig in sometimes and I am pleased with the way we kept our shape, kept our discipline and the second half was completely different."
First team assistant coach Dean Austin was at Clarence Park to watch the youngsters in action and he will have been pleased to see the depth of the squad, with Sam Dalby, Callum Whelan and Kaylen Hinds all given the afternoon off and Ryan Cassidy, Harry Forster, Lewis Gordon and Sonny Blu Lo-Everton, all players called up at youth level by their national side at one time or another, given some valuable minutes.
"It was fantastic," said Mullins. "It's a reflection of where we are at the moment. We can leave out good players and bring in very good players. We are just trying to help them and give them the best chance of having a career. But at no point will we be sitting back, relaxing and thinking we have got anywhere as we haven't. We are just trying to help every player we can, improve performances and results."
HORNETS: Parkes; Balogun (C) (Barrett, HT), Spencer-Adams, Hudson, Trialist (Gordon, 67); Hungbo (Lo-Everton, 53), Wise, Adebiyi, Forster; Bennetts, Cassidy.
Subs not used: Hoskins, Hinds.