Under-23: Watford 3-1 Sheffield Wednesday
It’s now 10 goals and three wins from three for the Under-23s, who showed adaptability can reap rewards as they played direct to see off Sheffield Wednesday 3-1 at Clarence Park on Friday (August 23).
All four goals came in the second half for Hayden Mullins’ side. The towering Sam Dalby dispatched a penalty after Henry Wise was fouled in the area and calmly converted a Jamal Balogun cutback after a powering run down the wing from the right-back. The forward’s goals came either side of a spectacular Joseph Hungbo effort and a Sheffield Wednesday finish from Fraser Preston.
Ensuring his team can play different styles of football is important to Mullins, and against the Owls Dalby was used as an out-and-out target man, holding up and laying off the ball as midfielders and wingers supported him from deep.
“We wanted to go into him [Dalby] a bit earlier than we usually would do, because the pitch was really dry, and it was a tough surface,” said Mullins, the Lead Under-23 Professional Coach. “He’s got to learn to look after the ball, take it under pressure with defenders all over his back and he did that really well and got his rewards.”
Dalby wasn’t the only one to reap rewards from the direct style of play at a sunny Clarence Park. A perfect diagonal from Wise put Joseph Hungbo away just after the hour mark, and the winger took the pass in his stride before arrowing the ball into the bottom corner.
“It was a lovely cross-field ball from Henry Wise and if I was Joe then I would go and see Henry after and give him a pat on the back,” said Mullins. “He’s released him for a lovely diagonal and put Joe in, but Joe still had loads to do and it was a great finish.”
New addition Kaylen Hinds, who Mullins can speak freely of now he is no longer ‘A Trialist’, was another man playing off Dalby. There were glimpses of the technical ability which previously earned the forward moves to Arsenal and Wolfsburg, including a fantastic turn in the second half to leave a Wednesday player for dead.
“He [Hinds] works really well for the team, he works hard for himself and he’s getting fitter,” said Mullins. “He’s not there yet but there’s a lot more to come from Kaylen. He’s a good player, a very, very good player, and we’re glad to have him.”
Mullins told his dressing room there is still a lot to improve after the game, but is pleased to see hard work paying off for his players.
“They’re taking their chances,” he said. “There are going to be periods where we might not get as many chances, but I’m pleased more with the character and the effort that we’re getting at the moment. That’s what’s creating the chances, creating the goals and creating the winning environment. The dressing room’s a really good place to be in at the moment.”