Late rally denies a winning start

THREE StevenageĀ goals in the last five minutes of a competitive opening fixture of season 2017/18 denied Watford IFC a first-day win – and it was harsh on the hosts who led for most of the contest.

The Internet ‘Orns settled the quicker, thanks in part to a first-half lead courtesy of Mark O’Connor – but Boro replied within 15 minutes after a defensive lapse let in their striker to stroke home.

But Watford rallied, enjoying the lion’s share of possession, and went into the break 3-1 to the good thanks to two headed goals by skipper Ally Hill.

The first came direct from a far-post Stuart Sperinck flag-kick delivery and then, 10 minutes later, Sperinck was fed the ball after his own half-cleared corner and found Hill again with a deft outside-of-the-boot cross.

One of two debutants, Matt Mesiano, headed home for a fourth midway through the second 45 after a penalty box scramble saw the ball loop up kindly into his path. The other maiden appearance came from Mike Viney, who took the Man of the Match accolade for his sterling and rugged work down Watford’s right channel.

With the game never quite dead, it would nevertheless have been hard to foresee a three-goal comeback for the visitors.

Yet they took heart from making it 4-2 with five minutes left. And when they got a third with a minute on the watch, Watford’s set-piece vulnerability cost them in injury-time to force a case of shared spoils when the full-time whistle blew not even 60 seconds later.

Hornets: Neil Hall; Cleveland Brandy, Ally Hill (c), Ben Bateman, Matt Ainsley; Adam Gallichan, Stuart Holdham, Tom Davison, Connor Church; Mark O’Connor, Charlie Wood. Subs used: Mike Viney, Matt Mesiano, Stuart Sperinck, Max Walters, Richard Walker.