Rousing comeback falls short for WIFC

WIFC produced a strong second-half comeback in Saturday’s Herts derby clash with Badgers FC in Stevenage, but fell agonisingly short of a deserved draw. Having gone two down during a first half were little went right for the Internet ‘Orns, a defensive re-organsation and a more committed showing after the break almost earned a share of the spoils.

Man of the Match Ben Pegram spins away from the attentions of the Stevenage midfield

In difficult defensive conditions, with a high sun and swirling wind, WIFC struggled to compete in the early exchanges and were caught out by long balls to the quick home forwards, and it was no surprise when goals from Jonny Wedge and Paul Sapsed gave Stevenage the lead. WIFC stuck to their task though, and got reward when winger Andy Lewers, playing as a makeshift striker, won an aerial challenge with the home keeper following a Rob Stone cross, and Andy Myall was on hand to take advantage to tap in his first of the season.

Andy Lewers prepares to challenge for Rob Stone’s cross

With WIFC back in the game, some poor defending left Callum McKenchie with a simple chance to restore the home team’s two goal advantage, but the half ended with the visitors in the ascendancy for the first time, and Ben Pegram’s drive from the edge of the box brought a fine save from the home keeper just before the whistle.

Andy Myall, scorer of WIFC’s first goal

Manager Chris Davis shuffled the pack at half-time, moving Moz Clarke and Jamie Parkins into the centre of defence and pulling Pegram into a deeper midfield role. Davis also gave debuts to wingers James Jenkins and Brad Simmons. The moves almost paid instant dividends when good interplay between Jenkins, Pegram and Stuart Nicholls presented a great chance for the hard-working Lewers, who shot wide when well placed to score. Lewers had the ball in the net minutes later, but the goal was correctly ruled out for offside, then Richard Murphy hit the side-netting from a tight angle as WIFC took the game to the home team.

With the greater defensive stability provided by Parkins and Clarke keeping Stevenage to long range efforts, WIFC stayed on top and got their reward when Pegram, instrumental in much of the good second half work, rapped a post with a low drive. When Stevenage failed to clear their lines from the shot, the ball fell to Jenkins, who capped a productive 45 minutes with a measured finish for a debut goal.

WIFC continued to push for the equaliser their stirring comeback deserved, with further chances failing to Jenkins and Aidy Spender, back on as a striker. But the best chance fell to Stu Holdham, who would surely have scored had he connected with a bouncing ball inside the six yard box in the closing minutes.

“The team showed real battling spirit after a difficult first 20 minutes” said manager Davis after the game. “It was always going to be hard without a recognised striker but we created enough chances to have deserved more from the game. It was good to see the two new lads look dangerous down either flank, and credit to the established lads for keeping us in it right to the end” added Davis.

WIFC return to London Cup action next weekend. Beaten finalists in last year’s competition, the team travels to Leyton Orient for their opening group game, with an early kick-off enabling the squad to get back to Watford in good time for the big boys home game with Middlesbrough.

Team. 4-4-1-1. Jeremy Hinds; Dave Messenger, Aidy Spender, Stu Nicholls, Phil McBride; Rob Stone, Maurice Clarke, Stu Holdham, Andy Myall; Ben Pegram; Andy Lewers. Subs Jamie Parkins, Matt Ainsley, Richard Murphy, James Jenkins, Brad Simmons.


Herts derby clash for WIFC

WIFC make the short journey to the north of Hertfordshire to face Stevenage this Saturday, in one of two county-derbies available in the IFA. This will be WIFC’s 5th visit to the Badgers, as the Stevenage fans team are known, and the Internet ‘Orns are yet to record a win. In fact, Stevenage are one of only a few IFA teams that WIFC have never beaten. Despite this, the club did win it’s last silverware at the Stevenage tournament, which was held in 2010.

The Stevenage tournament trophy, won in 2010

Manager Chris Davis, back in the saddle after illness prevented him making the Preston season opener, has a strong squad to select from with 20 players making themselves available for the trip. “As it’s early in the season, and we’ve had such a good turn-out for an away fixture, it seems harsh to leave anyone out” said Davis. “Though it will mean a few managerial headaches in making sure all players get a minimum of 45 minutes, it also gives me a chance to try a few different things out and we have a pair of debutants to blood in Brad Simmons and James Jenkins”

Back to rally the troops this weekend, WIFC manager Chris Davis

Meetings with the Badgers stretch back to 2009 and have always been high scoring affairs. The first fixture in the series ended in a 7-7 draw, with former joint manager Scott Mathers scoring 4, to add to strikes from Jimmy Davis, Chris Dundon and Mat Ball. The only one of the 6 fixtures to be played in Watford followed later that season, with the Badgers taking the spoils in a 5-4 win despite 2 more for Davis and a Paul Whittenbury brace. The last meeting saw WIFC come back from three goals down to grab a late draw in a pre-Worldnet friendly. Alex Prentice started the ball rolling, with late strikes from Stuart Nicholls and Steve Eustice forcing the draw.

Scott Mathers, WIFC’s leading scorer in all fixtures v Stevenage, pictured with the man of the match cow after the season opener in Preston two weeks ago.

Full Record – WIFC v Stevenage

Played Won Drew Lost For Against GD
5 0 2 3 17 24 -7

All-time scorers v Stevenage

4 – Scott Mathers
3 – Jimmy Davis
2 – Paul Whittenbury, Adam Herd
1 – Chris Dundon, Mat Ball, Laurence Wells, Alex Prentice, Stuart Nicholls, Steve Eustice

WIFC edged out in seven-goal thriller !

WIFC’s first game of the season, a long distance trek to face IFA league champions Preston, ended in a 1-6 reverse for the Internet ‘Orns but the scoreline doesn’t do justice to the visitors. Having traveled with just 9 men, Preston loaned their striker, Des Wilson, to make an 11v10 game without subs or linesmen allowing WIFC to remain competitive.

The intrepid 9 men, plus PNE’s Disco Des, line-up before the match

Lining up in a 4-4-1 formation, with keeper Jez Hinds playing as a lone striker, WIFC were under pressure from the off. The whole team worked hard to keep the champions at bay, while always looking to keep the ball, which meant WIFC were able to fashion a few half-chances through Dave Soloway and Moz Clarke. However, the pressure took it’s toll and Preston opened the scoring just after the half hour, adding another before the break.

The two captains, Moz Clarke and Steve Cowell.

After a swap of loanees, with midfielder Jimmy Atkinson joining the visitors at the break, the second half followed the same pattern. Dogged defending and good use of the ball kept WIFC in the game and further half chances fell to debutant Paul Norgate and Soloway. But tired legs and Preston’s good use of the ball finally combined to see Preston rattle in four quickfire strikes. WIFC got some reward for their efforts in the closing minutes, when man of the match Scott Mathers powerfully headed a Norgate corner into the roof of the net.

WIFC’s Martin Pollard heads clear under pressue

Preston’s experienced midfield campaigner Steve Cowell offered praise to the visitors after the match. “There was nothing between the two teams for the first 30-35 mins for me” said Cowell. “But the big pitch and lack of numbers finally took their toll on the lads from Watford, but they never let their heads drop and always tried to play their way out of trouble”.

WIFC: Rich Walker; Dave Messenger, Martin Pollard, Scott Mathers, Phil McBride; Paul Norgate, Dave Soloway, Maurice Clarke, Des Wilson; Jeremy Hinds. Sub Jimmy Atkinson for Des Wilson (HT)

Pics kindly provided by Barry Potter from Northern Rose Photography

All systems go for north west season bow

Preparations are almost complete for WIFC’s first outing of the 2012/13 season, as the Internet ‘Orns travel to Preston to take on the current IFA League champions before moving on to Bolton for the Watford game this Saturday. As seasonal bows go it couldn’t be trickier for WIFC, but the squad travels in good spirits and keen to get the campaign up and running.

WIFC’s Scott Mathers, due to make a comeback this weekend, prepares to tackle Preston’s Des Wilson in Feb 2008.

The game also marks the first match for new WIFC fixtures supremo Phil McBride, and getting the game on is a great start to the new era. “I’m really pleased we’ve managed to cobble a squad together. We’ve missed out on trips to Preston thanks to the fixtures computer sending Watford to Deepdale for midweek games, and their relegation, so the Bolton trip gave us the chance to stop off on route” said McBride.

Phil McBride in action at the 2010 Vic Road match

The PNE fans team are one of the most decorated in the IFA, having won their 4th league title since their formation in 2005 last season. Their role of honour also includes 4 IFA Cup wins, 4 North West Cup wins, 2 Team of the Year awards and possibly their finest hour, winning Worldnet in 2008 where they beat WIFC 1-0 in the final.

In a classic game. George Pennington gave PNE a first minute lead as the Lilywhites dominated the first period. With some half time inspiring words ringing in their ears, WIFC took the game to Preston in the second half, and thought they had an equaliser when they won a penalty, but the normally reliable Paul Watt skewed his kick wide. The miss took the steam out of WIFC and PNE completed a deserved win, while WIFC wondered what might have been with the impetus of an equalising goal.

Action from the 2008 Worldnet final between the teams

The two clubs have a long history, before and since that Worldnet final, with WIFC providing the opposition for PNE’s first ever IFA league fixture at Queens School in August 2005. The game ended in a thrilling 3-3 draw, with Paul Whittenbury and a Richard Murphy brace providing the home goals. Later that season, a Dave Soloway strike earned a 1-1 draw in WIFC’s only visit to Preston so far.

Captains Steve Cowell of Preston and Simon Neill of WIFC before the club’s first meeting in 2005.

For each of the following three seasons there were only games in Watford, as the fixtures computer thwarted return trips. PNE grabbed the first win in the series with a 4-1 success in 06/07, while Watford inflicted PNE’s only defeat of the 07/08 season with a 3-1 win thanks to a Paul Watt brace and another Murphy strike. The following season, Preston were comfortable 4-0 winners in the first meeting since that Worldnet final.

Paul Watt’s penalty gives WIFC a 3-1 lead in Feb 2008. In the biggest ‘if only’ in WIFC’s history, how different might the Worldnet final have been if Watty had scored that one..

In addition to the Worldnet final, the two sides also met in an IFA Cup Semi Final in 2009, with Preston winning 2-0. During the 2009/10 season Preston brought both A and B teams to Watford for a double header, with the visitors traveling home with 4-2 and 5-1 wins, while the last meeting between the teams saw Soloway and Jimmy Davis give WIFC a 2-0 Worldnet first round win against Preston’s B team.

A study in concentration during the last meeting, at Worldnet 2011

Full record – WIFC v Preston

Played Won Drew Lost For Against GD
8 1 2 5 10 20 -10

Full record – WIFC v Preston B

Played Won Drew Lost For Against GD
2 1 0 1 3 5 -2

All-time WIFC scorers v Preston (both teams)
3 – Rich Murphy
2 – Dave Soloway, Paul Watt
1 – Paul Whittenbury, Paul Karlsen, Warren Flanagan, Pete Fincham, Jimmy Davis, OG

WIFC celebrate 15 years..

WIFC celebrated 15 years since their formation last weekend. Though the first game actually took place in May 1997, the celebrations were held over until now to enable the club to combine their annual end of season awards with a big drink-up at Druids, their home pub, on Saturday night. More than 50 players, past and present, and partners were on hand to toast the club’s continued success while Watford FC, their sponsors Football Manager, Druids and local author Lionel Birnie generously donated prizes to be raffled for club funds.

Players past and present gather for a different take on the classic team picture pose

On the night, the 2011/12 awards were dished out by team manager Chris Davis. Joel Moody added the Players Player award to his already unique double of top appearance maker and top scorer for the season, while Ed Sterry was voted Most Improved Player. Dan Willis won the Best Newcomer, while outgoing joint manager Dave Messenger won a 4th Clubman gong. Finally, Paul Karlsen joined the select band of WIFC players to join the club’s Hall of Fame.

Moody celebrates his award with team-mates Stu Nicholls, Dave Soloway, Rob Stone and jez Hinds.

Ed Sterry enjoys his Most Improved Player award

The new WIFC season gets off to an early start this weekend, as the Internet ‘Orns travel to Preston to take on the IFA League Champions for a morning kick-off before travelling on to Bolton for Watford’s fixture later in the day. Anyone interested in joining the team in time for the trip can Email [email protected] for more details.

Lionel Birnie’s new book, ‘Tales from the Vicarage’ is available to pre-order now – click on the artwork below  for more information.

Tales from the Vicarage – pre-purchase now