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.
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.
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.
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.