Year ends on a positive, despite narrow defeat in East London

DESPITE a performance rightly described as ‘heroic’ by manager Richard Walker, Watford IFC’s unbeaten run, standing at eight games since the beginning of September, was ended on the Saturday before Christmas with a 4-3 defeat by Millwall.

The Internet ‘Orns took to the iconic Hackney Marshes with a bare eleven in their 650th game in club history, though did welcome back all time leading goalscorer Rob Sterry for his first appearance of the season. The prolific forward, who now resides in Florida, slotted in at left midfield as he looked to add to his impressive 188 goal tally for the club.

Despite Millwall’s recent results, featuring seven goal hauls against the likes of Preston and Gillingham, it was the away side who would open the scoring. Charlie Wood, a regular scorer in his first full season for the club, dispatched a Mark O’Connor through ball for the first. As Millwall pressed for a first half equaliser they were picked off again – Rich Walker’s audacious free kick finding the top corner from a full 25 yards. It was the player manager’s second impressive strike in successive games. The yellows 2-0 lead at the break owed to a tremendous work rate throughout the squad, with all eleven contributing.

Millwall, perhaps unrewarded for their good build up play in the first half, snatched the initiative back shortly after half time. Their first was headed home after Tom Beck had tipped an initial effort on to the bar, and their second was finished well as Watford failed to clear their lines. It was a dominant fifteen minute spell by the hosts and one which prompted Walker to don the gloves and replace Beck in goal.

This change saw an instant return, to the surprise of many, as Beck promptly headed Watford back in front with his first for the club. The makeshift forward connecting with Wood’s long throw to make it 3-2.

Millwall wouldn’t lie down though and, by throwing men forward, grabbed their second equaliser of the match to make it 3-3. This spurred them on to a fourth, and ultimately decisive goal, late in the game. Despite their battling performance Watford allowed a lively forward too much room and he took his chance well, putting Millwall into the lead for the first time. Watford had late chances of their own with both Stu Nicholls and Ben Bateman testing the keeper, but they couldn’t find a way through.

Team: Beck, Ainsley, J.Sitkowski, Bateman, Nicholls, E.Sterry, Butterick, Walker, R.Sterry, Wood, O’Connor.

Goals: Wood, Walker, Beck.

300th win wrapped up in style

Report by Tom Beck

Watford IFC extended their unbeaten run to eight games, seven of which victories, with a convincing 6-1 away win at Hampton & Richmond IFC this Saturday. The win was also the club’s 300th in all competitions since formation in 1997

The Internet “Orns, fresh from a coveted ‘six point Saturday’ the previous weekend, kicked into strong winds in the first half but dealt admirably with the conditions to lead 1-0 at the break. The opening goal, which owed much to Ben Kelly’s persistence down the left, arrived on the half hour mark with Mark O’Connor slotting home from close range. The effort was the striker’s eight goal in his debut season for the club, pushing him clear in the scoring charts. The away side had chances to extend their lead before the break too, the most glaring of which falling to Ross Connor but the usually clinical striker couldn’t score when well placed.

The second half started in similar fashion and before long WIFC had added a second goal, a Hampton player getting the final touch as a ball was whipped across the six yard box. This was the start of a superb fifteen minute spell for the men in yellow in which they added two further goals. Ben Kelly’s deft touch from a cross field ball made it 3-0 and opened his scoring account for the club, player-manager Rich Walker then curled in the fourth directly from a corner.

The visitors flooded forward in search of further goals but, much to the annoyance of the excellent John Sitkowski at centre back, failed to notice Hampton’s industrious left winger on the break. He finished superbly from the edge of the area to reduce the arrears, notching the goal of the game in the process. The home side came close to a second shortly after, however captain Matt Williams found the side netting with the goal at his mercy. Watford heeded the warning though and removed any doubt about the result with further goals from Stu Nicholls, who tucked away a penalty after O’Connor was fouled in the box, and Ben Pegram’s late strike from an angle, taking his season tally to 4.

Team: Tom Beck; Matt Ainsley, David Sitkowski, John Sitkowski, Stuart Nicholls; Ben Pegram, Dan Butterick, Ben Kelly, Richard Murphy, Ross Connor, Mark O’Connor.

Subs (all used): Richard Walker, Stuart Holdham, Ben Bateman, Brad Simmons.