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.