WATFORD IFC produced an almost perfect all-round performance – certainly matching any of this season’s cup exploits – to put six unanswered goals past West Ham IFC in east London.
So often having had to play second fiddle to the Hammers’ fans team in recent seasons, the Hornets erased the memory of several painful trips to Flanders Field with a fully-deserved victory inspired by a lethal exhibition of finishing from five-goal Mark O’Connor.
But a gritty rear-guard action perfectly complemented the goalscoring exploits, shackling the usually potent West Ham forwards and minimising clear-cut chances given up.
A fairly even first half saw Rob Sterry miss two great chances before O’Connor profited from Hammers’ defensive indecision to round the keeper and slot home from the corner of the six-yard box.
And it was two on the stroke of half-time when, from a corner, the ball pinballed around at close-range before O’Connor poked home.
The hosts pinned Watford back for a 15-minute spell early into the second period, and player-manager Richard Walker was at his best in denying the Irons a route back into the game with a plunging low save from a headed-on long throw.
Preserving the two-goal lead meant a third Hornets’ goal would kill the game and it was Sterry – atoning for earlier misses – who was Johnny-on-the-spot in the box to provide it.
O’Connor swept home for his hat-trick before producing the best of his five finishes with a crisp half-volley from a near-impossible angle close to the byeline.
Such was Watford’s dominance, they had the ball in the West Ham area often enough as the game wound down to see a clearance hit O’Connor and rebound in for a sixth Hornets’ goal and a 16th goal of the season for the young striker.
There were stand-out performances all over the pitch – debutant Adam Gallichan impressed in central midfield – but only one candidate for ‘Man of the Match’: hotshot Mark ‘Junior’ O’Connor with his nap hand.
Team: Walker, E Sterry, Bateman, Butterick, Nicholls, Pegram, Gallichan, Holdham, Murphy, Wood, O’Connor, R Sterry. Sub not used: Clarke.