A TYPICALLY pulsating encounter with old adversaries West Ham ended in a 3-3 draw for Watford IFC at a blustery Woodside, as Matt Ainsley marked his 44th birthday by skippering the Internet ‘Orns.
The Irons started much the brighter and deservedly took the game by the scruff of the neck with two goals inside the first 25 minutes. It left Watford facing an uphill task yet – spurred on by the combative central midfield duo of Derek Payne and James Jenkins – they weren’t about to accept their fate.
That said, it was the Hammers who gifted the Hornets a lifeline when an innocuous back-pass bobbled over the visiting keeper’s swipe and dribbled apologetically into the bottom corner of the West Ham net.
Just 2-1 down at half-time gave the hosts hope, but another sluggish start to a half cost Watford a third goal against and an uphill battle looked firmly on the cards – both mentally and literally, working their way up the Woodside slope.
But battle back they did, with player-manager Richard Walker combining to good effect up front with Mark O’Connor to push the Hammers back and earn some territorial advantage – and fellow subs Adam Gallichan and Lamar St-Cyr providing much-needed impetus.
The pressure told on 70 minutes when Walker curled a delightful strike up over the wall and inside the near post from a 20-yard free-kick.
The goal of the game came eight minutes later when Jenkins burst forward from midfield, exchanged a one-two with O’Connor, then stabbed the ball past the outrushing goalkeeper.
A couple of late opportunities could have sent the win either way but both sides shook hands on a hard-fought and worthy draw.
David Morren was in fine form at left-back, however he was pipped to the man-of-the-match award by Payne; the absence of the MoM Onesie denying him the chance to perform co-commentary duties at Vicarage Road in the XXL outfit.
Team: Tom Beck; Matt Ainsley (c), Stuart Holdham, Stuart Nicholls, Dave Morren; Ed Sterry, Derek Payne, James Jenkins, Max Walters; Lee Stiles, Joel Moody. Subs: Lamar St-Cyr, Phil McBride, Adam Gallichan, Mark O’Connor, Richard Walker.