WATFORD IFC will face Maidstone United’s fans team in the semi-final of the South East Cup this weekend, after a win by the odd goal in nine at home to their Kentish rivals Gillingham on March 24th.
The team, managed by Moz Clarke with Richard Walker having to referee, was grateful to two debutants in accomplished centre-halves Tom Curson and Lewis Brentham; Stuart Nicholls disobeying the golden rule of never introducing new players to the squad that are better than you.
The Gills’ persistence notwithstanding, it was more Hornets’ errors that kept the visitors in this tie, with Gillingham’s third and fourth goals of a 5-4 scoreline coming from a clumsily-conceded penalty kick and a comedy own-goal one minute from full-time.
In between the goalscoring action, Watford settled into a decent passing rhythm at times, with central midfield duo James Jenkins and Ben Kelly at the heart of much of the host’s progressive play.
That said, the first goal was 34 minutes in coming. ‘Kenbele’ slotted striker Adam Gallichan through; he lunged at the loose ball which broke off the outrushing Gills’ keeper for Lamar St-Cyr to expertly sweep it home off the underside of the crossbar from the corner of the penalty area.
Gills replied with a tidy leveller to restore parity going into the break, but just three second-half minutes had elapsed when Gallichan was rewarded for an ambitious 25-yard strike when it dipped under the goalkeeper’s grasp.
Two more Watford goals around the hour mark appear to have put the tie to bed. First a Jenkins centre flew across the face of goal and was turned in at close-range by Gallichan, then Mark O’Connor produced the game’s best piece of skill to flick a through-ball over his marker before half-volleying home to make it 4-1.
But Gillingham wouldn’t lie down and hit a second mid-way through the second 45, knocking Watford off their stride somewhat. The home team found a fifth, though, when with 12 minutes remaining sub Ben Bateman slammed home into the side of the net from 12 yards – a well-taken first-time shot after a set-piece broke his way.
Then came two late visitor’s goals and some nervy late set-piece defending by Watford to eventually close out the game as winners by five goals to four.
TEAM: Ben Pegram; Matt Ainsley, Tom Curson, Lewis Bentham, Stuart Nicholls (c); Lamar St-Cyr, James Jenkins, Ben Kelly, Richard Murphy; Adam Gallichan, Mark O’Connor.
Subs used: Tom Davison, Ben Bateman. Sub not used: Martin Pollard.