WATFORD IFC ended a 19 year wait to achieve a second IFA British Cup Final berth in the club’s history, with a resounding 8-3 win over a gritty Queen’s Park at the neutral venue of Croston, near Preston, on a sweltering hot Saturday afternoon.
Four goals apiece from Man-of-the-Match Mark O’Connor and Adam Gallichan put the tie out of the reach of Queen’s, who had taken an early lead and then later reduced the Internet ‘Orns’ lead from 5-1 to 5-3 in a couple of second-half minutes.
O’Connor’s first three came in the form of a quick-fire first-half hat-trick. He equalised from the penalty spot on 17 minutes after Ben Kelly had been adjudged to have been fouled just inside the penalty area.
Then a dribble and shot too hot to handle for the Queen’s stopper made it 2-1 before O’Connor himself was bundled over on 24 minutes before converting the spot-kick himself.
Always a threat on the break, the Scottish side threatened more than once during what remained before half-time, particularly from some devilish inswinging corner-kick deliveries.
But WIFC took a grip on a final place in the space of four minutes at the start of the second half. Charlie Wood’s shot after just 90 seconds rebounded out to Tom Labbett who unselfishly squared for sub Adam Gallichan to stroke home the first of his second-half four-goal salvo.
Three minutes later it was 5-1 when the striker chipped the goalkeeper with a first-time shot which grazed the inside of the post before nestling in the goal.
But Queen’s weren’t done and rallied with two goals of their own, capitalising on a period of lackadaisical play from those in yellow. The pair of strikes – one a neat turn and finish from close-range and the other a bundled effort after a defensive mix-up – gave new hope at 5-3, but a drinks break gave manager Richard Walker a chance to remind his Watford charges of the job in hand.
They responded well; but there was controversy attached to the Hornets’ sixth. The officials didn’t initially spot an injured Queen’s player some way from a Watford dead-ball and a quickly-taken free-kick saw Gallichan drive a thunderous strike in off the underside of the crossbar from 20 yards.
Watford’s seventh – and Gallichan’s fourth – came when he pounced on a short backpass to round the keeper and feather a rolled finish in from virtually on the byeline.
O’Connor then matched his teammate’s total when he made most of good work by Tyrone Brandy to complete the 8-3 scoreline.
Both teams decamped to Croston Sports Club for post-match pints and a chat, as Watford thoughts now turn to just a second IFA British Cup Final appearance when they’ll be going for a first-ever win against St Johnstone in the traditional WorldNet Friday night slot.
Bateman; C Brandy, Viney, Moss, Church; Wood, J Sitkowski, Labbett; O’Connor, Hill, Kelly.
Subs used: T Brandy, St-Cyr, Ladell, Gallichan.
Subs not used: Walker.