WATFORD IFC were delighted to get their 25th anniversary 2022/23 campaign underway so early in the season; playing out a 4-1 defeat away to Preston North End Fans before taking in the main game at Deepdale soon after.
The Hornets sported two teenage debutants – Alfie Parkins and Joe Withey – as well as fellow 16-year-old Callum Maloney in midfield. At the other end of the age spectrum, 53-year-old debutant Simon Parkins – Alfie’s father – also lined up in the team alongside Dean Maloney and veteran player-manager Richard Walker.
And it was Withey who joined the ranks of WIFC’s 16-year-old goal-getters with a close-range finish after good work from Parkins junior, set away down the left by Walker. Essentially a consolation, the goal arrived 18 minutes from time after a typically strong PNE had fashioned a 4-0 interval lead with some neat interchange play down both flanks.
Being hurt by pace up front for the opposition, Walker switched Ben Kelly to a sweeper role and it served to stifle the host’s breakaway attempts. Paul Shelock’s experience was pushed into a holding midfield role, while Matt Ladell ably partnered Kelly with Stuart Sperinck filling in at full-back behind the determined Sam Elvery.
Nursing a sore ankle, Charlie Wood kept goal for the Hornets and had little chance with any of the Preston goals.
So although Watford didn’t carve out many openings after the break, the 12-strong squad could be proud to have put a difficult first half behind then to effectively ‘win’ the second period and travel onwards to Deepdale with their heads held high.
Hornets: Charlie Wood; Simon Parkins, Matt Ladell (c), Paul Shelock, Dean Maloney; Sam Elvery, Joe Withey, Callum Maloney, Stuart Sperinck, Alfie Parkins; Ben Kelly. Sub used: Richard Walker.