19 year wait ends in style

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.

Four-za Watford as Hatters brushed aside

WATFORD IFC made full use of a strong line-up to run out emphatic winners against their Luton Town counterparts; 4-1 the final score on the manicured surface of Watford FC’s academy training pitches.

Aside from an early spell of brief pressure, this was a game the Hornets were well in control of, using the full width of the pitch to create numerous promising situations.

Tom Labbett stroked the hosts ahead after 20 minutes, arriving late in the box to finish a low cross from Ben Kelly who had been found by Frank Smith – making a welcome return to the WIFC fold.

The single-goal interval lead was doubled not long into the second 45 when Kelly turned the ball home at the far post before displaying his trademark exuberant celebration.

Captain Ally Hill, who would later have a goal controversially ruled out amid confusion surrounding the goal netting, scored Watford’s third from close-range.

Charlie Wood danced round the keeper to round off a sweeping Hornets’ move for the fourth – but only after the Hatters had given themselves brief hope with a set-piece goal thanks to pretty much the only defensive lapse of the morning from Watford.

Manager Richard Walker returned to action in goal, but the outstanding performance from the back four ensured a largely untroubled 90 minutes as he begins to prepare his side for the IFA British Cup Final against Queen’s Park in Preston a fortnight hence.

Internet ‘Orns: Walker; Stone, D Sitkowski, Moss, Smith; Shelock, Anderson, Labbett; St-Cyr, Hill (c), Kelly.
Subs used: C Brandy, Viney, Wood, Church.
Sub not used: O’Connor.

Preston pick up the points at the Vic

THIS very special occasion proved a game of two halves in more than one way, with hosts Watford rallying after a slow start to go down 5-3 to their visitors from Preston North End, as the Vicarage Road stadium hosted it’s first ever IFA league fixture.

The travelling opposition were too hat to handle for WIFC’s starting line-up for much of the first 45 minutes, cruising into a 5-1 interval lead – abetted by some poor defensive decision-making – with only captain Stu Nicholls’ right-foot finish after good work from Mark O’Connor to show for their toil.

O’Connor was a constant threat down the wide expanses of The Vic’s generously-sized carpet of a playing surface, while elsewhere across the pitch the Internet ‘Orns struggled to cope with PNE’s movement and swift interchange play – this despite the best efforts of centre-halves Dan Moss and Mike Viney.

It was a different story after the break with the second-half team playing higher up the pitch and forcing North End into the kind of errors in possession that they hadn’t been under pressure often enough to make pre-interval.

Around five minutes into the second 45, WIFC’s hopes of an unlikely come-back were raised when Charlie Wood slotted home after the ball broke kindly to him from a spree of tough tackles between the sides.

And although the come-back didn’t materialise in full, the Hornets took advantage of their fresh legs to enjoy the better of territory although Preston’s swift passing always offered a threat on the counter. Player-manager Richard Walker was forced into several smart reaction saves to ensure the visitors didn’t add to their tally.

There was just time before the final whistle for the arrears to be reduced to two when Ally Hill crashed home a header from a corner.

Full-time was followed by beers & pizza for everyone in the Players’ Lounge after a very special opportunity to play on the award-winning hallowed turf of Vicarage Road.

First Half: Mesiano; Ainsley, Viney, Moss, P Labbett; Holdham, Sperinck, Anderson; O’Connor, Nicholls (c), Church.
Second Half: Walker, Maloney, Viney, Hill, Ladell, Shelock, Stone, Murphy; Elvery, Wood, T Labbett.
Subs used: Eustice, Wells.

All bets are off for Holdham

STU HOLDHAM’s losing wager with player-manager Richard Walker during Watford IFC’s 4-0 win against Hey Jude FC (Brentford) provided us all with a stark reminder of the anti-gambling slogan “when the fun stops, STOP”.

Two-nil up half-way through the second 45, the towering midfielder spied his boss readying for an outfield cameo – having played the first half-hour in goal. Holdham struck a bet in promising that he’d run round the pitch naked if Walker scored. Not three minutes after entering the field, the player-manager duly obliged with one of his chipped specials from just outside the box.

Mercifully, Holdham spared any in-game blushes but did keep his word when the full-time whistle blew. Video evidence is available but has been swiftly archived to spare the TV warm-up man his blushes.

A competitive HJFC used a combination of long kicks from the goalkeeper and a combative approach to recovering second balls to keep the Hornets hemmed in their own defensive third for much of the first-half, but a steely resistance led by centre-halves Dan Moss and Matt Ladell helped repelled the main Bees’ threats.

Seeing off that pressure proved key to Watford’s success since, once Charlie Wood swept home the loose change from a 42nd-minute corner, WIFC never looked back and took control of the second half at the Hounslow venue.

The game’s other notable feature was a goal apiece for dynamic Sitkowski duo ‘Gary & Phil’. John it was who notched first, bundling home from a corner just after the hour mark.

David then took centre-stage with a late piledriver from 25 yards, the goal of the game which completed the scoring for an excellent 4-0 victory.

And, just like the week before in the South-East Cup Final, youngster Tyrone Brandy was nominated as WIFC’s ‘Man of the Match’; the level of his performances increasing visibly week-on-week.

Internet ‘Orns: Walker; Maloney, Ladell, Moss, Ainsley; J Sitkowski, Holdham, Church; Murphy, Wood, T Labbett.Subs used: D Sitkowski, Maloney, Mesiano, P Labbett, T Brandy, Anderson.

Double delight for the Internet ‘Orns

WATFORD INTERNET FC won the South-East Cup for a second time, running out convincing 6-0 winners over long-time rivals and friends West Ham United IFC at Kings Langley’s Orbital Fasteners Stadium.

Kicking off what would prove to be a very special day in the history of both WIFC and the big club’s team, the Hornets found in the Hammers obdurate and durable opposition for all of the first 45 minutes.

Mark O’Connor’s fine low volley was the only goal of that opening half, and provided some sense of relief to the Hornets given their enjoyment of the lion’s share of territory and chances.

Yet, despite the comfortable final scoreline, it was with the usual West Ham dangers at large that the switching of Man-of-the-Match Cleveland Brandy from full-back to a central man-marking role proved crucial. He snuffed out the Irons’ key threat and allowed Watford to take an iron grip on possession and, ultimately, the silverware up for grabs.

Adam Gallichan swept home after Ben Kelly’s header from a cross was saved for Watford’s second, and then WIFC ran in four more as the second half wore on and West Ham tired in trying to cope with the Hornets’ movement.

Impressing at full-back, Tyrone Brandy then pushed forward to combine with Mark O’Connor to lay the third on a plate for Charlie Wood.

Kelly then notched one of his own after more good set-up play from O’Connor, with numbers five (Wood) and six (Gallichan) following towards the game’s conclusion to confirm Watford IFC’s superiority.

Internet ‘Orns: Hill; C Brandy, J Sitkowski, Moss, Church; Anderson, Stone, Labbett; O’Connor, Wood, Nicholls (c).
Subs used: D Sitkowski, T Brandy, Gallichan, Kelly, St-Cyr.
Subs not used: Mesiano (GK).
Man-of-the-Match: Cleveland Brandy
Officials: Chris Geelan, Yiannis Stavropoulus, Peter Fisher

Derby Day spoils for Hatters Fans

HATTERS FANS FC deservedly took the derby spoils after a somewhat attritional 2-1 victory over the Internet ‘Orns on a sunny morning in Stockwood Park, Luton.

Both the host’s goals came from set-pieces – one in each half and split by a Hornets’ penalty won and converted by striker Mark O’Connor.

Luton enjoyed the lion’s share of possession but both sides struggled to create too many clear-cut chances with the sloping and bobbly pitch not proving conducive to any attempts at good football.

Played in the good spirit that’s become the norm between these two local rivals, the Hatters took the lead on 25 minutes when an inswinging free-kick was guided home from eight yards by an unmarked attacker.

Watford were on level terms eight minutes before half-time when O’Connor was tripped near the byeline as he shaped to head towards goal. Atoning for his miss against the same opposition at the start of a Covid-abridged season, he went for power and drilled the spot-kick home low with the Hatters’ keeping guessing to dive in the other direction.

WIFC had been particularly competitive during the game’s first 30 minutes but were unable to sustain their momentum and Town gradually took a grip on territorial advantage before a corner was converted by a near-post flick – possibly lastly off a Watford head – with around 30 minutes left for play.

O’ Connor spurned a glorious chance to equalise for a second time when, having pounced on a short back-pass, he struck a post before awkwardly volleying the rebound over the bar.

Having carved out another chance, well saved, soon after through individual skill, O’Connor’s was the last real sight of the Hatters’ goal as Watford’s efforts petered out towards full-time.

Hornets: Mesiano; Ladell, Anderson, Moss, T Brandy; Sperinck, Murphy, St-Cyr, Nicholls (c), Soloway, C Bateman.Subs used: D Sitkowski, Wood, O’Connor, C Brandy, Stone.

The teams line up before kick-off

Internet ‘Orns back at the races

WATFORD IFC marked the official resumption of Internet FA action for the 2020/21 season with a 6-3 come-from-behind win at home to AFC Wimbledon.

The Wombles raced into an early two-goal advantage with the Hornets seemingly still emerging from footballing hibernation – despite a midweek Powerleague get-together.

It took 16 minutes for the arrears to be halved during the first half of the 12-a-side match on the giant playing surface inside Watford FC’s training ground inflatable dome. Ben Kelly drove down the left flank and stabbed low across the face of goal for Alex Newman – arriving at the far post – to poke home.

Kelly then levelled the scores himself, breaking free of two challenges to drill the ball low past the Dons’ keeper.

Adam Gallichan put the Golden Boys 3-2 ahead shortly before half-time, but the goal of the game – as the momentum edged back in the host’s favour – came eight minutes into the second 45 when a sweeping passing move through the thirds ended with a neat low finish by Charlie Wood.

The Wombles re-pressed their claims and found a third goal to set up the potential of a nervy finish to the game for WIFC. But two Mark O’Connor goals, separated by just two minutes, put some added gloss on the final scoreline with just over ten minutes left for play.

Hornets: Mesiano; T Brandy, J Sitkowski, D Sitkowsi, Ainsley; A Newman, T Labbett, Stone, Anderson, St-Cyr; Gallichan, Kelly. Subs used: O’Connor, C Brandy, Viney, Church, Wood, Hill.
Goals: A Newman, Kelly, Gallichan, Wood, O’Connor x 2

Newman treble seals Cup Final berth for Internet ‘Orns

Watford Internet FC reached the final of the Covid-delayed 2019/20 South East Cup with a spirited come-from-behind 3-1 victory at AFC Wimbledon.

Teenager Alex Newman will rightly take the lion’s share of the headlines with a second-half hat-trick which saw the Hornets recover from the set-back of going a goal down on the hour after a goalless and somewhat attritional first 45 minutes – albeit goalkeeper Matt Mesiano having to make two fine stops.

Newman wasn’t alone in his second-half heroics, however, with centre-half Ben Bateman turning in a particularly impressive display against a barrage of free-kicks and long throws launched into Watford’s box on an uneven Raynes Park pitch which proved tricky going for both sides.

A masterful tactical switch from manager Richard Walker saw the Hornets deploy the pace of Cleveland Brandy as sweeper as well as pushing the livewire Newman up alongside first Ally Hill and then stand-in striker Tom Anderson.

Wimbledon struck first with a fierce cross-shot, and they were ahead until the 72nd minute when Newman raced clear, rounded the goalie and coolly slotted home from a diminishing angle. This was evidence of the visitors taking the aerial route after the break, preferring to avoid the pitfalls of trying to play through the thirds. 

Cleveland Brandy – whose cousin Tyrone Brandy made an impressive debut at right-back – picked out Newman for the first and then, with eight minutes to go and penalties looming, Hill flicked on for Newman to slot home.

It was 3-1 and game over in injury-time when Newman was felled for a penalty which he eventually took himself; despite the best efforts to grab the ball of Lamar St-Cyr whose 50-yard run from the left flank sought to deny the youngster his treble.

So an evenly-matched and good-spirited contest finally went the way of the Hornets, who go through to meet long-time rivals and friends West Ham IFC in a final yet to be arranged.

Hornets: Mesiano; T Brandy, Bateman, D Sitkowski, St-Cyr; Anderson, Moss (c), T Labbett; C Brandy, Hill, A Newman.Sub used: Kelly. Sub not used: P Labbett.

Brave Hatters deflated by late winner

HAVING enjoyed more comfortable wins over this spirited opposition from Bedfordshire, it was a different story inside Watford FC training ground’s inflatable dome as Watford IFC laboured to an ill-deserved 2-1 victory over Hatters Fans FC.
This 12-a-side encounter (agreed due to dome pitch size) was by far the closest of the recent contests – played once again in true IFA spirit, and refereed well by Jez Hinds.
Luton’s containment policy had failed them on previous occasions, but this time the Hornets got frustrated with their own below-par passing game combined with indecision in the final third.
It took a mix-up between visiting goalkeeper and defender to grant the Internet ‘Orns a 1-0 interval lead with an own-goal from a Ben Kelly header moments before the half-time whistle.
Watford improved marginally after the break, but there could be no denying Town’s claim to a deserved equaliser when a long ball forward from a free-kick was meant with a firm header to restore parity.
Despite many personnel changes in the search for a magic formula, the Hornets continued to look unlikely to take the game by the scruff of the neck. It took a rare moment of quality 12 minutes from time – a turn and emphatic finish by Adam Gallichan – to finally break the stubborn opposition resistance.
WIFC: Matt Mesiano; Matt Ainsley, Ben Bateman, Michael Viney, David Sitkowski; Rob Stone, John Sitkowski, Tom Labbett; Alex Newman, Adam Gallichan, Richard Murphy, Stuart Nicholls (c).
Subs used: Lamar St-Cyr, Charlie Wood, Connor Church, Dean Maloney, Ben Kelly.