Late equaliser extends unbeaten run

ON a cold and blustery morning in south west London, WIFC fought out a respectable 3-3 draw with AFC Wimbledon and extended their unbeaten run against the hosts A team to 13 games. A waterlogged pitch resulted in a last minute venue change, which saw the game played in the leafy London suburb of Barnes.
The strong wind and difficult pitched caused the Internet ‘Orns problems from the off, as the home side gradually took control of the first half. Despite being on the back foot, Watford defended will and protected stand in keeper Michael De Crescenzo from most of the direct action. Wimbledon used the conditions well and surprisingly proving to be a significant aerial threat. They caused problems from each of their numerous free kicks and corners, and it was of no surprise when they finally found the net late in the half.
Up until then the visitors, deployed a 3-5-2 formation, had found possession in the opposing half difficult. As we have seen before conceding a goal caused an immediate reaction, and the equaliser came within 5 minutes. A long throw from Ben Pegram caused havoc in the Dons penalty area, and Mark O’Connor was on the spot to drill home his 11th goal of the season.
Watford started the second well. Now on the front foot and closing down the opposition higher up the field, it was Wimbledon ‘s turn to struggle in possession. It took less than 10 minutes to take the lead as O’Connor picked the centre half’s pocket just over the halfway line and carried the ball to the edge of the box. In a two on one situation, he found his strike partner Joel Moody, who slipped it past the goalkeeper to put the golden boys in front.
In full control now, Watford threatened but were unable to add to the score. However concentration seemed to wander, and Wimbledon came back into the game. They equalised after their aerial dominance returned, netting from a rebound after heading against the bar. Then with 15 to go, they took the lead again following a mix up between De-Crescenzo and Ben Bateman, the latter getting the final touch to a low cross.
Going all out for and equaliser, Watford regained their previous dominance but could not find the net. With seconds to go, Pegram’s corner was knocked back into the 6 yard box by late substitute Moz Clarke, and touched home by Charlie Wood. There was only enough time to kick off before the final whistle went.
It was not one of our most fluent performances, but there was plenty of grit against good opponents. A draw was fair for both sides in the end and a return fixture later in the season would be an entertaining watch.
Team. 3-5-2, R to L
Mike De-Crescenzo; John Sitkowski, Ally Hill, Ben Bateman; Cleveland Brandy, Charlie Wood, Stuart Nicholls, Richard Murphy, Ben Pegram; Joel Moody, Mark O’Connor. Subs Dave Sitkowski, Moz Clarke.

Battling WIFC seal narrow win

A GRITTY second-half rearguard action from WIFC saw them hang onto a hard-earned lead to defeat doughty opposition in MK Dons 4-3 at Woodside – and, in doing so recorded their 9th win of the season.

Ross Connor had the hosts ahead inside a minute, stealing in between goalkeeper and centre-back to pinch possession and slot home his 4th goal of the season in efficient manner.
And it was 2-0 from the penalty spot some 20 minutes later when Joel Moody converted his first goal since returning from long-term injury, having picked himself up from being upended while trying to waltz past a handful of Dons’ challenges inside the box.
Richard Walker replaced the injured Jez Hinds in goal and was soon reaching for the ball from his own net after a breakaway reply from the Milton Keynes visitors halved WIFC’s advantage on the stroke of half-time.
Man-of-the-Match Charlie Wood, who received the stand-in prize of the Ayr United pennant in the absence of its Morecambe counterpart, was everywhere in central midfield for Watford – and it was from his 15-yard shot that Mark O’Connor pounced to stab home his 10th goal of an impressive debut season from the rebound, to make it 3-2 around 15 minutes into the second half.
That came after a Dons’ leveller with WIFC caught out by a hopeful free-kick forward. The flight of the ball evaded centre-half Paul Watt and left the visiting striker with a simple tap-in.
The Internet ‘Orns restored their two-goal cushion thanks to a fine free-kick delivery from wide which was powered home by the head (or possibly nose) of Dave Soloway for his 4th of the season.
But MK Dons weren’t done. And from something like the 20th long throw launched into the Watford box, most of which had been commandingly dealt with by Walker’s come-for-everything policy, the WIFC keeper could only palm out the latest missile to a grateful Dons’ goalscorer.
There were one or two further anxious moments for WIFC as late pressure was applied, but the Hornets hung tough for a win by the odd goal in seven.
Squad (all played): Hinds, Walker, Watt, Maloney, Stone, De Crescenzo, Clarke, Fellas, Butterick, Wood, Murphy, Moody, Soloway, Connor, O’Connor.
Goalscorers: Connor, Moody (pen), O’Connor, Soloway.

Dan Butterick

Position – Centre Half
Apps – 49
Goals – 6
Worldnets – 2
Debut v Unknown Opponents – 2006
Nicknames – Grumpy

After years as a ‘fill-in when short’ mate of the Sterry’s, Dan joined the squad full-time for the start of the 2015/16 season and ended it as player of the year, thanks in no small part to his superb performances at Worldnet in Preston. Determined and skilful, Dan is equally at home in a number of positions and his recent move to Sydney has left a gap in the squad, though it’s hoped the occasional visit home will see him join the 50 appearance club.

95. Ben Bateman

Position – Centre Back
Apps – 34
Goals – 2
Worldnets – 0
Debut v Southampton – June 2013
Nicknames – Horse

A goalscoring debut as a striker against Southampton in 2013 was a unique introduction to WIFC for centre half Ben, who has since made the defensive position his home where his speed and strength bely his young age. Given the nickname Horse by Moz Clarke, Ben was first introduced to the team by Ed Sterry and is now a key member of the squad.

93. Cleveland Brandy

Position – Right Back
Apps – 13
Goals – 1
Worldnets – 0
Debut v WBA – March 2015
Nicknames – C-Dog

Arguably the greatest name in WIFC history, Cleveland was another ticket office staff member recruited to the ranks who has gone on to become a regular. Deceptively quick, Cleveland scored a belter of a first goal for the club at Manchester City and also played a memorable hand in the IFA cup win at St Johnstone in his first season.

59. Charlie Wood

Position – Centre Midfield
Apps – 23
Goals – 10
Worldnets – 0
Debut v Man City – Aug 2015
Nicknames – None, yet. Somehow.

Midfielder Charlie had a memorable first season with the club in 2015/16. After a debut at Man City, he opened his goalscoring account with a spectacular hat-trick at West Ham and became a key player in either midfield or up front. Off the pitch, a spot of bother the night before the St Johnstone cup tie added to the story and ensured that Charlie has become an integral member of the squad.

45. Mark O’Connor

Position – Striker
Apps – 28
Goals – 31
Worldnets – 0
Debut v WBA – August 2015
Nicknames – Junior

It had to happen, and when Mark exploded onto the WIFC scene in 2015 it did, as he became the first player to appear for the club who was born after its 1997 bow. His first goal came in a total of 4 against Tranmere in an IFA Cup tie early that season and was the beginning of a prolific spell to date, which saw him finish his first season with 20 goals and a best newcomer award.

30. Kristian Melson

Position – Goalkeeper
Apps – 4
Goals – 0
Worldnets – 0
Debut v Stevenage – September 2016
Nicknames – Bob

Another recent recruit to the ranks, keeper Kristian joined at the start of the 2016/17 season. One of the matchday Vicarage Roadie team at Watford, Kristian went on to keep a clean sheet in his second start against AFC Wimbledon and increases the options between the sticks for the Internet ‘Orns.

29. Lamar St Cyr

Position – Left Midfield
Apps – 10
Goals – 2
Worldnets – 0
Debut v Brentford Hey Jude – Sep 2015
Nicknames – None, yet

Speedy midfielder Lamar was another player recruited from the ticket office staff at Vicarage Road to help boost numbers for an away game and has stuck around ever since. Lamar’s first season saw him earn a man of the match award in the IFA cup tie against Tranmere and played a key role in the away win at St Johnstone later in the campaign.

26. David Sitkowski

Position – Central Defender
Apps – 18
Goals – 2
Worldnets – 0
Debut v Unknown Opponents – 2013
Nicknames – Phil Neville

The younger of the Sitkowski brothers, hence acquiring the unfortunate nickname above, David joined shortly after older brother John and has made himself at home in the WIFC backline since making his debut in 2013. Having also notched on two occasions, David has become a valued member of the side.