Stevenage competed well in tonight’s pre-season friendly with Premier League Watford but fell to defeat thanks to two second half goals.
A thunderbolt from Etienne Capoue five minutes after the break looked to be all that separated the teams until Jerome Sinclair’s header right on full-time, but Boro worked hard throughout and had chances of their own.
Darren Sarll named a strong looking starting XI with Jamie Jones between the sticks and Andrew Fox starting at left-back alongside Franks, Wilkinson and Henry. Michael Tonge and Dale Gorman were named in the middle with Kennedy and a trialist out wide, with Rowan Liburd partnered with Matt Godden up top.
Watford, meanwhile, named a strong first team line-up packed with Premier League quality that included Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo up front
Straight away the prolific duo were into the action with Deeney mishitting the ball in the box on three minutes and Andrew Fox clearing off the line from Ighalo moments later. However not overawed by their opponents, Stevenage were soon in the action themselves. Michael Tonge was enjoying a good start to the game and it was his sixth minute pass through that set-up Liburd but the big striker dragged his shot wide of Gomes’ post.
The game continued with periods of possession for both sides but chances were proving at a premium with defences on top in the early stages.
With 26 minutes on the clock it looked for all the world like Watford would score when Ighalo raced through the Boro defence. He rounded Jones, cut back inside another defender and smashed at goal only for Fraser Franks to somehow clear off the line.
Stevenage’s best chance of the half fell to Matt Godden just before the break. A great touch inside the box by the striker, who looked lively throughout the half, allowed him to get away from his marker but he could only fire over the bar.
Boro made six changes at the break but five minutes into the second half they found themselves 2-0 down when the outstanding Etienne Capoue found room on the edge of the area and hit a rocket past Jones into the far corner.
A minute later Michael Tonge found himself 25 yards out and tried the same, but cleared the crossbar.
Watford continued to search for openings but Stevenage were holding firm, albeit with the help of the woodwork. Ighalo rattled the bar on the turn after the ball fell to him in the box with Deeney then slotting past sub Chris Day on 67 minutes, only for his shot to bounce out off the post.
Deeney again found himself through with 12 minutes remaining but this time Day saved and the ball was cleared.
Stevenage looked neat and tidy in stages but Watford’s Premier League class was showing as attacks were often snuffed out. That said Dipo Akinyemi’s pace was a threat in the second half and one run on 81 minutes saw him get down the left and play the ball in, only for Pett to shoot straight at Arlauskis.
The Premier League visitors continued to push in the closing minutes but looked to be leaving with just the single goal, until Jerome Sinclair nodded home from yards seconds before Mr Deadman’s final whistle.
Next up for Stevenage is a trip to Bishop’s Stortford on Saturday afternoon before Brighton & Hove Albion visit The Lamex Stadium on Saturday 23rd July (5.30pm). Tickets for this game can be bought at www.borotickets.co.uk.
Stevenage: Jones (Day 62), Henry (Donnellan 46), Wilkinson (Johnson 62), Franks (Wells 46), Fox (Kerr 62), Kennedy (Akinyemi 46), Tonge (Trialist 62), Gorman (Lee 46), Trialist (Pett 46), Liburd (Trialist 46), Godden (Gray 62)
Watford: Gomes (Arlauskis 46), Nyom, Britos, Hoban, Holebas (Abdi 63), Amrabat (Anya 46), Suarez (Doucoure 46), Capoue, Berghuis (Guedioura 46 (Success 73)), Deeney (Vydra 83), Ighalo (Sinclair 63)
Referee: Darren Deadman