A strong Hornets side win at PriestfieldGianfranco Zola brought a very strong side to a chilly MEMS Priestfield Stadium for tonight’s Development friendly, including a number of internationals from various countries, and it was the Hornets that eventually ran out 4-1 winners following an entertaining 90 minutes.
Mark Patterson had five of this season’s first-teamers at his disposal for the game, Andy Frampton, Bradley Dack, Danny Kedwell, Jack Payne and Ben Strevens in a side captained by left-back Joe Carter.
In the Hornets squad was Czech Republic international Matej Vydra who had impressed with two goals in the pre-season friendly between the two sides back in August – thankfully he started on the bench.
It was the visitors who went ahead in the sixth minute, Geoffrey Mujangi Bia, the Belgian international on loan at Vicarage Road from Standard Liege, moved quickly onto a pass from Cristian Battachino and beat Daren Hawkes with a neat finish from the edge of the area.
While Watford were playing some nice football, the Gills began to create some decent chances. Dack fired over, Kedwell swept a chance over the bar and then failed to steer his header on target before Jake Hessenthaler knocked a free-kick back to Evans who crossed to the far post but McKain, in space, headed wide.
Having failed to take their opportunities, the visitors made the Gills pay by adding a second when Hawkes was left wrong-footed as Bia’s strike took a wicked deflection off the lunging Frampton.
In the 26th minute the Gills keeper pulled off a fine save by tipping round a long-range strike from Republic of Ireland Under-21 international Sean Murray.
Almost immediately at the other end Dack got in down the right-side but with just Jack Bonham to beat he curled a shot wide of the far post. Shortly afterwards the keeper made a hash of collecting a looping header from McKain, under pressure from Strevens, but Northern Ireland international Adam Thompson was able to hack clear.
The Gills scored a great team goal to reduce the deficit in the 39th minute, an initial ball from Josh Hare found Kedwell out on the right and he laid the ball back for Evans to cross. Carter did well at the far post to nod the ball back across the box for Dack to neatly swivel and find the bottom corner from six yards out.
H/T: 1 – 2
There were four changes to the Gills side at the break with Frampton, McKain, Payne and Kedwell being replaced by Tom Brunt, Alex Brown, Jack Parter and Nathan Nyafli. A positional change saw Evans moving into midfield.
It was the Gills that started on the offensive at the start of the second-half, Evans and Brown going close before Dack set up Evans for another strike from the edge of the area which forced Bonham to save low down to his left.
Murray fired over the top for Watford and then, on loan Udinese forward Alex Geigo, forced Hawkes to make a neat save low to his right.
On the hour there was another flurry of substitutions including Kane Haysman and George Humber taking the places of Dack and Strevens. The aforementioned Vydra, Almen Abdi and Prince Buaben were the Watford trio who came on.
Hawkes was again called into action to keep out a flying header from Steve Leo Beleck after Jean-Alain Fanchone crossed into the area.
Then with 15 minutes remaining the Hertfordshire side scored again, a low pass found Ghana international Buaben in space and he drilled home from the edge of the area.
Once again the Gills looked to hit back but Nyafli was unable to direct his header on target from Brown’s cross while Brown himself struck another shot wide.
The young midfielder was again in the action when he was first brought down by Connor Smith, but his resultant free-kick was deflected wide.
Luke Nalder replaced Hawkes in the 86th minute but he, and almost everyone else, was caught out by a Smith’s quickly taken free-kick two minutes later which sealed the visitors 4-1 victory.
Gills – Hawkes (Nalder 86) , Evans (Butcher 82), Carter, Hare, McKain (Brunt H/T), Frampton (Brown H/T), Hessenthaler, Dack (Haysman 60), Kedwell (Nyafli H/T), Payne (Parter H/T), Strevens (Nyafli 60)
Hornets: Bonham (Shoertel 88), Johnson (Bobb 78), Fanchone, McGinn (Mensah 70), Thompson, Murray (Abdi 60), Beleck, Battachio (Smith H/T), Bia (Buaben 60), Geijo (Vydra 60), Newton.