A Lloyd Dyer strike was enough to send Watford into round 2 of the Carling Cup. The recent addition from Leicester struck 7 minutes into the second half against Hertfordshire neighbors Stevenage.
Watford made 9 changes from their 3-0 opening victory over Bolton but they still named a strong side. U21 England keeper Jonathon Bond, ex West Brom defender Gabriel Tamas, Keith Andrews Republic Of Ireland International and Ferando Forestieri all started for the visitors. Stevenage adopted a 3-5-2 formation to combat Watford’s territorial possession, only making one change from Saturday’s home win. Forestieri was a constant bright spark for the Hornets, finding pockets of space and he had the first chance of the half but he shot over from outside the box.
The home side had the first real sight on goal after 13 minutes. Hold up play from Stevenage front man Darius Charles allowed Charlie Lee to receive his lay off. The ex Gillingham man unleashed a fizzing right foot shot which clipped the visitors post. As the half wore on, Stevenage began to get a foothold in the match but were nearly outdone by a quick free kick. After a foul on halfway, Keith Andrews spotted a run from Dyer behind the Boro defence but his touch went narrowly wide of Sam Beasant’s post. Stevenage changed back to 4-4-2 towards the end of the first half and apart from a 25 yard shot from Charlie Lee the first half was uneventful.
Watford began the second half brighter after a team talk from their manager, Beppe Sannino. 7 minutes into the half the deadlock was broken. Forestieri broke down the right flank and his forward pass found Diego Fabrini on the edge of the box. Fabrini beat his man then squared the ball to the supporting Lloyd Dyer. Dyer stepped the goal keeper and finished low into the net.
Stevenage began to open up more, pushing men forward in search of the equaliser. However Forestieri was having a field day picking up possession deeper and running at the Stevenage defense. Watford nearly doubled their lead after 58 minutes, Gianni Munari who joined on a season long loan from Parma pushed forward. Nice interchange between Dyer, Ighalo and the Italian saw the latter have his goal bound shot brilliantly saved by Beasant.
With 64 minutes gone the home side went agonizingly close to leveling the scores after good work down the left by Bira Dembele. His cross was volleyed at goal by Charles but the Stevenage front man saw his effort fantastically tipped over by Bond. With Stevenage looking for a goal, Watford continued to find spaces in the attacking third, playing on the break where they nearly doubled their lead with 9 minutes to go. Forestieri broke once again down the left and his clipped through ball to the advancing Dyer was perfect. The new signing from Leicester beat Ashton easily but saw his powerful shot canon off the bar.
With time decreasing, Stevenage last chance came when goalkeeper Beasant went up for a corner in added time. The summer signing for Woking saw his header go just wide. Watford were comfortable winners in the end, Stevenage looked solid at the back but lacking a creative spark in the final third. Charlie Lee and Chris Whelpdale are good signings for Stevenage but if they are to seek a return to League 1 then they will need Calvin Zola back fit soon. Watford highlighted their squad depth especially with Dyer and Forestieri looking lively all game. Jonathon Bond impressed in the Hornet’s goal with his performance including his distribution throughout.
Stevenage travel to Southend on Saturday before another away trip next Tuesday to Plymouth. Watford face two tough away trips going to relegated Norwich City on Saturday before travelling to the New York Stadium on Tuesday to face Play off Winners Rotherham.