Stevenage 0 Watford 2 - report and photo gallery

Gianfranco Zola in the dugout. Photo: Harry Hubbard

Gianfranco Zola in the dugout. Photo: Harry Hubbard - Credit: Archant

Boro suffer first loss of pre-season as Acuna and Deeney fire Watford to victory

Stevenage 0 Watford 2

Pre-season friendly

Stevenage suffered their first pre-season defeat of the summer, going down to Watford.

Boro’s Hertfordshire rivals resemble a Udinese B side these days; in fact, seven of the 18 players Gianfranco Zola gave run-outs to this afternoon were signed from the Hornets’ Italian sister in the two days leading up to this match, though on permanent deals rather than loans.

Watford’s fans were singing ‘we can sign who we waaahhh-annnttttt” during this encounter, though they are embracing a transfer policy that failed to get them promotion last season.

Watford looked good, especially down the left in the first-half with a couple of Jon Ashton sliding tackles helping to keep Stevenage on a par with their neighbours, but Boro showed promise.

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There was good movement, as well as a determination to chase down the ball when not in possession, from Oumare Tounkara, the former Sunderland striker, while Sam Wedgbury looked comfortable on the ball and Ashton looked sharp.

It wasn’t the best of games - and it was not helped by a total of 14 substitutions – but there were chances for both teams.

Tounkara, early in the first half, fired wide of goalkeeper Jonathan Bond’s goal, while Lewis McGugan forced a fine one-handed save from Chris Day after his side had soaked up a 10 minute period of Boro pressure.

Stevenage made a change at half-time with Roarie Deacon coming on for Lucas Akins, but it was Dani Lopez who had the first chance when he won his side a corner heading goalwards from a Greg Tansey free-kick only for Bond to save his effort.

It was the first of a handful of second-half opportunities for the Spaniard, but it was the closest he came to finding the back of the net as others flew over the crossbar and stand or towards the refreshment hut behind and to the right of the goal.

Watford took the lead on 51 minutes, though Boro thought the goal was offside.

It came from the boot of a Paraguayan, rather than an Italian, as substitute Carlos Acuna slid home after he had been found unmarked.

A second goal followed and this time Troy Deeney was the scorer, the front man being put in behind the Boro defence before rounding Day to tuck his effort home.

There were further chances – Deeney, off-balance, fired over, while Boro centre-back Luke Jones, up for a corner, headed into the side-netting – but the substitutions sapped the game and it slowly wound down to a 2-0 victory for the visitors.

Next up for Boro, on Tuesday, are Leeds United, before a Manchester United XI arrive on Friday evening.

Stevenage (4-4-2): Day; Wedgbury (Deaman 85), Hills, Ashton, Jones; Akins (Deacon 46), Freeman, Tansey (Ball 85), Heslop (Dunne 80); Tounkara (Bruna 80), Lopez (Burrow 70). Subs: Arnold, Gray.

Watford (3-5-2); Cassetti (Brown 60), Angella, Doyley; Faraoni (Mensah 65) McGugan (Fabbrini 45), Abdi (Battocchio 60), Hogg (Smith 60), Anya (Pudil 45); Forestieri (Acuna 45), Deeney (Assombalonga 72). Subs: Schoterri, O’Nien.

* For the photo gallery, click on the link on the right of the page.