Boreham Wood 1-1 Watford
By Tashan Deniran-Alleyne – Football Exclusives
Pictures: Alan Cozzi
James Russell was the hero for Boreham Wood as his second half penalty save ensured his side held on to deny new Watford boss Gianfranco Zola a win in his first game in charge.
The spotlight was firmly on the Italian as he marked his return to the dugout in England and Piero Mingoia’s sixth minute goal looked to have set the Hornets on their way to a win but his strike was cancelled out by David Hutton’s inch perfect lobbed effort.
The hosts made two changes to the side which held Stevenage at the weekend as Lewis Ferrell was handed a start in place of veteran Mark Jones in defence and Elliott Buchanan came in for Omer Riza in attack as he partnered the in-form Inih Effiong.
For the visitors they included the likes of John Eustace, Nyron Nosworthy and Chris Iwelumo in their first half team, with wholesale changes expected at half time.
The first chance of the game fell to Wood after barely a minute as Effiong, looking to make it three in three found space on the edge of the area and curled effort an effort inches wide of the far post as the hosts started the game strongly.
The Championship side hit back immediately with an attack of their own as Carl Dickinson’s left wing cross fell to Gavin Massey on the right hand side of the penalty area but he could only shoot over the bar.
That served as a warning as the winger turned provider when the Hornets stung Wood by taking the lead with six minutes on the clock when Iwelumo and Massey combined down the right to leave Mingoia with the simple task of a tap in to give his new boss a perfect start.
The goal didn’t faze the home side as they looked to get back on level terms straight from the kick-off through Buchanan as he curled his effort wide before Hutton attempted to catch Jonathan Bond off his line but his lob was too strong to test the ‘keeper.
Minutes later Hutton did grab the equaliser as the Watford ‘keeper came out and inadvertently cleared the ball directly to the midfielder who accepted the gift and curled a lobbed effort into the corner of the net despite the desperate attempts of the Hornets defenders.
Bond made amends for his mistake soon after by producing the best save of the half from point blank range to deny Effiong from adding to his Pre-Season tally. The striker was impressing again for the hosts who had Luke Garrard to thank after he produced a timely block to take the sting out of Massey’s goalbound effort.
Following Craig Forsyth heading over Mingoia’s left wing cross just after the half hour mark, the game got scrappy as the fast start looked to have taken a lot out of both sets of players as no more chances arrived before half-time, with the Blue Square Bet South side proving to be more than a match for their Championship counterparts.
The start of the second half brought about changes for both sides as the hosts replaced Buchanan and Ferrell with Riza and Lee Close while the visitors brought out their expected second half team with Martin Taylor and Joe Garner amongst those introduced to the game.
Watford started the second period the stronger, forcing a succession of corners and free-kicks which came to no avail, but the lively Garner was causing trouble for the Wood backline and he forced Russell into a decent stop at his near post then fellow Sub. Mark Yeates curled a free-kick high and wide with the away side pushing to re-take the lead.
They were handed a golden opportunity to do so just before the hour mark when the Referee pointed to the penalty spot for a foul by Callum Reynolds on Garner in the area, the striker got up and placed the ball but his spot kick was saved by Russell, who brilliantly flung himself to the left to keep the scores level.
The hosts had struggled to create much in the second half, seemingly feeling the effects of their third game in seven days, but had a decent chance in the 68th minute when Hutton beautifully controlled a long pass on the edge of the penalty area before cutting back for Graeme Montgomery who ran on to the ball but could only drag his effort wide of the post.
As the game entered the closing stages Matty Whichelow stung the hands of Substitute ‘keeper Daniel Lewis, then at the other end Harvey Scott-Morris headed over from Montgomery’s free-kick, moments later Watford’s Substitute ‘keeper was adjudged to handle outside his area and a resulting in a free-kick which Captain Mario Noto whistled just over the bar.
The final chance of the game fell to the Championship side but Dan Pudil blazed high and wide with the final kick of the game to ensure Boreham Wood would draw their third successive Pre-Season game.
Team: Russell (Sub – Lewis 73 mins.), Ferrell (Sub – Close 45 mins.), Nunn, Noto, Garrard, Reynolds (Sub – Doolan 79 mins.), Hutton (Sub – Hastings 73 mins.), Isaac, Buchanan (Sub – Riza 45 mins.), Effiong (Sub – Scott –Morris 60 mins.), Montgomery.
Goals: Boreham Wood: Hutton. Watford: Mingoia.