U23s stung by Hornets in final friendly

Nathan Holland


West Ham United’s U23s were defeated on a sweltering day at Watford’s training ground on Friday as they went down 2-1 in a final pre-season friendly. 

Kiko Femnia’s strike and Marc Navarro’s free-kick were the difference in Hertfordshire despite a Nathan Holland goal 20 minutes from the end.

The hosts fielded a strong starting XI which included first team players Adrian Mariappa, Sebastian Prodl and Isaac Success as well as the first goalscorer and summer signing Navarro.

The Hornets dominated the early proceedings and nearly went in front after just eleven minutes when Adam Masina, their No11, struck the outside of the post direct from a corner kick.

Seven minutes later, an even better chance presented itself for the hosts when a low cross from the right found Isaac Success waiting inside the six-yard-box, but the forward could not hit the target as he stabbed it well over on the slide.

The Nigerian first-teamer was proving difficult to pin down, and he came closer and closer with two more efforts on goal - first dragging just wide from 20 yards and second, flashing a shot across Joseph Anang but clear of the far upright from the same distance.   

Seven minutes before the break, the Hammers had their first attempt on goal as Jahmal Hector-Ingram, stealing the ball from a defender, received a pass back from sub Kristijan Belic before testing the keeper.

U23s stung by Hornets in final friendly

But moments later came the opener. A long ball into the left channel evaded the Hammers’ defence and Femenia was able to round Anang in goal to break the deadlock. 

The second half began in far different fashion with the visitors taking the game to the leaders. And eight minutes in, the Hammers got their chance to get back on level terms when Hector-Ingram was flattened by the keeper in the box and a penalty was awarded.

However Watford stopper Pontus Dahlberg was equal to Oladapo Afolayan’s spot-kick as he pushed it clear low to his right.  

And after the positive start, Watford’s second game at a bad time for West Ham.

After Tunji Akinola’s foul on the edge of the box, Anang in goal could not keep out Marc Navarro’s free-kick though the keeper got a hand to it.

With twenty minutes remaining, the Hammers made it interesting when Holland raced away down the left, slipping past the stranded full-back and deserved his luck as a shot cannoned off the goalkeeper back onto the winger and into the net.

As the game entered its final ten minutes, Anang made a superb double save from Success to prevent the Hornets moving further in front, before Alex Jakubiak smashed the foot of the post on the angle.

With a minute left, the Hammers agonisingly did the same. Sub Grady Diangana was played in cleverly by Sead Haksabanovic and was denied by the woodwork too as he slipped it under the goalkeeper. 

But time was soon out, and the youngsters fell to defeat for only the second time this pre-season.

Watford: Dahlberg, Navarro, Prodi, Mariappa, Masina, Femnia, Wilmot, Charles, Pereira, Jakubiak, Success

Goals: Femenia 39, Navarro 60

West Ham United: Anang, Johnson (Barrett 70), Oxford, Pask (Akinola 46), Powell, Coventry, Fernandes (Belic 36), Afolayan (Diangana 60), Haksabanovic, Holland, Hector-Ingram (Xande Silva 60)

Subs not used: Alese

Goal: Holland 70