The London Lions returned to action on Wednesday night following a 7 week break, and will be disappointed to see their Hertfordshire Senior Challenge Cup run brought to an end by a talented Watford U21 side, who struck once in each half with goals from Batzelis and Balogun to secure their place in the semi-final of the competition. Lions fans will of course be unhappy with the result but more positive about the performance, which included clear cut chances, committed challenges, and encouraging spells of possession against a technically sound opposition.
Bleak conditions and a tough physical test awaited Watford when they arrived at Rowley Lane, while the Lions hoped to make the most of an Alan Mattey stand packed with fans ready to roar on the home team.
The first 45 minutes were closely matched, and certainly a case of ‘defences on top’ as neither side seemed able to break the deadlock. This all changed on the brink of half time when Christos Batzelis broke the deadlock with a close-range effort fired low into to the bottom right corner, a massive boost for Watford morale whilst equally a heavy blow dealt to the hopes of the Lions.
The second half saw a drop-off in energy levels from both teams, notably the Lions who were potentially suffering from a lack of match fitness. The tempo of the game began to slow down, a shift which suited the Watford U21s as they continued their composed performance. In particular the last 30 minutes saw the young Hornets demonstrate a level of maturity and game-management beyond their years as they coasted into a 2-0 lead in the 73rd minute courtesy of promising right back Hazmat Balogun.
The clear gap in quality between the two teams was the proof in the pudding for this tie- the London Lions were unable to capitalise on their advantages in height and experience, though it should be noted that they were dubiously denied a penalty late on, a decisive refereeing decision which could have shifted the balance of the tie.
This is not to undermine Watford’s tidy football which prevailed by the time the final had blown. Overall a broadly competitive battle which saw the better team progress.
Match Report by Adam Smith, uploaded as guest blog
Photos by Groundhopper Greg (@groundhopperGr1)