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FRIENDLY: Watford 0 Wanderers 2

Lee and Afolayan on target as Whites secure impressive warm-up win

12 July 2022

Kieran Lee underlined his well-being and Dapo Afolayan also got on the scoresheet as Wanderers enjoyed an impressive warm-up win at Watford.

Lee missed the momentum-gathering run-in to last season after under-going heel surgery and was also absent from the Whites’ pre-season trip to Portugal after becoming a father again.

But after sitting out the opening two friendlies, the key midfield man has featured in the last three and had his longest run-out yet with close to 75 minutes at the Hornets’ London Colney training complex.

Lee slotted home the opening goal for Wanderers and Afolayan doubled the lead before the break with an equally assured finish.

And while Watford – just relegated from the Premier League – had a couple of excellent chances early in the second half, two superb saves from Joel Dixon preserved Wanderers’ advantage to guarantee a welcome clean sheet.

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In front of him, imposing skipper Ricardo Santos Almeida and George Johnston both got through 90 minutes as manager Ian Evatt stepped up the workload with just three games to until the start of Wanderers’ League One campaign.

This was a step up in pace and intensity from Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Wigan, who will face Watford in the Championship this season.

And Wanderers handled it well, competing with a physically strong home line-up and using the ball well whenever the opportunity arose – notably for Afolayan’s wonderfully-worked goal five minutes before half time.

Watford – recently returned from a training camp in Austria – utilised much of their squad strength and had the first sight of goal with Vakoun Bayo firing into the side netting.

However, it was Wanderers who went ahead after a quarter of an hour.

The Whites’ pressing game paid off as goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann was given no time in possession and when he lost control of the ball, Lee pounced on the edge of the penalty area to drill a shot into the bottom corner.

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Both sides then had the ball in the net but Dan Gosling and Dion Charles – as he followed in an Afolayan strike – both saw their efforts chalked off for off-side.

Charles almost punished another error from Bachman, while Gosling also went close again when he clipped a pull-back from the lively

Wanderers were a threat, though, whenever they worked the ball through midfield.

And it was a lovely first-time pass around the corner from the impressive Williams, after a ball out from the back from Will Aimson, that released Afolayan to run clear and coolly steer home a low shot to make it 2-0.

Watford made a number of changes at the break and substitute Ismaila Sarr twice thought he had pulled a goal back.

But Dixon made one point-blank to keep out his first header and then finger-tipped another headed effort away to deny the Senegal international and preserve the two-goal cushion.

The Hornets enjoyed most of the possession after the break but Wanderers defended well and kept cool heads on a steamy afternoon to maintain a measure of control and wrap up a third pre-season win with their most complete performance yet.

Wanderers: Dixon; Aimson (Jones 84), Santos, Johnston; Williams; Sadlier (Bradley 66), Lee (Dempsey 74), Thomason (Morley 74), John (Iredale 84); Afolayan (Bodvarsson, 74), Charles (Kachunga 60). Substitutes: Trafford.

Watford (starting): Bachmann, Bayo, Dele-Bashiru, Gosling, Pedro, Kabasele, Kamara, Kayembe, Ngakia, Samir, Troost-Ekong.


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