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Match report from the Hornets' opening pre-season friendly

Pre-Season | AFC Wimbledon 3-2 Watford

Second-half goals from Ben Watson and Steven Berghuis nearly ensured Watford fought back from a two-goal deficit, but a last-minute AFC Wimbledon winner denied them a share of the spoils.

In the Hornets’ first pre-season friendly under new Head Coach Marco Silva, what had so far been a drab encounter sparked into life at the start of the second-half with the Dons racing into a two-goal lead.

Cody McDonald goals on 46 and 49 minutes left Watford with a mountain to climb, but the Hornets responded well and found a way back into the game courtesy of Watson, who converted a Jose Holebas cross first-time from inside the box just before the hour.

Fresh from a successful loan at Feyenoord last season, Berghuis finished well from Brice Dja Djédjé’s cross and it was all-square at the Cherry Red Records Stadium going into the final 10.

It remained that way right up until the final minute, when substitute Alfie Egan settled affairs from close-range, handing the Dons a 3-2 victory.

Silva opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Abdoulaye Doucouré and Watson the holding midfielders.

Berghuis, Etienne Capoue and Isaac Success were tasked with supporting front-man Stefano Okaka.

There was an early chance for Capoue, who lofted a right-footed shot onto the roof of the net after Doucouré’s breakaway in the third minute.

The Dons went even closer with little over quarter-of-an-hour played, Lyle Taylor heading against the far post from a George Francomb corner.

With half-an-hour on the clock, Miguel Britos peeled off at the back post to meet Watson’s corner and draw a good reflex save from George Long with the header.

The Dons’ keeper was in fine form twice more shortly after, denying Okaka’s hooked effort from point-blank range before tipping wide a 25-yard Holebas free-kick.

It was goalless at the break, but within minutes of the restart Watford found themselves two behind.

First McDonald converted Taylor’s right-flank cross from close-range in the first minute of the second-half, and then the striker added a second from Andy Barcham’s centre with 49 minutes played.

There was no let-up in what was proving to be an entertaining start to the second-half, and Watford struck back through Watson. The midfielder fired home first-time after Holebas’ cross from the left-hand side with 57 minutes played.

Capoue nearly provided the equaliser a minute later, slamming just wide after a nice touch and cross from Berghuis.

The Hornets’ leveller did arrive with 77 minutes gone, substitute Dja Djédjé crossing for Berghuis, who neatly side-footed past Long and into the bottom corner.

The Golden Boys had certainly been on the front-foot for large periods of the second-half, but there was a late blow as Wimbledon sub Egan slotted home a last-minute winner from close-range.

There was still time for the injury-time introduction of Watford's first-year scholar Lewis Gordon, who replaced Berghuis from the bench. A moment that will live long in the 16-year-old’s memory.

HORNETS: Gomes (GK) (c) (Bachmann, 61); Janmaat (Dja Djédjé, HT), Prödl, Britos (Kabasele, HT), Holebas; Watson, Doucouré; Berghuis (Gordon, 90), Capoue (Folivi, 85), Success (Amrabat, HT); Okaka.
Sub not used: Rowan.

DONS: Long (GK), Fuller (c), Kennedy, Robinson, Oshilaja, Esseboom, Maloney, Francomb, Taylor, McDonald, Barcham.
Subs: McDonnell (GK), Sibbick, Nightingale, Kalambayi, Owens, Parrett, Egan, Hartigan, Kaja, Appiah, Antwi.

Attendance: 2,101 (624 Watford)

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