By Adam Clark
Arsenal battled but did so in vain as they suffered a 1-0 defeat
to Watford on Monday night.
It was harsh on the young Gunners who survived a frantic start
from the visitors to have more than a say in the game. Neil
Banfield's side probed away from start to finish and played the
better football throughout.
Jay Simpson, Fran Merida and Vincent van den Berg could all have
found themselves on the scoresheet but it was Watford's Cedric
Avinel who grabbed the only goal of the game with 14 minutes
Unfortunately tempers flared at full time. The two sides had to
be separated and when the dust had settled referee Mr Watts, who
booked five players from each side during the game, brandished red
cards for midfielder Mark Randall and Watford's John-Joe
Banfield named an inexperienced side. In fact, Vito Mannone the
19-year-old Italian goalkeeper was his most senior player. After
the helping hand lent by Johan Djourou, Mart Poom and Justin Hoyte
last week the responsibility was very much back with the
Watford's line up was as youthful as Arsenal's and it
was they who created first only for Kieron Forbes to head straight
On 13 minutes Liam Henderson fired in another shot which Mannone
palmed away and when the ball was lofted back in moments later the
Italian had to tip over an audacious lob from Will Hoskins. Lee
Williamson then curled a free-kick wide and you sensed the screw
was being turned.
But Arsenal began to show flashes of their own. Van den Berg
toed an effort off target and Barazite jinked past two players
before curling narrowly over the angle.
With 25 minutes gone Van den Berg rippled the side-netting once
more and Arsenal looked more like the side that triumphed at Fulham
six days before.
Ten minutes before half time a handball on the edge of the box
gave Merida a chance to take aim but his fierce effort was absorbed
by the wall.
A succession of stoppages spoiled the momentum of the game but in
injury time the sides shared a chance apiece. Merida's
ambitious 30-yard effort whistled into the stands and when the
visitors broke Forbes miscued after finding space in the box.
A competitive start to the second half saw few chances early on.
A succession of hopeful punts up field went astray for the Hornets
while Arsenal's attempts to play through their opponents went
They finally managed it on 63 minutes. Randall found Van den
Berg who in turn had the awareness to slide Abu Ogogo in behind the
back line. The right back charged onto the Dutchman's
perfectly-weighted throughball and sent keeper Scott Loach
scrambling with a shot that flashed across the face of goal.
O'Toole cleared Mannone's crossbar with a rare Watford
attempt but with their next, on 76 minutes, they broke the
deadlock. Mannone reacted instinctively to claw away Alex
Campana's backpost header but could do little as Avinel forced
in the rebound.
On 84 minutes Simpson tested Loach with Arsenal's final
chance while Mannone saved a point blank header from substitute
Ewan Clarke to keep the deficit at one.
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