New Watford head coach Walter Mazzarri finally took charge of his new side for the first time on Sunday. The Italian took his side to National League outfit Woking as preparations for the Premier league season began with a 1-1 draw.
The headline team news in Mazzarri’s first team selection were the omissions of Troy Deeney due to a slight knock in training and Almen Abdi who pulled out with sickness.
Watford on top in the first half
The match began in quiet fashion before the Premier League side burst into life with three big opportunities in quick succession.
Stevan Berghuis' corners were to cause major problems throughout the evening and Miguel Britos had a header cleared off the line from the very first one of the match.
Woking goalkeeper Michael Poke saved a brilliant Britos header before Mario Suarez sent in a rasping drive which Poke did superbly to tip around the post.
A goal for each
Tommie Hoban and last year’s top scorer Odion Ighalo both came desperately close from Berghuis corners before the Hornets finally took the lead after 20 minutes. It was Berguis himself who struck the blow as the Dutch international sent in a deflected shot after a great reverse pass from Ikechi Anya.
The National league side were back in the contest thanks to an equalising goal just four minutes later. Stand-in skipper Heureliho Gomes fumbled a wide free kick before Woking substitute Charlie Carter turned the ball home.
Etienne Capoue’s cross was cleared before Suarez volleyed just wide. The French midfielder then linked up brilliantly before Ighalo blazed well wide from inside the area.
No surprise to see plenty of half-time changes
Mazzarri made a host of changes to his side at half time. This included the introduction of new signings Abdoulaye Doucoure, Jerome Sinclair and Issac Success.
It was the former Liverpool forward Sinclair who looked the brightest of the three coming close to re-establishing the lead twice early in the half. First he took down a chip from Britos before swivelling to shot at Poke. Soon after he headed just over the top from Ikechi Anya’s excellent left wing delivery.
Jose Holibas was given 20 minutes by Mazzarri and he worked hard down the left wing without really create many opportunities of note.
The significance of this change was that Mazzarri switched to a flat back four rather than the 3-5-2 system that was deployed at the start of the match. This is a system that the coach has generally favoured during his managerial career.
Youth team captain Charlie Rowan was handed his first team debut with six minutes to play having signed his maiden professional contract earlier in the summer.
Substitute keeper Giedrius Arlauskis made a smart stop from Jaydan Thompson to secure the draw. Mazzarri will no doubt see this game as a useful workout as he looks to build on fitness as the new season looms.