Chelsea battled to a hard-fought extra-time win over the Hornets on Thursday evening with two goals from Harvey Vale and one from Malik Mothersille enough to see us through.
Our young Blues, who are now through to the fifth round of the FA Youth Cup, made hard work of beating a resilient Watford team Despite taking an early two-goal lead, we were pegged back and taken to extra-time by our opponents. Happily, we were able to get the job done in the end.
The game started with Ed Brand's boys taking control of the game, showing great confidence, off-the-ball movement and neat and tidy touches which rattled our opponents.
An early goal came through Vale who latched onto a through ball from Mothersille, who excellently rode a couple of challenges prior to the pass. Vale finished cooly to give us the lead.
We doubled our lead with a piercing counter-attack which allowed Jude Soonsup-Bell to round the keeper and unselfishly lay it off for Mothersille to tap in.
Watford did create some half-chances but their goal came through a mistake by Prince Adegoke as his attempted dribble proved costly with the hosts' striker Emmanuel Adeyemo pouncing and scoring.
Following a plethora of missed chances in the second half from Vale, Webster and Luke Badley-Morgan, we conceded an equaliser which drew the Hornets level. A great cut-back into the box found Adrian Blake who rifled into the top corner.
2-2 was how it ended in normal time, with extra-time the order of the day. Substitute Tudor Mendel-Idowu had a great chance to give us the lead but his shot was inches over the bar. With penalties looming, we did find our winning goal on the stroke of half-time in extra-time as the impressive Vale swept home after a blocked Leo Castledine shot.
Brand made a couple of switches from the side that faced Leyton Orient in the last round. Vale and Zain Silcott-Duberry both came into the line-up in place of the injured Edwin Andersson and Leo Castledine. Brodie Hughes was also drafted into the team to start this time, replacing Silko Thomas.
Our boys began the game well and set a fast tempo which was great to see. Confident passing and movement created half-chances for us but nothing of note.
Despite this, the goal was coming, and it finally did through Vale as he slotted a left-footed effort underneath the keeper. Credit to Malik Mothersille who initiated the attack and played an incisive through ball, allowing Vale the opportunity to finish.
We continued to dominate proceedings, thereafter, limiting our hosts to long balls which they could not keep under control. A neat one-two between Hall and Silcott-Duberry allowed the central midfielder to deliver a wicked delivery which was begging for a touch.
We were reminded however of the threat that the Hornets posed. After a foul was given away from Webster, the delivery found the head of a Watford attacker and that pulled out a great tipped save from Prince Adegoke.
There was a brief period where it looked like the home side would score as they won a series of corners. Unfortunately for them, we double our lead after a fast break from their corner. Adegoke’s strong punch allowed Soonsup-Bell to run through one on one with the onrushing keeper. Our young striker calmly rounded the keeper and unselfishly rolled the ball to Mothersille, who tapped into an empty net.
A third goal was close as captain Alfie Gilchrist glanced a header that beat the keeper but fell the wrong side of the post. Another chance fell our way as a slip at the back allowed Hughes to pounce and be through on goal. He attempted an outside-of-the-foot finish which went wide.
Lapse in concentration
Sloppy play at the back meant the home team went close, but their drilled shot from inside the six-yard box was held brilliantly by Adegoke.
Instantly, we went to the other end of the pitch, as a Soonsup-Bell drive towards goal ended with him floating a delightful cross into the box and with the net empty as the keeper misread the flight of the ball, Mothersille headed over.
With half-time approaching, Adegoke made a major mistake, attempting to turn in the box under pressure from Emmanuel Adeyemo. The Watford striker stripped him of possession and tapped into an empty net.
Chances go begging
Watford keeper Alfie Marriott produced a top save straight after half-time, following a fantastic run and shot from Vale.
The chances were going begging as defender Badley-Morgan fired a close-range effort but again Marriott was on hand, this time saving with his foot.
The hosts were beginning to believe as we continued to miss our opportunities. A last-ditch Gilchrist tackle prevented a one-on-one situation for the home team. Even with this warning, we failed to clear our lines from their next attack. Good combination play between the Watford attackers led to Blake smashing into the roof of the net to make it 2-2.
Our young Blues almost equalised through Vale as he jinked his way into the box and curled a lovely shot that hit the foot of the post.
The last chance of the half fell to Webster as he was laid off by Vale but the midfielder struggled to make clean contact as the ball sailed harmlessly over the bar.
2-2 at full-time meant that the game would go to extra-time to settle this fourth-round fixture between our young Blues and this gutsy Watford side.
The first extra-time substitute Tudor Mendel-Idowu created a glorious chance as he cut inside onto his weaker right foot. His attempt narrowly missed the top corner by inches.
With the tie in danger of being decided by penalties, substitute Castledine fired a goalbound effort which in turn was blocked. Fortunately the rebound fell to Vale, who swept home to give us the 3-2 lead.
The second half of extra-time was essentially our opponents pushing for an equaliser to send the game to penalties. There were a few momentary scares but largely we defended well and saw out the game.
What this means for Brand and his team is they will be in the fifth round of this competition away at either Liverpool or Burnley.
Chelsea (3-4-2-1) Prince Adegoke; Brodi Hughes, Alfie Gilchrist (c), Billy Gee; Luke Badley-Morgan, Lewis Hall (Richard Olise, 116), Charlie Webster, Zain Silcot-Duberry (Tudor Mendel-Idowu 98); Malik Mothersille (Louis Flower 105), Harvey Vale, Jude Soonsup-Bell (Leo Castledine 70)
Unused subs: Ted Curd, Derrick Abu, Sam Rak-Sakyi
Scorers Vale 9, 105; Mothersille 22
Watford (4-2-3-1) Alfie Marriott, Ryan Andrews, Hamzat Balogun (Christos Batzelis 100), Adian Manning (Enoch Muwonge 105), George Abbott, Will Hall (c) (Freddie Moriarty 116), Kyreece Lisbie, Jack Grieves (Ben Smith 93), Emmanuel Adeyemo, Shaqai Forde, Adrian Blake
Unused subs Jonathan Macaulay, Aaron Benn, Ethan Golding
Scorers Adeyemo 44; Blake 75