The Barnet FC Youth Team suffered a narrow defeat in the Merit League on Saturday, going down 2-1 to Watford in a game that took place at University College London.
The Bees made two changes going into the game, withTheo Alexis making way for Wesley Fonguck and Nana Emmanuel Keyi replacing George Booker as Shane Cojocarel moved into the centre forward position.
Barnet started brightly and started to express their expansive style of play using plenty of combinations and forward movement with Matt Stevens and Shane Cojocarel linking up well down the left and right with both full-backs in Hakeem Odofin and Keir Dickson.
They took the lead on 20 minutes with some excellent interplay between Fonguck and Jack Taylor sliding in Cojocarel, who took a touch and shot home for his 24th goal of the season.
On 37 minutes Barnet went close again but were made to pay when Dickson was caught in two minds between cutting the ball back and shooting when on the byline allowing the goalkeeper to gather, who then launched a rapid counter-attack. Despite the best efforts of the two Barnet defenders at the back in delaying the attack, Watford managed to equalise after Lewis cut in and powered a shot past Kai McKenzie-Lyle at the near post.
Barnet then found themselves 2-1 down on 43 minutes when they took an uncharacteristic long free-kick by the halfway line which was cleared for the Watford front line to react and counter quickly with Otudeko cutting past Odofin to fizz a cross through the six-yard box for Ogo Obi to tap in at an acute angle at the back post.
Barnet made two changed at half time, with Fumnaya Shomotun and Emmanuel Keyi coming off for Elliot Harris and Ryan Gondoh as the Bees switched to a 4-3-3 formation.
The second half started in similar fashion with Barnet dominating the possession play, looking for spaces centrally and moving the ball wide to stretch Watford.
The substitutes made an immediate impact when Gondoh was released by Dickson down the left before beating his man and flashing a ball across the box that somehow eluded all three of Stevens, Cojocarel and Harris.
Soon after Odofin cut the ball back having been played through by Fonguck, but Stevens could only get a toe on the cross as the ball flew across the face of goal.
Barnet continued to move the ball around well but lacked the movement to exploit Watford in wide areas, as the hosts defended the middle of the pitch resolutely by making the space compact and closing down the Bees’ short passing combinations.
Barnet did nearly snatch a draw in the dying moments when Gondoh broke away to feed, but the prolific striker could only place his shot wide of the far post as Watford hung on for a 2-1 victory.
Following the game, Lead Professional Development Phase Coach Ross Eames said:
“I was pleased with our build up play to enter the final third, however our movement had to be sharper and with the chances that we created throughout the game we should have been more clinical in terms of shot and decision.
“The players also have to take on board the fundamentals of transition which can win or lose you the control of a game. Concentration is key in football and players have to learn that just following the ball and disregarding runners in behind or the movement of players must not be overlooked.
“I cannot fault the players’ effort at all today for 80 minutes but we also have to give Watford credit for the way that they defended and counter-attacked”.