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Watford youth coach Dave Hughes proud of young Hornets after beating Bristol Rovers on penalties
Watford youth coach Dave Hughes felt proud of his players after they beat Bristol Rovers on penalties in the Under-21 Premier League Cup and believes it's an experience they will never forget.
The young Hornets led through Alex Jakubiak's goal in the first half but Jamie Lucas' equaliser in the last minute sent the game to extra-time.
Neither side were able to take advantage in the extra half an hour however and Watford goalkeeper Gary Woods scored the decisive penalty to send the Hornets through to the second qualifying round.
"First of all I’d say I'm really proud of the way the young lads have gone about it," Hughes said.
"I'm delighted with the performance of the pros as well - I thought Reece Brown and Gary Woods were magnificent in the way they went about the game.
"To finish the game with probably nine players who’ve come through the academy in an Under-21 game is really, really pleasing.
"Then take into consideration some of those are first year apprentices that came on and were in and around it as well - I'm nothing but proud with the way we approached the match."
Hughes was particularly impressed with how his players - some as young as 16 - performed against a Bristol Rovers side full of first teamers.
And the youth team boss believes winning a penalty shoot-out, at Vicarage Road, will be an experience his players will always remember.
"They’re obviously out on their feet mentally and physically - it’s a big challenge for them to play at Vicarage Road and it’s good they’ve had an early experience of that," he said.
"In development there’s peaks and troughs and what we’ve tried to do is get them ready for when opportunities arise.
"So it’s a great experience for them - one they’ll remember, one they’ll learn from and we keep saying for them to learn and improve we have to challenge them and tonight was a challenge playing against some first team players."
He added: "We played some great football at times in the first half and probably, despite conceding in the last two minutes of normal time, I thought we actually looked a little bit stronger in the first period of extra-time.
"So overall, I think the lads are delighted they’ve got 90 minutes under their belt and they can be really pleased with how they’ve gone about it."
The Under-21s now face a trip to Plymouth Argyle in the second round.
Read the match report for the win over Bristol Rovers here.
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