A young Watford side enjoyed a good workout as they drew 1-1 at National League Woking in the first of the Hornets’ pre-season friendlies.

The match had originally been billed as Marco Silva’s first since taking charge at Vicarage Road, but after he decided he wanted more time to work with his senior players, David Horseman and Hayden Mullins were in charge as the visitors fielded an Under-23 side.

In a game of relatively few chances, the visitors struck first through Alex Jakubiak with nine minutes of the first half remaining. But the lead was to prove very short lived as former Hornet Bobson Bawling equalised.

But the young Hornets acquitted themselves well physically, didn’t shirk any work in what were hot conditions, looked generally defensively solid and there were moments of encouraging link-up play.

The Hornets fielded six players with first team experience in their starting XI and gave a ‘debut’ to new arrival Sam Howes in goal at the back of a 4-2-3-1 shape.

The former West Ham keeper produced an assured display during his 45 minutes on the pitch, without being truly tested.

The National League side, deploying a 4-4-2 formation, had the first attempt of the afternoon when after building down the left, the ball was played inside to Joe Ward, whose strike from 25 yards swerved away from goal.

The Hornets responded when their trialist, who had shown some good early touches, came in off the left to hit a low right-footed effort which looked to be going narrowly wide, but Chelsea loanee Nathan Baxter got down to make sure and push it behind.

Despite the heat, the game continued to be played at a reasonable tempo with the hosts the next to have an effort when centre-half Joey Jones ventured forward and struck a rising right-footed drive, but Howes always had it covered and plucked the ball out of the air.

The young Watford side continued to have the better of the possession but were not able to stretch the Woking backline, although some of the visitors’ link-up play was encouraging. But it was the home side who had the next opportunity when a good move down the right ended with a cross which needed a strong defensive header from Joy Mukena to prevent Inih Effiong from getting on the end of it.

The visitors had a good chance to test Baxter when the trialist’s attempts to get on the end of a through ball were ended when he was clearly pulled back by Jones. Jakubiak lined up the resulting free-kick, to the left of centre, but he opted for power and the Woking wall did its job.

The first drinks break came after half-an-hour but chances continued to be in thin supply, but that all changed within the space of 90 seconds in the last ten minutes of the opening half.

The Hornets struck first in somewhat scruffy fashion when a low ball in from the left fell for Jakubiak, Jones and his central defensive partner Richard Orlu rather got in each other’s way trying to clear and the Watford striker bundled it over the line.

But the lead was to last no more than a minute; a ball over the top releasing former Hornet Bawling in the inside right channel and the winger confidently did the rest, beating Howes with a crisp right-footed half-volley from inside the area.

The hosts had another chance two minutes before the break when Charlie Carter flung himself at a corner from the right, didn’t make contact and Orlu seemed a little surprised as the ball bounced up for him to head onto the roof of the net.

But Watford responded with a better opportunity when Michael Folivi laid the ball for Jakubiak, to hit a shot on the turn wide of the angle of the right-hand post and bar.

The predictable raft of substitutions started at the beginning of the second period, with Watford making three – Nathan Gartside, David Sesay and Ash Charles replacing Howes, Carl Stewart and the trialist – while the hosts opted for four.

Both sides made a lively start to the second period, but it was the visitors who were the first to go close when Folivi again linked up well with Jakubiak to play in the striker, whose low effort produced a good save from Baxter. But the ball squirmed loose and Dion Pereira looked poised to capitalise, but a Cards defender beat him to it.

Marian Huja came on for Charlie Rowan in the 55th minute but fellow replacement Gartside had to be alert to thwart Jamie Philpots from a corner, although the Woking substitute was penalised for a foul.

Louis Rogers and Jibril Adejedi entered the fray for Folivi and Andrew Eleftheriou and then Watford completed their changes as Reece Stray and Jesus Cruz Cabera replaced Jakubiak and Max Ryan. In between times though, another substitute Fabio Saraiva sent a reasonable headed opportunity over for the home side.

With so many changes, it was perhaps not too surprising that some of the pattern and control went out of the Hornets play, although they were still looking to push forward when the opportunity arose.

Another drinks break in the final 15 minutes took more momentum out of the game, but the home side nearly snatched a winner with three minutes remaining when despite some frantic defending by the visitors, the ball fell for substitute Ivan Nsimbi on the right side of the area, but he dragged his shot across the face of goal and wide with Gartside out of goal having already committed himself.

Woking: Baxter; Hatton (Thompson 87), Jones (Appau 78) Orlu, Ralph; Bawling (Saraiva 46), Ferdinand (Staunton 46), Wynter (Isaac 46), Ward; Carter (Philpots 46); Effiong (Nsimbi 66). Not used: S Mason.

Watford Under-23s: Howes (Gartside 46); Eleftheriou (Rogers 66), Rowan (Huja 55), Mukena, B Mason; Ryan (Cruz Cabera 68), Stewart (Charles 46); Pereira, Folivi (Adejedi 66), Trialist (Sesay 46); Jakubiak (Stray 68).

Attendance: 1,227.

Referee: Dean Whitestone.