Watford’s Under-21s were unable to hold onto a lead on three occasions against Hemel Hempstead Town and were eventually beaten 4-3 in their pre-season friendly.
The opening period was full of chances and six goals were scored. A brace from Michael Folivi and a strike from Alex Jakubiak weren’t enough to give the Hornets a half time lead as Ben Mackey netted twice and Benny Fiadzomer also struck.
The second half was a tighter affair but the contest was settled with 13 minutes remaining when Lewis Toomey fired home from close range.
The contest was the development side’s final pre-season fixture. The young Hornets lined up in a 4-4-2 diamond system. Alfie Young, Jorrell Johnson, Luke O’Nien and Josh Doherty made up the back four in front of goalkeeper Shaun Rowley.
George Byers was at the base of the diamond with Tom Rosenthal on the left, Connor Smith on the right and Il Myeong Chio behind the striking partnership of Jakubiak and Folivi.
The Hornets made a bright start and were awarded a penalty in the tenth minute.
A low drive from Byers struck an arm and the referee pointed to the spot. Doherty stepped up but his shot to Laurie Walker’s right was saved.
The first half saw both sides created numerous chances. Mackey and David Hutton both came close for the Tudors but the Hornets’ defence managed to block their efforts.
The hosts matched the Golden Boys throughout the opening period but Watford went in front just before the quarter hour mark.
A long pass forward put Folivi through on goal and he confidently slotted past the onrushing Walker.
Watford looked to build on their advantage and Jakubiak was twice denied by Walker from close range.
Hemel managed to level the friendly in the 18th minute. Fiadzomer collected a pass, turned and rattled a shot into the bottom corner of Shaun Rowley’s net.
The Hornets goalkeeper then produced two excellent saves. He first pushed clear a fierce half volley from Mackey before showing incredible reactions to palm away a Dave Pearce strike.
Watford were under pressure but managed to retake the lead against the run of play.
Pressure on the Hemel goal saw the ball break to Folivi, he rounded Walker but was brought down by the goalkeeper. The striker decided to take the spot kick and passed his effort into the corner.
The lead was short-lived. Hemel equalised for the second time seven minutes later as Mackey managed to escape the marking of O’Nien and he finished from six yards.
The hosts came close to going in front as Pearce’s low strike was deflected just wide of the post.
Watford’s young side managed to regain their composure in the closing minutes of the half and a neat passing move resulted in their third goal.
Byers fired a pass towards Smith, he stepped over the ball which was collected by Jakubiak and the striker finished coolly.
But Hemel again came back and levelled for a third time. Neat footwork from James Simmonds allowed him room to cross and his delivery was met by Mackey who volley past Rowley.
Watford made three changes at the break. Harry Kyprianou, Dennon Lewis and Matt Hall replaced O’Nien, Doherty and Byers.
The second period was played at a much less frantic pace and chances were sporadic, especially for the Hornets.
Rowley continued to impress as he denied Toomey a shot on goal. The rebound was sent well over by Oliver Hawkins.
Watford rarely threatened in the second half but Jakubiak came close. He blocked a clearance by Walker but couldn’t hook the ball into the net from a tight angle.
Rowley then saved from Toomey after the Tudors striker had broken through on goal before the goalkeeper blocked a half volley from former Hornet Jordan Parkes.
But, with 13 minutes remaining, Hemel went in front for the first time. Toomey was given room in the Watford penalty area and he finished from close range.
It was a lead the Tudors deserved based on the second period and they were able to see out the closing stages with minimal fuss to secure victory.
Hemel Hempstead Town first half XI: Walker, May, Brighton, Hutton, Murphy, Hawkins, Daly, Simmonds, Pearce, Mackey, Fiadzomer.
Hemel Hempstead Town second half XI: Walker, Asafu-Adjaye, Connolly, Parkes, Murphy, Thorne, Talbot, Allen, Oli, Mackey (Hawkins 68), Toomey.
Watford: Rowley; Young, O'Nien (Hall HT), Johnson, Doherty (Kyprianou HT); Byers (Lewis HT), Smith, Rosenthal, Choi (Rowan 60): Folivi (Martin 73), Jakubiak.
Watford substitutes: Gartside, Makaka, Stewart.