A bright start and an early goal counted for nothing in the end as Watford Under-21s were beaten 4-1 at London Colney by QPR.

Had the young Hornets been able to hold their lead a little longer against the side top of the Premier League Development League South then they may well have been able to get something out of the game.

However Rangers levelled almost immediately and gradually wore Watford down over the remainder of the game, and the final scoreline didn’t truly reflect how close the game was.

Both goalkeepers excelled. For Watford, Jonathan Macaulay didn’t deserve to conceded four goals after making a series of excellent saves.

He was only beaten by a penalty, a sublime free-kick and two very smart finishes and it was his hard work that stopped the match running away from Watford.

Down the other end, the Hornets ran into a very in-form Matteo Salamon who made a couple of outstanding saves.

In midfield, Junior Gyamfi was the pick of the outfield players with a hard-working and committed display.

Always wanting the ball and prepared to track back and tackle to get it, the 19-year-old was keen to drive forward and also cleverly linked up play.

Watford went ahead in the 15th minute. Michael Adu-Poku won a free kick on the right flank, and Jake Watkiss stepped up to send a fiercely-struck and swerving free kick through a crowded box and inside the far post.

However, the visitors levelled only three minutes later. Alfie Lloyd moved into the box from the right and then sent a curling, dipping shot over Macaulay and into the far corner.

The impressive Alex Aoraha fired over from 20 yards before Adu-Poku crossed for James Collins to volley just wide.

Watford failed to make the most of a quick counter attack from a corner in the 36th minute, as when Collins crossed and Jack Grieves nodded down, Adu-Poku waited to get his shot away and was then denied the chance by a fine sliding challenge from Arkell Jude-Boyd.

They were then left to rue that five minutes later when referee Mr Hatzidakis adjudged Alistair Gould to have brought down Kayden Harrack, and Aoraha rolled the resultant penalty into the opposite corner to Macaulay’s dive.

Right on the stroke of half-time a corner was cleared to the edge of the box and Aidan Coyne met it with a perfectly-struck thunderous drive that seemed set to fly in until Salamon took off and tipped it over the bar.

The R’s keeper kept the lead intact two minutes into the second period when he leapt to push a rising shot from Charlie Davis round the post.

Rangers responded and it was only a magnificent double block from Macaulay, denying Samuel Sackey and then Lorent Talla, that denied them their third.

For a while it was Macaulay against QPR: he threw himself to his left to keep out a powerful shot from Aoraha and then went full-length again to keep out Murphy’s curling shot.

There was nothing he could do in the 65th minute though, as Talla sent a delightful curling round the wall and dipping into the net just inside the upright from 25 yards.

Macaulay was back in action two minutes later, making a block at his near post to keep out an angled shot from Steven Bala.

Rangers got their fourth with 20 minutes to go, but even then Macaulay nearly denied them. The Watford keeper dashed off his line to made a sliding block but the ball ran loose and Aoraha capped an excellent performance with a very intelligent chip over the covering defenders and into the net.

Watford: Macaulay; Gould (Balogun 84), Watkiss, Gaspar (Hamiga 84), Coyne, Stallard, Adu-Poku, Gyamfi, Collins (Fraser-Grante 80), Davis, Grieves. Subs not used: Browne, Casey.