A Watford XI followed the lead of the first team 24 hours earlier by winning 3-1 at Wealdstone in pre-season tonight.

A 24th-minute strike from Oliver Acher gave Watford the lead, but the game really sparked into life with a manic three-goal period inside the last two minutes of the opening period.

After Gavin Massey scored the visitors’ second, the Stones thought they had a route back into the game when Greg Ngoyi reduced the deficit almost immediately. However, no sooner had that goal gone in, Watford went straight up the other end to score a third with an impressive dipping Liam Henderson strike from 20 yards.

The second period was not as good as the opening 45 minutes, but the visitors were always comfortable and almost added a fourth when Matt Whichelow forced a good save out of replacement keeper Shane McWeeney.

Watford named a strong line-up, with Ross Jenkins, Henderson and Whichelow, who had all come off the bench in the 2-0 victory at Stevenage 24 hours previously, in the starting XI, along with the experienced Scott Severin and new signing Tom Aldred.

Wealdstone lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation and had four former Hornets youngsters – Junior Osbourne, Louis Lavers, Kurtney Brooks and Kieron Forbes – in their side, while two more – Scott Fitzgerald and Mark E’Beyer – were not involved.

But it was Forbes who almost fired his side in front inside 30 seconds when his shot hit the bar, but the follow up was unable to stretch keeper Jack Bonham.

Following the news the Hornets had signed highly-rated youngster Sean Murray after rejecting a bid from Manchester City, the visiting fans saw the first glimpse of what he was capable of in the seventh minute when he hit a lovely clipped pass from the centre circle through to Massey.

Henderson sent a couple of attempts off-target as the Hornets continued to press, but they had to wait until the 23rd minute for their next opportunity when first-year scholar and right-back Tommie Hoban headed a corner narrowly wide of Sam Beagle’s right-hand post.

However, the Hornets only had to wait a minute to make the breakthrough when left-back and second-year scholar Archer received the ball outside the left angle of the area and he beat Beagle with a crisp strike, although the keeper will feel he should have done better.

Henderson, who had made a lively start, could have doubled the Hornets’ advantage soon after when he glanced a free-kick wide, but it took a fine save from Bonham to keep the Hornets in front on the half-hour.

Another Watford old boy, Lavers, was the supplier with a cross from the left and Ngoyi stole in with a fine downward header, which the Watford keeper did well to get down to. Even so, lone striker Jon Douglas should still have converted the rebound, albeit from a tight angle, but he fired over.

Murray showed another glimpse of his potential in the 35th minute when he latched on to a Massey pass to break into the area and hold off a challenge and, although he then slightly mis-controlled the ball, he still had the awareness to lay a reverse pass back to Massey, but the striker sliced his shot wide.

However, the game really came to life in a remarkable passage of play during the two minutes before the interval.

Watford looked like they would head into the break with a two-goal advantage when a low Murray ball from the right picked out Massey, who took a touch before crashing a shot past Beagle off the underside of the bar from around ten yards.

Almost immediately though, Wealdstone were back in it when a mis-hit shot from Adam Logie somehow found its way through the visitors’ defence and the lurking Ngoyi was able to beat Bonham.

Had the hosts kept possession from the restart that is probably how the score would have stayed until the interval. Instead though, they lost it and Henderson struck a fine dipping effort from 20 yards past the bemused Beagle to make it 3-1 to the visitors at the break.

Jenkins had the visitors’ first attempt of the second period with a goal-bound shot that was deflected wide and then Murray cut inside before firing a left-footed effort wide of Beagle’s left-hand upright.

The Stones made three changes inside the opening 15 minutes of the second period, but it was their opponents who were still looking to push on, although the game went off the boil for a while.

But it almost sparked back into life with 20 minutes left when Forbes cut infield off the left before hitting a right-footed effort from 20 yards not too far wide of Bonham’s right-hand upright.

McWeeney came on for Beagle a minute later and, soon after, he was called on to make a fine save, diving sharply to his right to keep out a Whichelow effort after he had been picked out by Massey’s ball in from the right.

The hosts were not too far away when replacement George Feristone broke from midfield and fed fellow substitute Kenny Ojukwu on the right side of the area. Although Bonham was unable to get a hand to the ball, he forced the striker to try his luck from a very tight angle and his shot flashed across goal and out for a throw-in.

That turned out to be the last meaningful goalmouth action, as the Stones lost their third pre-season friendly in a row by the same scoreline.

Wealdstone: Beagle (McWeeney 71); Ju Osbourne, Locke (Clarke 58), Cronin, Lavers (Sekora 68); Brooks, Logie (Feristone 60); Forbes, Burnell, Ngoyi (Ja Osborne 60); Douglas (Ojuwkwu 68). Not used: A Massey.

Watford XI: Bonham; Hoban, Aldred, Oshodi, Archer; Murray (Isaac 85), Severin, Jenkins, Whichelow; G Massey (Smith 85), Henderson. Not used: Bond, Bevans and Assombalonga.