Date:Saturday August 11 2012
Watford 1 Wycombe Wanderers 0 (after extra time)
Chris Iwelumo's 110th minute goal was enough to deny the Blues the penalty shoot-out their battling performance deserved.
It was a heartbreaking conclusion for the visitors who fought like tigers and made the 'golden boys' of Vicarage Road look very tarnished indeed.
With highly-prized striker Stuart Beavon reportedly ill, Gary Waddock selected Richard Logan in attack, a five man midfield and a new-look defence containing an exciting blend of youth and experience.
At the back we were treated to excellent performances from Charles Dunne and Anthony Stewart. The youngsters have made a seamless transition to the first-team and on today's showing, deserve to retain their places next week at York.
Stewart began the game at centre-half but was moved to right-back after 20 minutes when McCoy was carried off on a stretcher. You won't find many central-defenders capable of carrying the ball down the wing with confidence, but on several occasions this afternoon that's what we got from Anthony Stewart.
Bloomfield, Lewis and Spring battled hard in midfield with Grant providing sporadic bursts of skill on one flank and Wood showing an admirable workrate on the other.
My pick of the newcomers was Spring who always seems to have time on the ball which is a sure sign of a classy player.
For long periods Logan ploughed a lonely furrow up front. Expecting him to do the same amount of running and chasing as Beavon was a non-starter, but the former Exeter man worked hard, showed some clever touches and twice put himself in a good position to score, albeit in vain.
Neither side created much in the first half. Watford should have gone in front when Jonathan Hogg put a free header wide of the post and Wycombe should have made them pay when Manuel Almunia could only parry Grant's shot and Logan failed to convert the loose ball.
Stewart headed a Spring corner over the bar as the first-half drew to a close with the visitors having matched their Championship opponents in every department.
After the break, the Blues had several more efforts on goal, two long-range shots from Logan sandwiching a similar effort from Spring.
Then came the best chance and the best effort of the game.
The best chance fell to Logan who broke clear but with only Almunia to beat sliced his shot horribly wide of the near post.
The best effort came from Stuart Lewis who rifled a fierce drive inches wide of the Watford keeper's upright.
With Nikki Bull rarely troubled at the other end, neither side could make the breakthrough and the game entered extra time with a penalty shootout looking likely.
Apparently suffering from cramp, Dunne was replaced by Basey eight minutes after the restart and almost immediately Bloomfield was replaced by new signing Lee Angol.
With Angol playing a more advanced role than Bloomfield, Watford began to enjoy more possession and all Wycombe's hard work was undone when Matej Vydra broke free on the right wing and Iwelumo slotted the ball home from close range.
If the result was disappointing in the end it was only because the performance had exceeded expectations by a country mile.
Hopefully it's a performance that will give the players the confidence to approach each and every game with a positive attitude during the coming campaign.
Bull, McCoy (Johnson 20), Doherty, Stewart , Dunne (Basey 98), Grant, Bloomfield (Angol 100), Spring, Lewis, Wood, Logan
Date:Saturday August 11 2012
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