06 January 2024

Valerien Ismael pleased with Watford’s second-half reaction against Chesterfield

06 January 2024

Watford head coach Valerien Ismael was pleased at the second-half reaction from his side, as they spared their FA Cup blushes with a 2-1 win over Chesterfield.

A goal in the fifth minute of stoppage time from Tom Dele-Bashiru broke the hearts of the National League leaders, who would have felt they deserved at least a replay.

Watford won their first FA Cup third-round tie at home since 2018, and progressed to the fourth round for the first time since reaching the final in 2019.

But Ismael was content with avoiding having to go to the SMH Group Stadium for a replay.

He said “The main thing in the cup is always to come through, because nobody will talk about the actual game.

“We made the game complicated for ourselves, and credit to Chesterfield they played well with a nothing-to-lose mentality.

“In the first half I didn’t get the feeling we controlled anything, at half time I told them we had to come back in our mentality – to raise our standards.

“That is non-negotiable, to play to your standards. The second half was much better and it showed a good mentality to score in the last minute.

“We’ve overcome the challenge. I prefer to score in the last minute rather than have a rematch.”

Backed by close to 4000 supporters, Chesterfield almost conceded after five minutes when Yaser Asprilla intercepted a back pass from Branden Horton, but his effort was blocked by Ryheem Sheckleford.

Goalkeeper Ryan Boot was needed on 24 minutes when Ismael Kone found space to bear down on goal but saw his shot denied the shotstopper.

The National League side then stunned their hosts three minutes later. A cross from the byline by Sheckleford found the head of Joe Quigley, who directed a simple header into the net.

It could have been even better for the visitors less than forty seconds after the restart, when keeper Daniel Bachmann had to save from Ollie Banks, following a move involving Sheckleford.

After a triple substitution was made to change the fortunes of Watford, it was down to one of the replacements in Mileta Rajovic to finally unlock the Chesterfield back line.

His header from a cross by Yaser Asprilla on 76 minutes sent an audible sigh of relief around Vicarage Road.

Although Watford were by far the more energetic of the two sides, Chesterfield could have won with seven minutes remaining, when sub Ryan Colclough headed over from less than six yards out.

The game was settled deep into injury time when Dele-Bashiru struck low past Boot, to earn a victory that was possibly ill-deserved.

Chesterfield assistant manager Danny Webb admitted the late defeat was hurtful, but his focus quickly returned to his side getting back into the EFL for the first time since 2018

He said “It’s a kick in the teeth, but when we look at the other scores in the National League today, which is what our bread and butter is, getting out that division, they went for us.

“We’re six points clear at the top, we’ve had a cracking day out and we’ve taken a Championship side toe to toe. Their bit of quality came through at the end.

“The supporters will be a bit down and a bit gutted.

“When you come to these places, the notch goes up – there’s a bit more quality, they’re a bit fitter and quicker.

“I won’t say we outplayed Watford, but we gave them a good game.”

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