Hornets fly in to St Albans

Steve Wales shoots at goal. Picture: Leigh Page

Steve Wales shoots at goal. Picture: Leigh Page - Credit: Archant

St Albans City joint manager James Gray is expecting a “massive test” when his side take on Championship team Watford at Clarence Park on Saturday.

In a hastily arranged friendly, City players will go head to head with the Hornets first-team, which could include Juan Carlos Paredes, who played for Ecuador in the World Cup, and Watford’s top scorer from last season, Troy Deeney.

“It will be a massive test,” Gray conceded.

“It doesn’t matter if they bring their starting line-up or a team made up of first and second year professionals because, as a Championship club, they have quality throughout the ranks.”

With the opening game of the season on August 9 at home to Hayes and Yeading just 19 days away, no one, not the fans, owners, players, management or press, wants to see the Saints on the wrong end of a rout and all the confidence they’ve build up disappate.

It is something Gray and Graham Golds [joint manager] have thought about as they prepare for the game, which kicks off at 3pm.

“We don’t want to get a [thrashing] but I think we can really test them if we set up in the right formation,” explained Gray.

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So far this pre-season City have set up to score goals, which they have done; netting 16 times in the last three matches is testament to that, but they have conceded too many for Gray’s liking.

Therefore, Saturday’s game will give his players the chance to defend their goal against some of the best players they will ever face.

“I’ve liked the way we’ve been going forward but I haven’t been 100 per cent happy with us defensively,” said Gray.

“We have plenty of midfielders that are good attackers but we need to tighten up. Saturday will be a good chance to do that because Watford will probably have more of the ball.”

It will be a new experience for City, who were more often than not the aggressors last season on their way to winning the play-off final and promotion to the Conference South.

For Gray, its the opportunity to add another weapon to the Saints’ arsenal.

“You never know what you’re going to get in the Conference South, especially since its a new experience for us,” he told the Herts Ad.

“We respect every team in the league so we may have to play a more counter attacking style in some games or more defensively in another. We need to know what the players can do because it’s all about being right for Hayes and Yeading on the opening day.”