Watford 4 Stockport County 1: Prize asset Young not allowed to sit it out

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The Independent Football

Watford preserved their dignity by beating their League Two opponents, but just as importantly they also preserved their prime asset Ashley Young's health. However, things did not pan out exactly as the Hornets manager, Aidy Boothroyd, might have wanted as his Premiership team fell behind and he then had to bring Young on.

With only a one-goal advantage at the time, Boothroyd decided his side needed the striker's pace and penetration. That ploy did work as they added two more goals. Boothroyd claimed later he was not worried Young is now Cup-tied, and in all likelihood it will not prevent Aston Villa, Tottenham and Everton pursuing their interest, as their large squads can absorb an ineligible player for future rounds.

Yet with 23 minutes gone, Boothroyd's plan appeared as if it could backfire when the visitors took the lead. David Poole, a former Manchester United trainee bought from Yeovil this week, beat the offside trap from Tony Dinning's pass and slipped his shot past Ben Foster. The gap of 59 League places between the teams had shrunk visibly in that opening spell, although the Hornets only took seven minutes to equalise when Malky Mackay stuck out a leg from eight yards.

Apart from Young's omission, Boothroyd had gone for as full-strength a side as possible, but the extra quality only revealed itself after the interval. Three minutes after the break, Darius Henderson found Tommy Smith and his scuffed shot dribbled over the line.

Mackay's second - a tap-in after Jordan Stewart's free-kick - ensured victory, and with eight minutes left Moses Ashikodi had the debut he dreamt of when the visiting keeper James Spencer missed a routine clearance and the new signing from Rangers followed up from three yards.