Late goals from Ryan Charles and Nathan Livings had seen Blues fight back from a 3-1 deficit, but Livings missed the third shot from the spot and Watford netted all five of their penalties to win the tie.
Mark Haines and Ryan Henshaw returned to the defence, Haines returning after injury whilst Henshaw was eligible to play in this county cup tie although his suspension hadn’t been completed. Neither Sam Robbins nor Jack Thomas were in the squad.
The visitors, who fielded basically their under 18s Academy squad, made a fine start moving the ball quickly on a pitch thinly covered with snow. They opened their account in the sixth minute with Jayden Bennetts starting a solo run just inside the Blues half and finishing with a shot wide of Arhur Janata.
When Stortford settled Olly Miles was just over with a free-kick in the 17th minute and then Ben Sampayo went close five minutes later with Nathan Livings having a shot saved by Hoskins shortly afterwards. The Blues equalised in the 25th minute when Charles had a shot deflected on to the bar and Henshaw was quickly in to net the rebound.
Watford nearly retook the lead straightaway as Emmanuel Adebiyi struck an effort that was goalbound but deflected away by Haines and then a free-kick from Kieran Holsgrove wasn’t far off target. In the 34th minute Livings shot into the side-netting for Stortford.
However, the Blues were rocked when they conceded two goals in the space of four minutes. In the 37th minute Holsgrove was the provider of the pass for JJ McKiernan to shoot low past Janata (1-2) and then in he 40th minute Holsgrove and Adebiyi were involved in an attack that led to striker Kai Sanders scoring from eight yards.
Janata did well to save a header from substitute Harry Hudson in the 56th minute after a free-kick from Holsgrove whilst, at the other end Henshaw headed a Ben Worman free-kick over the bar in the 61st minute.
Watford looked to have the edge and to go through relatively comfortably as the match entered its final stages but Stortford reduced the arrears in the 80th minute as substitute Hector Kyprianou found Charles in space on the left with a great pass and “Spider” cut inside and took the ball on before drilling home. Janata was forced to make a good save from Holsgrove but the Blues equalised in the 88th minute. Jamie Cureton had entered the action a few minutes earlier and he was involved in the move switching the ball out to Ben Sampayo on the right and when the ball was crossed into the middle Livings drove into the net to the left of keeper Hoskins (3-3). It was Livings first goal for the Blues.
With no extra-time the tie went straight to a penalty shoot-out taken at the Town end.
Penalty sequence: –
Watford – Jayden Bennetts scores (0-1)
Stortford – Hector Kyprianou scores (1-1)
Watford – Kieran Holsgrove scores (1-2)
Stortford – Ben Worman scores (2-2)
Watford – Harry Hudson scores (2-3)
Stortford – Nathan Livings shot saved by James Hoskins (2-3)
Watford – Alkeo Bani scores (2-4)
Stortford – Ryan Henshaw scores (3-4)
Watford – Daniel Phillips scores (3-5)
STORTFORD: Arthur Janata; Ben Sampayo; Chris Gregan; Alex Warman (Hector Kyprianou 66); Ryan Henshaw; Mark Haines; Ben Worman; Nathan Livings; Olly Miles (Jamie Cureton 82); Luke Callander (Johnville Renee 59); Ryan Charles.
Unused substitutes: Alfie Mason and Haaroon Belaid.
WATFORD: James Hoskins; Ryan MacLean; Ben Tricker (Harry Hudson 46); Alkeo Bani; James Matthews; Imaad Sankoh (Daniel Phillips 46); JJ McKiernan; Jayden Bennetts; Kai Sanders (Dominic Hutchinson 75); Kieran Holsgrove; Emmanuel Adebiyi.
Unused substitutes: George Langston and Dante Baptiste.
Referee: Lee Jessup