Unbeaten league run ends despite early goal
Danny Ward’s first goal of the season wasn’t enough to continue Town’s unbeaten run in the league, as Watford succumbed them to a 2-1 defeat.
The winger climbed highest to give the Terriers a 17th minute lead, but they were quickly pegged back when Fernando Forestieri converted from the edge of the area.
The play was open and end to end and only a mistake from Alex Smithies was the difference between the sides. The stopper was unable to handle Lewis McGugan’s free-kick on the stroke of half-time and Daniel Pudil was quickest to react and slot home.
Danny Ward’s impact from the bench against Middlesbrough during the week earned him a starting spot on the left wing while Oliver Norwood was restored into the centre of midfield by Mark Robins, at the expense of Oscar Gobern.
For the Hornets, Gianfranco Zola made seven changes to the team that lost at Ewood Park on Tuesday night; the most notable of those was the recall of attacker Fernando Forestieri.
15 years had passed since Town last recorded a victory against Watford on home soil, but with 17 minutes gone that looked to be changing. Ward, who played a role in Town’s opener against Middlesbrough on Tuesday night, rose highest to flick Adam Hammill’s cross home to give Robins’ men the early advantage.
That advantage lasted just short of two minutes, though, when Jonathan Hogg’s pass was intercepted and Watford began one of their trademark counter attacks. Former Inter Milan winger Davide Faraoni found himself with the ball out wide and he picked out the unmarked Fernando Forestieri, who coolly side footed past Alex Smithies from 12 yards.
The small grip that Town had on the game disappeared after Forestieri’s equaliser as the visitors began to implement their brand of football.
It almost brought their second on the half hour mark when Troy Deeney unselfishly cut the ball inside for the onrushing Sean Murray, but his shot from the edge of the area was tame and gathered easily by Smithies
James Vaughan headed wide well placed as Town looked to restore their lead, but instead it was the away team who took a strangle hold on the game.
After Hammill had brought down Forestieri 25 yards from goal, Lewis McGugan’s free-kick proved too hot for Smithies to gather in one, which allowed Daniel Pudil the easiest of finishes from six yards.
Robins’ reaction at half-time was to introduce Duane Holmes into the action, and like against Blackpool, the diminutive midfielder started by causing the Watford defence problems.
Firstly, he released Vaughan through on goal only for the striker to be stopped in his tracks by the offside flag; the 18 year-old then teed up Ward to fire at Almunia.
Between those efforts, McGugan had fired just wide after skipping past Anthony Gerrard.
The Hornets had the chance to effectively seal the points on the hour mark, but striker Deeney uncharacteristically lacked composure in front of the goal. Watford’s leading goalscorer didn’t have to work hard for the chance, Gerrard’s miss-control put him clear but he fired over from 18 yards.
Watford’s ability to pass up chances continued ten minutes later, when with Town pushing men forward, the Hornets broke. Lloyd Doyley’s inside pass found Josh McEachran eight yards out from goal who put the ball the wrong side of Smithies’ post, to keep the Terriers alive in the game.
The missed chances didn’t matter, though, because at the other end Watford weren’t giving Town a chance. Vaughan headed over under pressure from Joel Ekstrand and substitute Sean Scannell forced Manuel Almunia into a low save, but it wasn’t enough for Town as they went into the international break defeated.
Town’s team (4-2-3-1):
Alex Smithies; Joel Lynch (Sean Scannell, 85), Anthony Gerrard, Peter Clarke (c), Jazz Richards (Martin Paterson, 65); Jonathan Hogg, Oliver Norwood; Adam Hammill, Adam Clayton (Duane Holmes, 46), Danny Ward; James Vaughan
Ian Bennett, Calum Woods, Oscar Gobern, Jonathan Stead
Watford bookings: Davide Faraoni 36, Lewis McGugan 85