This game looked to be turning in Town’s favour when Murray Wallace made it 2-2 and Watford went down to ten men, but a quick-fire set piece goal from Keith Andrews changed that quickly and the Terriers couldn’t recover.
Despite showing good character to come from behind twice through Wallace and, initially, Harry Bunn, Town switched off from a set-piece to go behind and were caught by a late sucker-punch when midfielder Almen Abdi netted a fourth deep into added time.
The Terriers lined up in a 4-2-3-1 at Vicarage Road, with debutant Jack Robinson playing at right back due to the injuries to Lee Peltier and Tommy Smith.
Also coming into the side was James Vaughan for his first start of the season; Nahki Wells dropping to the bench after a kick to his ankle from the previous weekend.
Watford came into the game in second position in the division and it was clear that they carried an attacking threat, with the strike pairing of Troy Deeney and Fernando Forestieri popping up all over the pitch to good effect. On the right Ikechi Anya showcased his pace constantly, whereas the delivery of Daniel Pudil from the left was excellent.
However, you can get at them – and Town did as early as the 10th minute. New boy Robinson possesses a long throw that caused chaos and, from one, the returning Vaughan planted a firm header wide of target.
Anya soon dragged a shot wide at the other end before Deeney headed a free-kick chance wide of the far post, although he looked to have fouled marker Murray Wallace in the process.
Another impressive Watford figure was deep-lying midfielder Daniel Tozser. The Hungarian masterminded the opening goal midway into the half as Town afforded him too much time on the ball with a high defensive line, so when he threaded the ball into a gap there was acres for Deeney to run onto. He did what he does, drawing Smithies before sliding the ball home.
At the other end, former Spurs stopper Heurelho Gomes looked a little shaky at times. Minutes after the opening goal, he had to parry a long shot from Radi Majewski after excellent work from Harry Bunn.
Although he did ok with that, he made a mess of another effort from Conor Coady moments later. Coady’s curler looked easy pickings, but he spilled the ball into the path of Vaughan. Although he turned the ball home, the linesman’s flag was up straight away.
Watford finished the half strongly, with Forestieri – a man who has drawn much derision from Town fans in past meetings of the two sides – also having a goal ruled out for offside and then making a real mess of a free header when positioned just ten yards out.
Gomes’ handling cost Watford dear just after the half-time restart when Harry Bunn netted his second goal of the season to draw Town level. Scannell’s low cross into the middle was spilled by the ‘keeper under pressure, allowing Bunn to stride onto the ball in the box and drill it low into the vacant net.
Unfortunately for the Terriers, Watford restored their lead through midfielder Almen Abdi ten minutes into the half. Goalscorer Bunn scuffed a defensive clearance – Town’s players thought he was fouled as he cleared – straight to an opponent and when the pass came to Abdi he was in acres of space inside the Town area, who beat Smithies with aplomb.
Once again, Lillis’ men reacted brilliantly to going behind. Attacking with real intent, Gomes was called upon to push Vaughan’s header around the post after Scannell whipped in a superb cross from the right.
From that 64th minute corner, Town levelled again – with Murray Wallace getting his second of the season. Gomes came to try and claim Butterfield’s corner and got nowhere near it, meaning that Wallace had the simple job of attacking the ball and nodding it home.
Things went from bad to worse for Watford a minute later when big defender Tamas brought down Bunn on a dribble on the touchline – drawing a second yellow card from the referee.
Amazingly, that spurred on Watford to take the lead for the third time in the game. Smithies pushed Tozser’s free-kick around his right-hand post, but from the resulting corner home substitute Keith Andrews planted a firm header home – despite a valiant effort from Scannell on the line.
Then it was down to Town to find a way back into the game. They should have with quarter of an hour to go when Coady’s superb curling back post ball found the run of Scannell, but the winger got caught in two minds and headed the ball into the floor and wide from very close range.
Town had all the possession as Wells (twice) and Hammill all had shots at goal that were saved, until deep into the six minutes of added Watford made certain of the points for the hosts when Abdi grabbed his second on a counter-attack.
Town’s team vs. Watford (4-2-3-1):
Alex Smithies; Paul Dixon (Jonathan Stead, 82), Joel Lynch (c), Murray Wallace, Jack Robinson; Jacob Butterfield, Conor Coady; Harry Bunn (Adam Hammill, 79), Radoslaw Majewski, Sean Scannell; James Vaughan (Nahki Wells, 73)
Joe Murphy, Danny Ward, Jordan Sinnott, Matt Crooks
Joel Lynch (12); Paul Dixon (33); James Vaughan (38); Conor Coady (62); Murray Wallace (67)