The success against Brighton last week gladdened the heart, but we could have done without following it up with a trip to Leicester. Based on their performance at Vicarage Road earlier this season, they are the best team in this division by a considerable margin and the Championship table certainly backs that view. Leaving the station on arrival, I was confronted by high winds that made walking difficult and didn’t bode well for the game, but I was soon tucked up in a warm pub with a pint of real ale wondering whether I should stay there all afternoon.
On arrival at the ground, I was told that the official supporter coach hadn’t made it. Terrible traffic had meant that it arrived for the pick-up in Watford ridiculously late and that the driver was out of time by the time they got to Toddington, so they turned around after he’d had his break. I really feel for those who use the coach, a number of whom are friends, as they missed a cracking game.
When the team was announced, I was disappointed to hear that Hall, who had been immense on Sunday, had been dropped to the bench with Cassetti moving back to take his place in the centre of the back three. Merkel was the other to make way with Faraoni and Murray the replacements, so the starting line-up was Almunia, Ekstrand, Cassetti, Angella, Anya, Tözsér, Murray, Battocchio, Faraoni, Forestieri and Deeney.
Leicester fans started their taunting early with “Did you cry at Wembley?” which was a bit foolish as it was immediately answered with “Did you cry when Deeney scored?” Well, one of their players did. Pre-match predictions were confounded as we went a goal up within 10 minutes, Deeney and Forestieri exchanged
passes before Troy crossed and Forestieri headed past Schmeichel. Yes, really, a header from Forestieri! Leicester had a great chance to equalize soon after as a corner reached Wasilewski in the middle of the box, but he headed wide when it looked easier to score. Then Murray played a lovely long ball to Deeney who squared to Forestieri, but the Argentine was quickly closed down before he could shoot. At the other end, a cross from Drinkwater was met with a back flick from Vardy which went wide. Vardy threatened again soon after, this time meeting a cross from Konchesky with a header which flew over the bar. Konchesky then made his way into the referee’s book after hacking down Faraoni. On 24 minutes, Watford won their first corner of the game. Tözsér’s delivery reached Deeney who headed down to Faraoni but he shot into the side netting. The jeers from the home crowd that greeted this seemed to be down to relief on their part as there had not
been great celebrations in the away end. On the half hour, a pass from Angella that Ian Bolton would have been proud of reached Forestieri on the edge of the area, he cut the ball back to Deeney whose powerful shot flew well over the bar. The wind then threatened an equalizer as an innocuous looking corner from James changed direction and Almunia had to get a hand to it to divert it for a corner. Then Dyer ran in to the box and cut the ball back for Nugent (he always scores against us) who wellied over (phew!). Knockaert put a dangerous ball into the box and Angella did well to intercept and avert the danger. Watford had a great chance for a second as a Tözsér corner reached Angella who took the ball down and hit an overhead kick that required a good save from Schmeichel to
keep it out. We were not to be denied for long, though, as on 40 minutes, Forestieri battled to win the ball in the corner cut back to Anya who found Murray whose low shot from distance beat Schmeichel to nestle in the bottom corner. At this point there was a mass exodus from the home stand to join the queue for a half-time cuppa. More fool them as a couple of minutes later James got on the end of a cross from De Laet to cut the deficit. It was disappointing to concede so soon after our second, but the build up for the goal was excellent.
Early in the second half, Almunia came to gather a cross from Konchesky, but Nugent was challenging with Ekstrand in attendance, the Swede clattered into the keeper so there was a delay as both Watford players received treatment. Almunia needed a clear head almost immediately as Forestieri played a long ball in the direction of Deeney, which Morgan reached first and launched back for Vardy to break, he was one-on-one with the keeper but Almunia came out and made the clearance. Then a flick from Faraoni found Forestieri in the box, he tried a shot that landed on the top of the net but had been flagged offside anyway. Then Konchesky launched a speculative shot from distance that was well over the bar. Konchesky threatened again with a deep cross that Almunia punched clear. On 65 minutes, there was a brilliant break for Watford as Ekstrand released Forestieri but, instead of shooting, he opted to pass and put too much weight on it so Deeney received the ball at a tight angle and the chance was gone. The Watford defending remained resolute as a shot from James was blocked by Murray and looped safely into Almunia’s arms. Leicester
really should have equalised in the 70th minute as Dyer cut a cross back to Nugent but his point-blank header was wide of the target. At this point, Pudil replaced Faraoni. Nugent had another chance but his header was straight at Almunia. Then Cassetti was booked for barging Vardy out of the way. Vardy soon made way for Kevin Philips and my heart sank. Dyer was also withdrawn for Mahrez. Watford’s next counter attack came through the substitute, Pudil, who went on a run down the left but his shot was straight at Schmeichel. With five minutes to go, Sannino opted to shore up the defence as Hall replaced Forestieri, who left the field to boos from the home crowd. We changed to a 4-4-2 formation with Anya moving further forward. Leicester’s next substitution was an attacking one bringing Woos on for Wasilewski. Leicester’s quest for a second goal continued as
Almunia pulled off a brilliant save from a close range shot from Phillips after good work from Nugent, but he needn’t have bothered as the flag was up for offside. In time added on, Cassetti pulled the ball back to Murray but his short was poor and well wide of the target. Leicester were pushing hard for the equaliser as first a shot from Phillips and then the follow-up from James were blocked. Philips then crossed for Mahrez whose header was blocked by Ekstrand. Alas, we could not survive the onslaught. Leicester’s equalizer came in the fourth minute of added time as the ball fell to Drinkwater outside the box and his shot flew past Almunia. It has to be said that this was not the former Watford player that we were expecting to get the winner. Knockaert came over to goad the travelling Hornets and the home fans suddenly woke up. Last roll of the dice for Watford was the introduction of Merkel for Battocchio. In the last couple of minutes, Leicester could have won the game as Nugent found James in the box but a lovely sliding tackle from Pudil saved the day. From the corner Nugent shot wide and it ended honours even.
I realise that my notes of the chances make it sound as if the second half had been even, when in fact it felt like a 45 minute onslaught from Leicester with Watford restricted to counter attacks. But our defence deserves great credit for the fact that the Leicester possession did not translate into clear cut chances. Special mention must go to the travelling fans who made a tremendous noise throughout the ninety minutes. Also to the Leicester fans whose chant of “We’ll never play you again” betrayed a quite staggering level of delusion and prompted a conversation about whether they are the smallest club to believe they are a big club. At the end of the game, despite the fact that we’d thrown away a two goal lead for the third game in four, most Watford fans left the ground happy with a point away at the league leaders, particularly as it had taken them until the 94th minute to win the point. This had been another well-organized effort from the Hornets which augurs well for the remainder of the season.