After last week’s injustice on the South Coast, we returned to Vicarage Road, scene of recent goal fests. With Angella’s red card rescinded the only change from the team that started at Bournemouth was the return of Paredes, meaning that Layun moved to a more central midfield position and Tözsér dropped to the bench. The starting line-up was Gomes, Hoban, Angella, Cathcart, Anya, Munari, Watson, Layun, Paredes, Ighalo and Deeney. With Abdi and Forestieri both back from injury we also had an incredibly strong bench.
In the first minute, a shot from Ighalo was blocked and rebounded to Layun who hit his shot wide of the target. At the other end a Blackburn corner was headed goalwards by Hanley but deflected for a corner. Anya broke forward and played a lovely through ball to Layun whose shot was turned around the post by Steele. The resulting corner was met with a strong header from Angella, but again Steele was equal to it.
Ighalo did really well to muscle Hanley off the ball before playing a square pass to Watson whose shot was just over the bar. As the 20th minute approached, there was a yellow card for each side as Spearing was penalized for taking Deeney out and Paredes was booked for giving Conway similar treatment. From Blackburn’s free-kick, the ball reached Rhodes in the Watford box, but his shot was high and wide. Blackburn had another decent chance from a free-kick soon after but Brown’s header flew just past the top corner. Cathcart was the next player to go into Mr Madley’s book. The referee was blowing up for some very soft fouls against both teams and this looked like a harsh booking. Anya tried for some time to get into a position to cross, the Blackburn defence was harrying him, but he kept dropping back to relaunch his attack. When he finally got his cross in, it dropped to Deeney who paused before shooting and so his attempt was blocked. Deeney then played a one-two with Ighalo, but was stopped by a great saving tackle in the box.
A Layun corner was cleared as far as Angella who headed down to Anya whose shot was well wide of the near post. In time added on at the end of the first half, Munari was booked for a foul on Rhodes. Marshall’s free-kick required a good save from Gomes to ensure that the game was goalless at half time. It had been a disappointing half of football. Watford had had some decent possession, but weren’t doing themselves a lot of favours with some dreadful misplaced passes. But credit to Blackburn who were ensuring that the home team had little time on the ball and, when they were in possession, were closed down and harried into making mistakes.
Blackburn had the first chance of the second half, as Rhodes headed a Marshall cross wide. At the other end, Ighalo was fouled on the edge of the box. It seemed a perfect position for Layun to try a shot but, instead, Watson played a short ball to Layun who was closed down before he could cross and the chance was gone. That routine may have looked great on the training ground, but it looked appalling at Vicarage Road. On the hour, Jokanovic made an attacking substitution taking Hoban off to make way for Vydra. The Czech’s first shot was easily gathered by Steele who appeared to take it behind for a corner. At the other end, Gomes had to drop to gather a shot from Conway. Blackburn threatened again as Gestede headed the ball down to Rhodes whose shot looked likely to break the deadlock until Gomes got across to tip it wide. Watford failed to clear the corner which fell to Conway whose shot was brilliantly saved by Gomes. With 17 minutes remaining, it was great to see the return of Abdi as he came on to replace Watson. Blackburn had another attempt on goal as Conway played the ball back to Cairney who shot over from distance. Gomes saved the home side again as a Conway free-kick was met with another great save.
In a rare Watford attack, Vydra exchanged passes with Deeney and tried a shot that was blocked, it fell to Paredes who played it out to Deeney whose shot was put out for a corner. Watford then took an unexpected lead as Layun’s set piece was played on by Angella to Ighalo whose shot found the net by way of Steele’s hand and the post. The celebration of this miracle included a very long prayer from the goalscorer. Blackburn tried to hit back and there was a moment of drama as Gomes punched a cross then chased the ball out of the box to welly it over the SEJ stand to loud cheers from the Watford faithful. Watford appeared to have increased their lead in the final moments as Vydra and Ighalo broke forward and the Czech won a corner from which a cross was headed home by a defender as Ighalo challenged, but the goal was ruled out for offside presumably as Ighalo was deemed to be interfering with play. There were huge cheers at the final whistle. It had been a difficult game and the win was hardly deserved, but Blackburn had been such unpleasant opponents that I felt no guilt. It was no surprise that Gomes won the man of the match award and he was given a tremendous ovation as he did his lap of the pitch applauding the crowd at the end.
If we learnt anything from this game it was that the team has finally injected some steel into their game and we can win when the opposition comes to stop us playing. That bodes very well for the rest of the season.