After Saturday’s disaster against Norwich, it was good to have a midweek game to, hopefully, get back to winning ways. Team news was that we were starting with four central defenders and without a recognized winger. The starting XI was Gomes, Hoban, Angella, Ekstrand, Cathcart, Tözsér, Watson, Layun, Abdi, Ighalo and Deeney lining up in a 4-3-1-2 formation.
The first chance of the game fell to the home side as Ighalo beat a defender on the byline, crossed for Deeney, who couldn’t get a touch, the ball was cleared to Tözsér whose shot was blocked. The next incident of interest was an Angella pass that was annoyingly intercepted by the referee who then redeemed himself by falling over. Honestly, I have no idea why a referee falling over is the height of comedy, but it is. Abdi won the ball, turned and played a lovely pass to Tözsér who fired over the bar.
Watford took the lead on 17 minutes. If you are going to misplace a pass in midfield, then the last player that you want to pick it up is Ighalo with the form he is in at the moment. The unfortunate Rotherham player was Arnason, Ighalo took advantage advancing on the goal before rounding the keeper and slotting the ball home. The visitors tried to break back as Derbyshire crossed in the direction of Milsom, but Cathcart made sure he didn’t get to the ball and it drifted wide. Watford should have increased their lead in the 24th minute as Abdi received a pass from Layun, advanced and shot but Collin managed to parry the ball, it came out to Deeney whose shot was also saved. From the resulting corner, Ekstrand flicked the ball goalwards, but Collin pulled off another save. Watford had had most of the possession in the first half hour, but gradually Rotherham got back into the game. Ekstrand lost the ball to Derbyshire who advanced but shot straight at Gomes. From a Pringle corner, Arnason had a free header but he directed it straight at the Watford keeper. Just before half time, there was a half chance for Ighalo who was played in by Deeney but snatched at his shot and it flew over the bar. So we reached half time a goal to the good, but it hadn’t been terribly entertaining. We’d started the half with some quick passing moves which looked nice but hadn’t amounted to much and, as the half went on, we’d let the visitors get a foothold in the game.
Watford increased their lead early in the second half after Arnason stuck a leg out to trip Tözsér, who was on his way into the box. The Icelander was booked and Tözsér stepped up to hit a ferocious free-kick which stung Collins’ palms, the ball fell to Ekstrand who squared for Deeney to tap it into the net. The third Watford goal came almost immediately as a shot from Layun was parried to Ighalo who tucked it away. Rotherham never looked like getting back into the game after this. We could have been further ahead soon after from an unlikely source as Tommie Hoban broke into the box and shot over the bar. I am reliably informed that this was a source of great amusement for Troy Deeney. A rare attack from the visitors resulted in a corner which was punched clear by Gomes. Abdi was the next to threaten the Rotherham goal but his shot from the edge of the area was caught by Collin. On 67 minutes, Jokanovic made his first substitution replacing Layun with Munari. Green found himself in the Watford box, but his shot was cleared into the stand by Cathcart.
Ighalo was not to get the chance of a hat trick as he was replaced by Vydra with 15 minutes remaining. Rotherham’s best chance of a goal so far came with a shot from distance by Hammill that flew just wide of the far post. At the other end, a trip on Abdi earned Smallwood a yellow card and Watford a free kick from which Tözsér went close to increasing the lead but the ball went just wide of the near post. Abdi really should have scored Watford’s fourth but he volleyed Deeney’s cross over the bar. Watford’s final substitution saw Deeney make way for Forestieri. The visitors had a decent chance to pull a goal back as the ball was given away to Hammill who broke forward, his shot was turned around the post for a corner from which Derbyshire shot wide of the target. Rotherham’s final goal attempt in normal time came from Clarke-Harris, but Gomes dropped to make the save. There were 6 minutes of time added on, which suited nobody, but it did contain two more goal attempts from the Hornets. First a shot from Vydra which was blocked by Collin. In the dying moments Abdi really should have got on the scoresheet as he broke into the box but his shot rebounded off the post.
There was much complaining after the game because, convincing as the win had been, it was the dullest 3-0 imaginable. The way the team had been set up meant there was no width and little free-flowing football. Still a win is a win, the goal difference is improved and it is very tight at the top of the table. Sometimes dull is good.