Having suffered two defeats just before the international break, there was little confidence going into this game against a Derby side that started the day at the top of the table. Any hopes that had been sparked by the news that Abdi and Angella were available for selection were dashed when neither of them was in the starting line-up which was Bond, Doyley, Ekstrand, Bassong, Paredes, Dyer, Andrews, Tözsér, Forestieri, Ighalo and Deeney. The Derby team included Watford old boy, Craig Forsyth. One positive on arrival at the ground was to see fans entering the new stand from Occupation Road. The structure and the fact that we finally have a four sided ground again is certainly cause for celebration.
Derby had an early chance to take the lead as Andrews failed to clear and the ball fell to Hendrick whose shot was turned onto the post by Bond. At the other end, Deeney released Dyer but his cross was terrible.
There was an early yellow card for Keogh who was penalized for dragging Deeney back as he attempted to break. A cross from Andrews was dummied by Ighalo and ran through to Dyer whose shot was easily gathered by Butland. A cross reached Ibe in Watford the box, but his shot was blocked by Ekstrand. The resulting corner flew along in front of the goal but, fortunately, there was no Derby player on hand to turn it in. Ibe had another shot on goal, this time it was Deeney on hand to block. Forestieri played a through ball for Ighalo but Shotton was in close attendance and stopped the Nigerian with a great tackle. Watford threatened with a shot from Deeney that Butland parried, it went out for a throw from which Forestieri unleashed a shot that Butland gathered. Dyer did well to win the ball in the midfield, he passed to Deeney who found Forestieri in the box, sadly Fernando hesitated before shooting so was tackled and fell over. He pleaded for a penalty but the referee gave the corner. Tözsér took the set piece which Butland punched clear.
On the half hour, Paredes nearly put the home side in trouble as he tried to dribble out of defence, was dispossessed but the shot to the near post was easy for Bond. The young keeper was in action again getting a hand to a shot from Martin and pushing it around the far post. The visitors took the lead in the 38th minute as Russell found Ibe on the left of the Watford box from where he hit a great shot into the top right corner. Watford tried to hit back immediately as Doyley played a lovely through pass to Dyer who was tripped as he shaped to shoot so he ended up belting the ball over the bar. At the other end, Martin connected with a Mascarell free-kick but Bond pulled off another excellent reflex save to tip the ball over the bar. There were boos at the half-time whistle, which was harsh. We had been a bit careless in our passing, hesitant before shooting and indulged in some suicidal defending, but were only a goal down to a cracking strike.
At the start of the second half, Vydra replaced Ighalo. There was an early scare for the home side as Hendrick went for a run along the bye-line, but his cross went begging. Tözsér found Forestieri in another great position, but again, Fernando hesitated and the shot was blocked. Then a low cross from Paredes was dummied by Vydra and reached Deeney whose shot was saved. Derby immediately launched a counter-attack through Hughes whose cross was met by Russell but the shot was high and wide. Vydra went on a storming run down the wing, his cross was cleared but reached Forestieri whose shot flew fractionally wide of the far post. Martin beat Ekstrand to get through on goal, Bond bravely came and saved at his feet and was down for a while receiving treatment but, thankfully, was soon fit to continue. In the 60th minute, there was a minute’s applause that started in the Rookery in memory of Colin Roe, a Watford fan who died on the way to the Millwall game. A nice touch, it was well observed, although the players must have been baffled. Thankfully, we were attacking at the time and they seemed to derive encouragement although it didn’t result in a shot on goal.
Soon after, Andrews was replaced by Munari. Forestieri had another chance but, again, shot just wide. Derby then made their first substitution with Bryson replacing Hughes. Watford had a great chance to equalize as Doyley met a cross from Paredes with a header that Butland saved, the ball rebounded to Deeney, but he had his back to goal so could only pass to Dyer whose shot was blocked. Watford drew level soon after as a lovely move finished with Munari running on to a ball into the box from Dyer and burying it past Butland. We could have taken the lead soon after as Forestieri exchanged passes with Deeney before finding Vydra whose shot was just wide of the target. Forestieri then found Deeney whose shot was blocked. With a quarter of an hour remaining, both sides made a substitution with Anya replacing Dyer for the Hornets and the goal scorer, Ibe, making way for Dawkins for the visitors. Munari and Vydra then exchanged passes, the ball rolled through to Deeney but his shot, on the run, was well over the target. Derby had a rare second half chance as a cross from Forsyth was met with a glancing header from Russell that flew wide. Bassong went on a run and found Vydra in the box but two defenders converged to stop the Czech from shooting. Russell launched a counter attack and found Forsyth whose shot was saved by Bond.
Derby took the lead soon after with a gorgeous shot from distance by Bryson. That was really harsh on the Hornets who had dominated the half. Watford had a chance to hit back as a Vydra corner was met by a header from Munari that fell to Keogh who kindly played it back to Munari but the Italian’s shot was cleared by Butland. The resulting corner reached Tözsér but his shot landed on the top of the Derby net. The final chance for an equalizer fell to Anya who was thwarted as Butland stuck a foot out to deflect his shot wide.
There was a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth from Watford fans after this game, which I found a little hard to understand. We had been wasteful at times but had dominated the second half and had been beaten by two wonder strikes. Still, I’m always happier when the expectation levels fall as high expectation breeds tiresome impatience in the crowd.