DONCASTER ROVERS snatched a late victory through Billy Sharp to win 2-1 at The Keepmoat Stadium this evening - but it was a game shrouded in controversy.
Mathias Ranegie’s 20th-minute red card for violent conduct gave Doncaster the numerical advantage and they capitalised in the 24th minute, Chris Brown giving them the lead.
But after seeing a stonewall penalty turned down just before half-time, the Hornets fought back and Ikechi Anya levelled midway through the second half.
Just as it looked as though the Hornets would claim a well-earned point, Sharp struck from a rebound to give the hosts a valuable win.
Beppe Sannino was forced into two changes from the side which beat Blackpool 4-0 ten days ago.
Jonathan Bond replaced the unwell Manuel Almunia in goal, while a groin injury picked up by Sean Murray meant a start for Alexander Merkel in midfield.
The Hornets started marginally the better of the two sides; Ranegie’s knock-down falling just behind Troy Deeney before the latter teed up Alexander Merkel for a left foot strike which was saved.
But then Ranegie’s needless red card changed the game. The striker received a small shove from James Husband before kicking out at the Doncaster full-back and receieving his marching orders.
The hosts immediately capitalised on their numerical advantage, Chris Brown leaving Jonathan Bond helpless by heading home a cross from the right hand side.
But the 10 men of Watford got on top before an extraordinary refereeing decision infuriated the men in yellow just before half-time.
Deeney stole possession from goalkeeper Sam Johnstone before blatantly being hauled over by the Doncaster stopper. It was a stonewall penalty and red card but referee Sarginson was unmoved - leaving the visitors stunned.
Watford started the second period in much the same vein as they had ended the first – on the front foot.
And they went agonizingly close when a Merkel free-kick struck the crossbar and Deeney was unable to convert the rebound with an empty net beckoning.
After a quieter spell, the game burst into life again in the 68thminute. Daniel Pudil brilliantly denied Billy Sharp at one end before the Hornets broke and deservedly equalized.
A superb chipped through ball from substitute Fernando Forestieri found Ikechi Anya inside the box and the Scottish international’s left-footed strike found the corner.
The Hornets continued to impress but were let off the hook when Chris Brown somehow turned a Mark Duffy pull back wide of the post.
And the hosts went close twice in the 81stminute; Wellens shot was well saved by Bond before Deeney cleared off the line from Paul Keegan.
But just as a 1-1 draw seemed inevitable, Sharp followed in from Bond’s parry and broke Watford’s hearts deep into added time.
Hornets: Bond (GK); Doyley, Cassetti, Angella; Anya, Battocchio (Faraoni 88), Tozser, Merkel (Forestieri 59), Pudil; Deeney (C), Ranegie.
Subs not used: Woods (GK), Belkalem, McGugan, Neill, Hoban.
Goals: Anya (68). Yellow cards: Angella, Cassetti, Tozser, Faraoni. Red card: Ranegie (19)
Rovers: Johnstone; Coppinger, Quinn, Meite (McCullough HT), Husband; Duffy, Wellens, Keegan, Cotterill; Sharp, Brown.
Subs not used: Maxted (GK), Furman, De Val, Robinson, Stevens, Bowery.
Goals: Brown (24), Sharp (90). Yellow cards: Keegan (71), Wellens (90).
Referee: Christopher Sarginson. Attendance: 6,581 (429 Hornets fans).