THE Hornets were forced to share the points with Blackpool this afternoon as the home side came back from two goals down to rescue a point late on at Bloomfield Road.
Watford were 2-0 up at the break thanks to an early goal from Ikechi Anya, before Troy Deeney doubled the lead just before the halfway mark of the first period.
Blackpool rarely threatened before the interval but it was a different story after the break as Pool cranked up through the gears.
Former Hornet Kevin Phillips grabbed a goal before further late pressure from the hosts was rewarded in time added on – Isaiah Osbourne's well-struck effort piercing an increasingly desperate Hornets’ rearguard.
The Hornets made four changes for the trip to the north west following last weekend’s win over Wolves.
Fitz Hall returned at the back in place of the injured Lloyd Doyley, Anya came in on the right of Watford’s five-man midfield, replacing Marco Cassetti, as Zola looked to make use of his pace down the flank.
There was a first start for Cristian Battocchio in midfield, the Italian was included instead of the suspended Jonathan Hogg.
Matej Vydra was the final change, partnering Deeney up front – taking the place of Fernando Forestieri.
Watford were in front with just four minutes on the clock as they made full use of the pace available to them on the counterattack.
Battocchio received the ball in his own half and hit a cross-field pass to Vydra, the striker from the Czech Republic controlled the ball before playing it into the path of the on-rushing Anya, and he steadied himself before sliding the ball past Matthew Gilks.
Watford weren’t far away from being two-up three minutes later but Ludovic Sylvestre was on hand to clear Vydra’s goal-bound effort.
The visitors continued their bright start and they looked the likelier of the sides to score again at Bloomfield Road.
That proved to the case on 21 minutes as Deeney netted his fifth of the campaign from close range. Mark Yeates’ well-placed free-kick caused panic in the Pool area and after the resulting scramble the striker made no mistake as he bundled the ball home.
Blackpool didn’t ask too many questions of the away defence during the reminder of the half although they did increase the pressure, certainly towards the interval.
The Hornets went close on the stroke of half-time as Yeates’ well-placed shot hit the side netting.
Tom Ince’s weaving run in stoppage time caused the Hornets problems but Manuel Almunia was on hand to divert the danger away.
The impressive Ince had the first chance of the first half as he latched onto a ball and fired at goal but Almunia got down well to deny the former Liverpool youngster.
Seven minutes into the second half Pool halved the Hornets’ lead as a former Golden Boy came back to haunt his old club.
Watford were unable to clear their lines and despite the best efforts of Tommie Hoban, Chris Basham put the ball across the face of goal and Phillips was in the right place at the right time to stab home.
Anya was replaced on the hour-mark after he pulled up with an injury; he was swiftly replaced by Cassetti.
Blackpool were now cranking up the pressure on the Hornets as they sensed a comeback, the home crowd started to find their voices too as they raised the noise inside Bloomfield Road.
Sub Tiago Gomes’ piercing strike went just over Almunia’s crossbar from 25-yards and then Ince got the better of Daniel Pudil and his ambitious curling effort rattled the crossbar after 72 minutes.
Almunia was on hand to turn sub Wes Thomas’ header round the post four minutes before the end of normal time.
Fellow sub Osbourne claimed a point for the Tangerines as his impressive 20-yard strike beat Almunia to make the final score 2-2.
POOL: Gilks; Broadfoot, Baptiste (c), Cathcart, Crainey; Basham, Sylvestre (Osbourne h/time); Grandin (Gomes 29), Delfouneso, Ince; K. Phillips (Thomas 68). Subs not used: Harris, Angel, Dicko, Halstead.
HORNETS: Almunia (c); Ekstrand, Hall, Hoban; Anya (Cassetti 60), Yeates (Murray 75), Battocchio, Chalobah, Pudil; Deeney, Vydra (Forestieri 82). Subs not used: Bond (GK), Thompson, Smith, Geijo.
GOALS: Pool; K Phillips (52), Osbourne (90+2). Hornets; Anya (4), Deeney (21).
BOOKINGS: Pool; Ince (21). Hornets; Battocchio (41), Hall (78).
REFEREE: Mr K Wright.
ATTENDANCE: 13,076 (555 Hornets).