First Team 4 weeks ago

Match Report: Watford 3-0 Aston Villa

By Kevin Affleck

Just who writes this man's scripts?

Off the treatment table only recently ahead of schedule and with precious little sleep after the birth of his third child, Troy Deeney scored two goals of seismic importance, and had a hand in the third, against the club who give him so much stick to breathe genuine life into this bid to get out of trouble.

Off the bottom after the point against Sheffield United, the Hornets now have lift off, their season is up and running and not too many will fancy playing the Hornets if they play with this sort of character and conviction. And let's not forget, they played a third of the game with ten men, 48 hours after digging really deep for a point at Sheffield United. It was heart-warming stuff.

Nigel Pearson, being Nigel Pearson, will be keep feet firmly on the floor, and he's dead right as there is lots and lots of work to be done, but it's difficult not to be encouraged at the very least by the riotous events at Vicarage Road.

Abdoulaye Doucouré had his best game in some time, Deeney was herculean, Étienne Capoue was back to the sort of form he displayed last season, Christian Kabasele is playing the best football of his Watford career and Ben Foster made yet another ridiculous save. Nobody had a bad game, everyone was at least a seven out of ten, possibly even an eight, and this looks a united group, one Pearson has grabbed by the scruff of the neck and gelled together. They are starting to look the sum of their parts. The amount of times players stepped in to support each other during a flashpoint told its own story. Even a couple of VAR decisions went the team's way.

The first half was a lively old affair, played out amid a good old-fashioned tussle between Kabasele and Wesley who slugged it out like two prize cruiserweights. It was a marvellous watch. Will Hughes and Jack Grealish joined in at one point and had a tete a tete of their own. It was cracking stuff and a sign of just what was at stake in this one.

The Hornets knew the significance of this home game and they came flying out of the traps in a high-octane start. They forced a corner inside 60 seconds and had Tom Heaton making a save from the returning Doucouré seconds later.

Despite three wonderful cross-field balls from Capoue, some tigerish play from Hughes, the promptings of Gerard Deulofeu down the left and the raids of Ismaïla Sarr down the right, they didn’t build on the promising start. In fact, it was Villa who came closest to scoring when Foster pulled off yet another save that defied logic. Wesley was wheeling away to celebrate nodding one past the Watford 'keeper on 24 minutes, but Foster scooped it out in Gordon Banks-esque fashion. Most of Vicarage Road stood to applaud and even the odd Villa one did.

Boosted by the reprieve, the Hornets came again in the final five minutes of the half. Deeney missed one he would usually score with his eyes closed but then made immediate amends by scuffing in the opener with his left foot. It wasn't the cleanest connection, and definitely not as sweetly struck as the one he curled in at the same end against the same opposition four years ago, but he won't care a jot. They all count, after all, especially when they come in front of the fans who barrack him for his affiliation with the Blues.

There was no let up after the break. Two corners were forced inside four minutes; Deeney stole possession off the unsuspecting Kortney Hause; Deulofeu cut out a throw from Tom Heaton and you had Nathaniel Chalobah chasing down the 'keeper from a back pass. Both Doucouré and Chalobah also fired shots just over from the edge of the box inside the first ten minutes. The positive intent was clear, evidenced by the fact they had 14 shots up to that point.

That all changed, though, when Adrian Mariappa was sent off for two bookings in the space of six minutes. You feared a backs-to-the-wall affair for the remaining half hour or so, a real nerve-shredding third of the game but there wasn't a trace of that.

Deeney won and converted a penalty on 67 minutes and then played in Capoue for the Frenchman to lay on a thrilling third for Sarr on 71 minutes. It was absolutely exhilarating stuff, an exhibition in how to play with ten men and a win that will do wonders for confidence and belief. You wait since April for a first home win and then, like buses at Watford Junction, two come along at once. A third on the bounce at this place, against Wolverhampton on Wednesday, will represent just about the perfect Christmas.


HORNETS: Foster; Mariappa, Kabasele, Cathcart (Masina 84), Femenía; Capoue, Hughes (Chalobah 45, Dawson 59), Doucouré; Sarr, Deeney, Deulofeu.

Subs not used: Gomes, Dawson, Gray, Quina and Success not used.

First Team 4 weeks ago

Pearson: “They’re All Tough Games”

Despite beating Manchester United last time out at Vicarage Road, Nigel Pearson does not expect an easy day at the office when Aston Villa come to town and wants the crowd to help push the team over the line once again.

“It’s a really important game for both teams and both teams will be thinking it will have a really positive effect on our season if we can win it. I’m looking at it in isolation, in that we’re playing Villa and we’d like to beat them,” said the Head Coach.

“We’ve got a run of home games coming up and I don’t know how people perceive them, but they’re all tough games. We’ve got to try to emulate the game against Manchester United in terms of creating a good atmosphere at the ground.”

Pearson has seen many positives in his team already since joining the club, but knows consistency will be key to climbing the table.

“We’ve got to be really on our toes all the time. I do have belief that we are capable of turning our season around, but I’m a realist and know it’s going to be difficult,” he said.

“Our fortunes won’t change overnight, there will be setbacks along the way, but we’ve got to keep our composure and nerve and make sure the performances we put in give us a good chance of winning games.

“We’ve got to find a level of consistency in our performances first and foremost. If you look at Sheffield United compared to other games, we weren’t as fluid, but we showed different qualities really well and the players have reward for their efforts. But we’ve got to be better at times.”

There’s an argument the Aston Villa match is a classic six-pointer and three points could be more valuable against Dean Smith’s side than other opponents. But Pearson is just focused on picking up points, rather than working out ‘what if’ scenarios with the league table.

“We just need to try to win tomorrow on its own merit. There’s a danger of spending too long looking at all the different permutations but our focus at the moment needs to be on trying to get our own result right and if we do that, we can hopefully start to build some momentum,” said Pearson.

“There’s a lot at stake because both sides will be trying to win it and certainly not get beat. That in itself certainly adds a slightly different dimension, but we’ll be trying to win the game and there’s no doubt about that.”