First Team 2 weeks ago

Pearson: “We Have To Keep Our Focus”

Nigel Pearson felt his players put in levels of commitment and desire that Graham Taylor would have been proud of on the third anniversary of the great manager’s passing, but did not want to get carried away despite seeing the team rise out of the relegation zone.

The Hornets dug in during a scrappy first half and took advantage of their opportunity when it arose to go into the break ahead. During the second half they put their bodies on the line to defend and once again were clinical enough to score twice more and put Bournemouth to the sword.

“We did what we had to do to win the game and I think that’s the important thing from our own perspective. We’re finding different solutions in games and different ways of winning them,” said Pearson.

“There are times we’ve played some really good football and won games, and then today was an example of when we showed quite a bit of resilience and game understanding but also using our quality when we could.

“I thought our counter-attacking situations were really good and we created a lot of chances, we defended set plays with an incredible desire to keep the ball out of the back of the net and we needed to. It’s a great result for us, but we have to keep our focus from here on in.”

Pearson’s fourth win since taking charge – and his first on the road – has lifted the Hornets out of the relegation zone for the first time this season. But the Head Coach is experienced enough to know the job’s not done yet.

“There are so many games left, it would be foolish to think that just because we’ve gotten out of the bottom three that the job’s done. There’s an awful long way to go,” he said.

“I think what it does is it quantifies the work the players have put in over the last few games. The Christmas and New Year periods have been very difficult and very busy… but our players have just got on with it. They’ve taken responsibility for their own performances and that’s important.

“We’ve put ourselves in a better position than we were a few weeks ago and that’s all I’m really prepared to say at the moment because things can change quickly. But the players have earned the right now to think in a more positive way.”

This victory came on the third anniversary of the passing of Graham Taylor and, although Pearson knew three points were needed regardless, he was happy that the manner of victory on such an important day gave supporters something else to smile about.

“You’ve got to remember the status of Graham Taylor at this football club, it’s huge,” he said.

“If that [winning on the anniversary] is something that gives the players and gives the fans an awful lot of pleasure, then I think that’s something else the players can be proud of today. I’m sure he would have been proud of that performance because it showed a lot of grit and determination as well as ability.

“I’ve talked already about our club needing to in some ways re-establish its identity on the pitch, because it’s never nice for players to be questioned and for our fans not to be able to make a connection with us as a football team.

“Hopefully they’ll have seen some character today and some desire to play for the club.”

First Team 2 weeks ago

Match Report: Bournemouth 0-3 Watford

By Kevin Affleck

The great escape, which gathered momentum over Christmas, is now well and truly on after this remarkable turnaround under Nigel Pearson took another decisive turn.

The Hornets were nine points off the pace before the game against Manchester United but now, in the blink of an eye and on the back of this hugely significant win here, they have the whiff of safety in their nostrils. Boy does it smell good. The team had one league win in 133 days and now, unbelievably and thrillingly, they have four in 21 days. They have 22 points and, more importantly, that all-important momentum. 

Goals from Abdoulaye Doucouré, Troy Deeney and Roberto Pereyra will go down in the annuls as clinching this win, which was achieved far more comfortably than anyone with yellow persuasion ever imagined, but it was deep rooted in an all-round team display that would have had Pearson purring.

Craig Dawson produced his best ever performance in a Watford shirt as did Adam Masina. Étienne Capoue was in the sort of majestic form that few midfielders can get near when he plays like this; Abdoulaye Doucoure and Nathaniel Chalobah complemented the Frenchman beautifully with tireless performances while Bournemouth couldn't cope with the varied and multiple threats posed by Deeney, Ismaïla Sarr and Gerard Deulofeu.

It was the complete away performance on a gorgeous afternoon that hardly could have gone better. Pearson would have been thrilled. He even raised a smile at the new song the jubilant away fans rolled out. 

The Hornets were in control from the off, really. They played well within themselves and yet had control of the match. They never really ventured above a seven out of ten, dipping down to a six as the half wore on, but they never ever looked in trouble. You always felt they had at least one gear to find.

You wondered if they might start to turn on the style when a delicious interchange between Étienne Capoue and Abdoulaye Doucouré resulted in Capoue threading a pass through the eye of the needle Gerard Deulofeu around the 20-minute mark. You wondered if he might go across the 'keeper, as he likes to do, but he opted for a near-post strike with his left foot and Mark Travers was equal to it. From the corner, Masina did the hard part and lost Dominic Solanke. You could just tell by his reaction he was disappointed he didn't find the target with the header after he rose so majestically. 

The vice-like grip you wanted the Hornets to take on the game from there never materialised. It was tailor made for Ismaïla Sarr and Deulofeu to come to the fore, but the player of the half ended up being Dawson. He was mountainous at the back. He nipped once in front of Dominic Solanke, won his fair share of headers, including a key one towards the end of the half, and also clipped a couple of passes down the line. It may have looked like it was all Bournemouth when you say Adam Masina also made three key interceptions but it wasn't. They only had one shot on target.

The Hornets had two from five pops at goal, one of which was slammed in by Doucouré three minutes before half-time. The game was just drifting towards the break when Sarr pounced on a nervy pass from Travers, crossed it low for Doucouré who took one touch steadied himself and then rammed it past the Bournemouth 'keeper with his left foot.

You sensed it might just be their day when Dawson cushioned one out of the sky at the start of the second half. It was a sign of the new-found confidence running through this group. That feeling was confirmed when Chalobah almost nestled one in the top corner after a lovely piece of football involving Doucouré and Sarr. 

It just needed that second goal to confirm the team's superiority and put this one to bed and it arrived on 65 minutes. It came, from who else, but Deeney. He slammed one in after Sarr had done all the damage down the right. It was the skipper's eighth in 12 games against Bournemouth and he loved this one. 

It was then a question of how many they might help themselves too and how painful they might make it for the home side. It ended up being one more right at the death when Pereyra, on as a sub, converted some approach play by Andre Gray. It was the icing on a sumptuous cake that tasted ever so sweet. 

HORNETS: Foster; Mariappa, Dawson, Cathcart, Masina; Capoue, Chalobah, Doucouré (Quina 86); Sarr (Pereyra 82), Deeney (C), Deulofeu (Gray 90).

Subs not used: Gomes, Success, Dele-Bashiru and Holebas