- Hornets remember the life of Graham Taylor at The Vic
- Kabasele, Deeney and Cleverley all go close
- Points shared at the Vic, Hornets stay in 14th
In the end it wasn't to be. The win that Hornets' fans yearned for in light of this week's events eluded Walter Mazzarri's men as missed chances and poor luck saw Boro earn a 0-0 draw.
Graham Taylor was well remembered though, as a stunning foil display preceded kick-off, his name echoing around the stadium throughout what was, in truth, a disappointing match.
The Hornets pushed hard late-on, Tom Cleverley, Etienne Capoue and Troy Deeney all unable to take good chances in the final 15 minutes.
Mazzarri made five changes to the starting line-up, following the FA Cup win over Burton Albion last week.
Heurelho Gomes started in goal, with Sebastian Prödl slotting into the heart of the defensive trio. Jose Holebas came back into the side in the left-wing back position.
There were further changes to the side as Valon Behrami returned to action, and Stefano Okaka too was included following a lengthy lay-off as he partnered captain Troy Deeney up-front.
A minute’s applause rang out around Vicarage Road in memory of the club’s greatest manager Taylor, as both sets of fans chanted as one in remembrance.
The Hornets were presented with a great chance within the opening minutes as Capoue raced through on goal. The Frenchman however was just unable to get a shot off as Victor Valdes smothered the ball at his feet.
Boro had the ball in the net soon after as Cristhian Stuani flicked Álvaro Negredo’s ball past Gomes, however the assistant raised his flag and the goal was ruled out for offside.
Midway through the half the Hornets fashioned another chance at goal as Okaka nudged a header to Abdoulaye Doucouré but his fierce half-volley was well saved by Valdes.
Mazzarri’s side continued to press and Deeney was inches away from guiding Okaka’s low ball across the front of goal in, but Callum Chambers did well to clear at the final moment.
Stuani missed an excellent late opportunity to put the visitors ahead before the break, but the midfielder lifted the ball over the bar with just Gomes to beat, as he raced through to collect Negredo’s headed pass.
The second-half started brightly for the Hornets as Capoue broke down the left. He whipped a ball towards the far-post which Christian Kabasele was just unable to guide in with a header.
Moments later, Capoue guided a free-kick in from the right which Okaka met with a firm downward header, but Valdes was equal to the effort as he saved low to his right to keep the scores level.
The Hornets were inches away from taking the lead as a ball fell to Capoue on the edge of the box. The midfielder turned towards goal before opening up his body and curling a right-footed effort just wide of Valdes’ left-hand post.
Mazzarri was forced into his first change of the afternoon moments later as Costel Pantilimon replaced Gomes in goal for the Hornets. The Brazilian had fallen awkwardly moments earlier as he punched a dangerous ball away.
Soon after the substitution, Kabasele curled a fantastic ball into the box from the right which Doucouré just headed wide at the far-post.
The Hornets’ second change of the match saw Tom Cleverley replace Behrami in midfield, to make his second debut for the Golden Boys as the hosts went in search of a goal.
Okaka felt he should have had a penalty as he fell under Bernardo Espinosa’s challenge minutes later. Referee Jon Moss however was unmoved, instead feeling that the front-man had gone down too easily, brandishing a caution for simulation – much to the frustration of the Rookery.
Boro substitute Rudy Gestede tried his luck from distance in one of the few chances for the visitors, but his shot glided harmlessly over the bar.
Soon after and the Hornets had their best chance of the match. Holebas’ long-throw was flicked on by Deeney into the path of Cleverley and the midfielder guided the ball towards the bottom corner, but his effort deflected back off of the base of the post. The rebound landed at Capoue’s feet but he failed to hit the target with his curling shot.
And again the Hornets missed a great opportunity as Cleverley played the ball over the top into Deeney’s path. The front-man raced in one-on-one but his shot was deflected wide by Valdes for a corner.
The final substitution for the Hornets came on the stroke of second-half injury-time as Holebas was replaced by Camilo Zúñiga on the left-flank.
The Hornets were however unable to capitalise on their dominant display late-on and the points were shared. Fans from neither side will remember the game fondly, but the life of Graham Taylor will be held in the memory of many forever.
HORNETS: Gomes (GK) (Pantilimon, 66); Kaboul, Prödl, Britos; Kabasele, Doucouré, Behrami (Cleverley, 76), Capoue, Holebas (Zúñiga, 89); Okaka, Deeney (c).
Subs not used: Cathcart, Zúñiga, Sinclair, Watson, Ighalo.
Yellows: Okaka (78), Britos (90), Deeney (90)
BORO: Valdes (GK); Gibson, Chambers, Bernado; Da Silva, Forshaw, Leadbitter (c), De Roon, Friend; Stuani (Gestede, 66), Negredo.
Subs not used: Guzan (GK); Clayton, Downing, Fischer, Fry, Traore.
Yellows: Fabio (90)
Referee: Jon Moss