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Matchday Review

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Fri 13 Dec At 22.12 PM

Highlights | Watford 1-0 West Brom

  • Watford win third home game in a row
  • Mariappa makes 250th start for the Hornets
  • Deeney scores only goal of the game on 300th league appearance for the Golden Boys
  • Welcome returns to action for Hughes and Britos as substitutes


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Just who writes this man's scripts? For the second successive match, and for the umpteenth time in his Watford career, Troy Deeney emerged as the match winner and showed why he's as valuable as he's ever been to this club.

This game was heading nowhere with 13 minutes to go and everybody seemed happy enough to go home with a point and forget about a disappointing afternoon at the office, but then Deeney stepped up like only he can. He's a born for the big stage, for the big moments.

Played in by an intuitive through ball from substitute Will Hughes, Deeney went through on goal for the first time in a long time. He took a touch, gave Ben Foster the eyes and then lifted it over the West Brom keeper and into the roof of the net. It was a finish of the highest class and you could tell by the celebration he enjoyed that one.

Deeney beats former Hornets loanee Ben Foster

The captain had not scored a goal from open play since last April until last week and now he has two in a week. And what two big goals they have been too, two strikes worth six priceless points to hopefully banish any fears of relegation. The focus should now be on matching the 45 points the team picked up in the 2015/16 season.

Deeney's crisp, clinical finish apart, the game will not feature anywhere on the end of season highlight's reel, but who cares? We are now at the business end of the season and it's been about digging in, rolling up your sleeves and grinding out results to get the team out of the slight hole they found themselves in. And this team have shown they can do that, that they are not just a fair-weather team.

Since the season-turning point at Stoke, Watford have shored things up impressively, kept clean sheets in three of the last five matches and then struck decisively and crucially at the other end. It's proved a winning formula and just what the doctor ordered.

Javi Gracia knows his side will get better and play more cohesively than this, especially once the injured players are fully integrated, but it's been about stopping the rot and stabilising the ship, which he's done with three successive home wins. You can't ask for more than that. Job almost done, mission nearly accomplished.

Mariappa made his 250th start in all competitions for the Golden Boys

The first-half was a bit of a slow burner and took a while to get going. For so long the biggest cheer took place before a ball had been kicked when loyal servant Adrian Mariappa got a generous round of applause for his 250th start for the Golden Boys. There was not much else to get excited about.

There was cause for alarm inside the first minute when Étienne Capoue went down following a challenge with Craig Dawson. He stayed down for longer than was comfortable and there was a fear he might be the latest player to join the casualty list. But he got up, soldiered on and was quickly displaying his new-found defensive duties once again, getting in the way of a goal-bound shot from Grzegorz Krychowiak. The Poland international couldn't believe it. He knew it was nestling in the back of the net until Capoue's telling intervention.

At the other end, Kieran Gibbs produced a similar block to deny Roberto Pereyra as Watford pushed for the first time.

Following a real lull in a stop-start half, Salomon Rondón then flashed a header just wide from a Matt Phillips cross. It really was a half-chance at best but that was all there really was to talk about.

And then, out of nowhere, Watford raised their game sufficiently to fashion the chance of the half. Pereyra teed up the overlapping Daryl Janmaat from a counter-attack and he looked for all the world set to score his fourth goal of the season, but Foster stretched out his right leg to deflect the ball for a corner. It was the sort of save Foster produced time and time again here during his two-season loan spell. Sebastian Prödl headed the resulting corner over.

That was undoubtedly the high point of an otherwise disappointing first-half and it was fair to say nobody was really happy when the referee decided to extend it by two additional minutes. It was time to get off, get in the dressing room, regroup and go again.

Hughes was the architect of the game's only goal after he came on as a substitute

It was West Brom who came out with greater purpose for the second-half, perhaps knowing their Premier League future was on the line. They engineered three chances in a matter of minutes, Orestis Karnezis saving with his legs to deny Rondón, Jonny Evans hitting the base of the post and then Rondón, inexplicably, missing the target completely with a free header from six yards out. That was a big let-off.

Richarlison did go close with an acrobatic effort, but that was to be the Brazilian's last contribution as he was replaced, for the fifth game running, for Stefano Okaka. Gracia had seen enough and wanted a change. Okaka was now charged with once again battering the door down.

In one final act before he was replaced by Hughes, André Carrillo tried to unpick the lock, producing a neat couple of step-overs before unleashing a shot that whistled just over Foster's bar. Then Okaka had one cleared off the line. It looked like it was going to be one of those days.

But fortune favours the brave and Gracia has certainly been that with the use of his subs. Last week it was Okaka and Kiko Femenía who came on with such spectacular effect and this week it was Hughes. The former Derby man had only been on the pitch for 13 minutes but he found his range immediately, picking out the arcing run of Deeney who ran clear and did the rest. It was Hughes' first appearance since November 28, and how the team have missed his subtleties.

West Brom huffed and puffed towards the end, but the outstanding Karnezis stood tall and caught everything that was thrown at him from various angles. He has been a revelation since replacing the injured Heurelho Gomes and he looks set for an extended run in the side even though Gomes is now fully fit.

There was even a brief return at the end for Miguel Britos, another of the injured players on the comeback trail. That's now four injured players who have returned in the last two matches. Things really are starting to look up for the Hornets.

HORNETS | Karnezis, Janmaat, Prödl, Mariappa, Holebas (Britos 90); Doucouré, Capoue; Carrillo (Hughes 64), Pereyra, Richarlison (54); Deeney (c).

Subs not used | Gomes, Gray, Lukebakio, Zeegelaar.

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