First Team 02/04/2019

Deeney: “Andre Did What He Does”

Watch post-match reaction with Troy Deeney and Andre Gray above, or read on below.

Watford skipper Troy Deeney hailed the impact of fellow frontman Andre Gray after the club-record signing stepped off the bench to help the Hornets crush Fulham.

The former Burnley man had netted three winners off the bench in his past three home games against Everton, Leicester City and Crystal Palace, yet still had to settle for a place among the substitutes against the Cottagers.

With the game poised at 1-1 at the break – Ryan Babel cancelling out Abdoulaye Doucouré’s thunderous opener – Gray was introduced at the start of the second half.

And after Will Hughes scored a Goal of the Season contender to put Watford back in front, Gray set up first Deeney then Kiko Femenía to wrap up a stunning 4-1 victory at Vicarage Road.

The Hornets skipper was quick to pay tribute to his fellow striker and the rest of the Golden Boys, who eclipsed their previous record points tally - 45 - in the Premier League with the win.

“The first half was really sloppy,” admitted the skipper. “But in the second, we went back to the basics that we have built this team on. And the big man [Gray] came on and did what he does.

“If Andre keeps doing what he’s been doing, eventually the cries from everyone will get him in the team.

“From the outside, people might think it is luck that has got us where we are but gaining 46 points is a milestone for us.

“We were probably one of the favourites for relegation before the season started but maybe those who said things like that are starting to show us a bit more respect because are proving we are a good side.”

Gray, meanwhile, was pleased to be able to once again make an impact off the bench.

The 27-year-old injected plenty of energy into a Watford attack feeling the effects of the effort they had put in to outplay Manchester United at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Gray was a constant menace to the Fulham rearguard, wriggling free on 69 minutes to squeeze a cross that fell perfectly for Deeney to side-foot past Sergio Rico. 

Another such cross helped Femenía smash home his first of the campaign.

“All I can do is come on and try to change the game,” said Gray. “It has been frustrating [not starting] but I want to help the team when they’re suffering.

“I felt we looked a bit tired in the first half. We played really well against Manchester United but it took a lot out of us. At times, Fulham had too much of the ball.

“In the second half, we were a bit more direct and attacking. The key was that we kept pushing – we didn’t want to sit back and hold on to what we had.”

First Team 02/04/2019

Match Report: Watford 4-1 Fulham

By Kevin Affleck

Start making your FA Cup out of tin foil, get to the club shop and purchase your hat and scarf and nail down what time you are going to get to the Green Man. The preparations for the big one at Wembley can now well and truly start after Will Hughes got the party started early with a goal that belonged on a stage as grand as the home of English football.

There have been an extraordinary amount of goal-of-the-season contenders this season, from Roberto Pereyra at home to Palace, Brighton and away at Wolves. To Troy Deeney’s at Cardiff and Domingos Quina’s efforts against Reading and Cardiff. But this effort from Hughes, smashed in on the volley from 18 yards with immaculate technique, surely tops the lot. “Hughesy for England,” chorused the home fans who will remember this howitzer for some time to come. 

Knowing Javi Gracia he’ll probably favour the third goal, created brilliantly by Andre Gray and converted by Troy Deeney to seal the game, as it reflects the team ethic and collegiate approach he is constantly preaching, but it says much about the progress of the team when we are debating the merits of goals five days ahead of an FA Cup semi-final.

Apart from the concession of a cheap goal in the first half, this represented just about the perfect night for Gracia. The team continued its daring pursuit of seventh place with a handsome win that did wonders for their goal difference, they racked up their biggest home win of the season, established some all-important momentum and, crucially, didn’t appear to pick up any injuries. 

The Head Coach relishes a selection headache and he will love the fact Gray has given him a major one ahead of Sunday. The club-record signing again did the business coming off the bench, this time setting up goals for Deeney and Kiko Femenía. In fact, it was Gray’s shot that led to the corner for Hughes’ goal. He is banging on the door very loudly. Gerard Deulofeu will be justified in sweating over his place.

Gray provided the energy after coming off the bench to transform a lifeless performance by the team in the first half. It was a far cry from the energy and intensity they played with at Old Trafford and there was definitely half an eye on Wembley.

The first 45 was a tough watch. The tone was set early on when Craig Cathcart uncharacteristically let a pass roll under his foot. Ben Foster then smashed one of his sledge-hammer clearances straight at Aleksandar Mitrović, and even one of Étienne Capoue's telescopic legs failed to pinch the ball off Ryan Sessegnon. It was that type of half.

There were a couple of moments when you thought the Hornets might kick on, when they might spark into life, particularly when Deulofeu flashed one across the face of goal, when Pereyra produced a wonderful Cruyff turn to lose his man on the edge of the box and when Deeney flung himself at a cross from Femenía, but it never really happened.

Even when Abdoulaye Doucouré slammed in the opener with a cracking strike with his weaker left foot on 23 minutes, the Hornets still didn’t really get going, didn’t really kick on and go for the jugular. Gracia could sense his team weren’t at it and just minutes after he had screamed at his back four, Ryan Sessegnon was allowed to slide a pass between Cathcart and Adrian Mariappa for Ryan Babel to latch onto, round Foster and score. It had been coming.

There was the odd boo at half-time, which was a touch harsh but that spoke of the standard the fans have come to expect this season and the players didn’t need to be told by Gracia at half-time they had dipped below it.

Gracia responded by making a double half-time substitution, hooking Deulofeu and Pereyra for Daryl Janmaat and Gray. Straight away, Gray and Deeney linked up on the edge of the box while Janmaat clattered Tom Cairney. The more aggressive approach started to catch on as soon after José Holebas nipped in front of Cyrus Christie and drove forward, nutmegging him on the way. Mariappa then climbed all over Mitrović to win a towering header. This was more like it.

With Holebas playing more like a left-winger, the Hornets were on the front foot and they won the game with three goals in 12 devastating second-half minutes. Hughes slammed in number two in-off the crossbar; Gray then teed-up his big mate Deeney and then repeated the trick to allow Femenía to crash in his first of the season. The Hornets were running amok and it could have been five had Sergio Rico not brilliantly turned one destined for the bottom from Holebas round the post. 

There was still time for Foster to pull off another stunning save with his outstretched left hand to keep out Jean Michaël Seri, while Gray came so close to getting the goal his lively second-half performance so deserved. But perhaps he’s saving one for Wembley on Sunday. Que Sera Sera.

HORNETS | Foster (GK); Femenía, Cathcart, Mariappa, Holebas; Hughes, Capoue (Quina 78), Doucouré, Pereyra (Janmaat h-t); Deeney, Deulofeu (Gray h-t).

Subs not used | Gomes (GK), Sema, Kabasele, Masina.