Match Report: Brighton & Hove Albion 0-0 Watford
By Kevin Affleck
At least it didn’t end in defeat, at least there was a sixth league clean sheet of the season to cling to and at least you can say you were there to see another masterclass in the art of goalkeeping from Ben Foster.
There wasn’t much to cheer about at the Amex Stadium from the sort of drab goalless draw that will not be featuring too high up the running order for Match of the Day, but perhaps it's a further sign of the collective growth of this team that it didn’t result in a 1-0 defeat like it did here last season.
The fact it didn’t was down to another stupendous display from Foster. If there has been a better individual display from a player in a Watford shirt this season then we are yet to see it. We’re running out of superlatives to describe the quality of his glove work. He made several extraordinary saves here, the pick of which was the flying one in the second half to keep out a header from Jürgen Locadia. He was solely responsible for securing the point that got the team back on the horse after the defeat to Tottenham Hotspur and one that keeps their nice little run away from home bubbling along.
The Hornets dodged a bullet here, no doubt about it, but perhaps it makes up a little bit for the times they got nothing on the road this season when they deserved much more. You take what you can get at this heady level and the Hornets will be extremely grateful for a point.
It was hard to recall a more lifeless first 45 minutes this season than the one served up here. Perhaps it was the teeth-chattering conditions or the fact the teams had been involved in demanding midweek games, but whatever it was the upshot was a first half you kind of wished you had been snowed in for and not been able to make.
The Hornets just couldn’t get going from an attacking sense and the best they mustered was a powerful header from deep by Troy Deeney. Honestly, that was about it for the shivering fans in the away end to get excited about.
Brighton were not much better, but at least they did have a bit of a go, which you’d kind of expect them to do as a home side, it’s their obligation.
Solly March hooked one over after six minutes, Lewis Dunk nodded a header just wide, Davy Pröpper side-footed over from a deep free-kick when he might have done better and then, surprise, surprise, Foster made his customary spectacular save, clawing out a firm header from Locadia with a strong hand. That was to be just the start of Foster’s showreel.
José Holebas tried to get the visitors going by getting stuck into March and picking a couple of fights, but it just wasn’t happening and it kind of summed up how things were going that the one time they did look like bursting forward on the counter-attack, Pröpper cynically brought down Ken Sema in the middle of the pitch with Gerard Deulofeu streaking ahead on the left.
The one saving grace was that the Hornets were managing to stay resolute at the back, none more so than when Daryl Janmaat swept one away from danger when March curled over a teasing centre from the right. It was first-class defending from the Dutchman. Not long after Tom Cleverley bravely threw himself in front of a shot from Gaëtan Bong that hit the England international and went over. It was the sort of commitment that was needed on an afternoon like this.
Now kicking towards the away fans, Watford slowly started to get things together from an attacking perspective. Will Hughes didn’t quite get enough purchase on one from a Deeney flick-on and then Sema did the same from a header at the back stick. Sensing that there might just be something in this for his side, Gracia introduced Andre Gray on 69 minutes and played with an authentic front two.
But it didn’t really work out and the rest of the game was just a tussle between Brighton and Foster. He made the save of the match, and indeed any match, to keep out a header from Locadia, dived and slid in like an international full-back to stop a overhead kick from Shane Duffy reaching a Brighton player at the far post, kept out another from Florin Andone and even when he slipped following a back pass from Craig Cathcart, he managed to clear the ball into the stands.
Brighton knew there was going to be no way past Foster in this type of form. He deserved every bit of the adulation he got from the away fans at full-time. They knew they had seen one of the great goalkeeping performances by someone in between the Watford sticks.
HORNETS | Foster (GK); Janmaat, Cathcart, Mariappa, Holebas; Hughes, Cleverley, Capoue, Sema (Quina 80); Deulofeu (Gray 69), Deeney (C).
Subs not used | Gomes (GK), Masina, Peñaranda, Chalobah, Britos.