31/01/2018

Official | Watson Departs

Watford FC can confirm that Ben Watson has left the club having been released from his contract by mutual consent.

The 32-year-old midfielder first moved to Vicarage Road from Wigan in January 2015 and played a key part in the Hornets' subsequent promotion to the Premier League.

During three years he made 78 appearances, including 47 in the top-flight, scoring two goals.

The Hornets would like to thank Ben for his service to the club and wish him all the best for the future.

31/01/2018

Report | Watford 0-0 Stoke

Watford managed to stop the rot this evening, grinding out a well-earned point at Stoke City that will do wonders for morale and hopefully act as a springboard for the rest of the season.

The Hornets were extremely good value for the draw and they showed they are capable of rolling their sleeves up on a cold January night in the Potteries and dig out a result. And boy did they need it. This was just what the doctor ordered.

Javi Gracia has built his reputation on showing he can bloody the noses of the big boys in Spain but he demonstrated here he can set this Watford side up not to get beat, get them organised defensively and play with a purpose going forward. The signs were hugely encouraging that the Head Coach has this group playing for him and that they were able to rebuild confidence so quickly after the morale-sapping defeat at Southampton. If Watford are in a relegation scrap then they are certainly up for the fight.

If anybody embodied the turnaround in fortunes and attitude then it was Etienne Capoue. The Frenchman has all the touches and flicks but, stationed at the base of the midfield, he showed here he can do the dirty side of the game, tackling and heading the ball away, often in his own penalty area. This was his best performance in a long time.

You could just tell early on Watford were more at it, more organised and more compact than they ever were at Southampton. They conceded early at Southampton but in stark contrast, they almost had one inside two minutes here when Sebastian Prodl, up for a set-piece, shot left-footed at Jack Butland after a Jose Holebas free-kick fell to him. Already you knew Watford were up for the fight and ready to take the game to the home side.

That feeling was confirmed when Capoue assumed the unlikely role of midfield destroyer, reading a telegraphed pass bound for Xherdan Shaqiri and breaking up play like a seasoned holding midfielder.

Shortly after winning the first corner of the game, Capoue then played the ball of the half, a first-timer from deep inside his own half that sailed over the head of Stoke left-back Erik Pieters and dropped perfectly into the path of the fleet-footed Gerard Deulofeu. The on-loan winger from Barcelona darted into the box and the Watford players were adamant his threatening run was halted illegally by Kurt Zouma but referee Jon Moss was having none of it.

The Hornets' first point in six league games came at a cost - Tom Cleverley and Christian Kabasele picked up injuries

Still, the Hornets came again, this time Tom Cleverley shot over after a lovely enterprising multi-phase move. The portents were very encouraging.

At the back, the Hornets had very little to do, very little to get a sweat on over in the first half. The closest Stoke came to threatening was on 27 minutes through Charlie Adam but Adrian Mariappa produced a magnificent block to deny the midfielder. Maxim Choupa-Moting then just failed to find the far corner with the loose ball.

But that aside, it was Watford who continued to fashion the better chances and they enjoyed two more before the half was out. Erik Pieters had to head behind after Abdoulaye Doucoure had flicked on another wicked set-piece from Holebas and then Richarlison, at full stretch, stabbed over a low centre from Deulofeu. The Hornets ended the half in the ascendency and full deserved the ovation they got from the travelling support of 855 as they headed down the tunnel.

And it wasn't long before the Hornets were clearing their throats at the start of a tetchy second half when Mame Diouf shoved over Christian Kabasele before a free-kick had even been taken. The Hornets were baying for a red card but Moss, probably quite rightly, opted for only a yellow.

The intensity was all of a sudden cranked up and Stoke, belatedly, came to life. It took the last-ditch tackles of all last-ditch tackles from Prodl to stop Diouf sprinting clear for a one-v-one with Orestis Karnezis and then the Greece No. 1 saved at close range from Shaqiri. Peter Crouch was now on and it wasn't long before Mariappa was required to be at his sharpest to stop the angular striker nipping in at the near post. It was all hands to the pump.

Gracia made a change of his own soon after but it wasn't a defensive one, the Spaniard opting to swap Richarlison for Andre Gray. And it wasn't long before Gray was in the thick of the action, the club record signing charging down the inside right channel and cutting the ball back for Doucoure. The Frenchman shifted the ball on his left and took aim only for Ryan Shawcross to produce a goal-saving block that was just as good as Mariappa's in the first half.

Both teams gave it everything in a lively finale, which featured more solid defending from Prodl, Mariappa, Christian Kabasele and Capoue and some confident keeping from Karnezis, but neither really had the quality to engineer a winner and honours ended even, which was probably about right.

Hornets | Karnezis (GK); Mariappa, Prodl, Kabasele, Holebas; Doucoure, Cleverley (Pereyra 72); Deulofeu (Carrillo 87), Capoue, Richarlison (Gray 67); Deeney. Subs not used: Bachmann, Janmaat, Zeegelaar, Stewart.