Enthralling Game Leaves Watford In The Hunt
The City Ground
Wed 15th Apr - 7:45pm
Watford kept up the pressure on the top two as they ran out 3-1 winners at Nottingham Forest. In an open and end to end game Odion Ighalo put Watford ahead after four minutes when he headed in from a corner. Matthew Connolly doubled Watford's lead before the break when he bundled in from close range. Forest had Kelvin Wilson sent off after an hour when he kicked out at Ighalo but got themselves back into the game through Gary Gardner's free kick with 20 minutes remaining. Watford then had to soak up pressure but made the game safe late on with Almen Abdi's strike from the edge of the box.
Slavisa Jokanovic made four changes to the Watford side that won 2-0 at Millwall at the weekend. Craig Cathcart returned from injury in place of Tommie Hoban in defence whilst Marco Motta came in for Juan Carlos Paredes. Almen Abdi started ahead of Daniel Tozser in midfield whilst Odion Ighalo replaced Matej Vydra in attack.
Forest boss Dougie Freedman opted to start Chuba Akpom in attack despite Tyler Walker's goal scoring exploits at Brentford over Easter. Injured duo Henri Lansbury and Dexter Blackstock were both on the bench for the hosts.
The home side started very quickly and almost took the lead inside a minute. After capitalising on Watford giving the ball away they broke down the left through Michail Antonio whose low cross was helped across the box to Chris Burke who low shot was brilliantly kept out by Heurelho Gomes.
Watford hit straight back and took the lead after just four minutes through Odion Ighalo's 20th goal of the season. Almen Abdi's near post corner was flicked on and Ighalo rose unchallenged at the back post to head down into the net.
The Hornets looked to get a second just moments later when Marco Motta found space on the right and squeezed the ball through to Troy Deeney on the edge of the box but his vicious effort was defelcted behind for a corner.
The home side kept up the intensity and energy of their attacking play and came close to equalising on a number of occasions. Matthew Connolly had to be at his best to block a goalbound effort by Gary Gardner after he had been found in the box by Ben Osborn.
Heurelho Gomes then had to parry away Antonio's low drive from inside the box before making an even better save to deny Gardner from the edge of the box after he was allowed to pick up the ball and run at the Watford defence.
Despite coming under serious pressure Watford still looked a threat going forward and missed a glorious chance to double the lead midway through the first half when good play by Ighalo saw Abdi run through the Forest defence unmarked but toe-poking the ball wide from close range when it looked easier to score.
Adlene Guedioura had the next chance of a pulsating first half when he volleyed over from 20-yards after picking up the knockdown from a long ball forward. Abdi was the next to have a go when Watford won a free kick 25-yards out but his effort was well saved by Karl Darlow.
Gomes, was turning in a man-of-the-match display for Watford and he made another excellent save after 39 minutes when a sweeping move from the hosts saw Burke's deep cross find Eric Lichaj at the back post but his low volley was tipped behind by the Brazilian.
Watford then countered and made it two with a brilliant goal from Matthew Connolly. The on-loan Cardiff man intercepted a ball forward inside his own half and went on a barnstorming run forward and found Ighalo in the box. His low shot was not held by Darlow and Connolly, who had stayed forward, was on hand to bury the rebound low into the net.
Gomes still had more work to do before the half was out when the lively Antonio got to the by-line and cut the ball back into the box to the onrushing Gardner but his low shot was well held by Gomes.
Half Time: Nottingham Forest 0-2 Watford
The second half started in much the same vein as the first and Watford came close to making it 3-0 after just 47 minutes. After a long spell of possession Watford found Motta in space on the right and his deep cross was volleyed goalwards by Ikechi Anya at the back post but his effort was turned wide by Darlow.
Still Forest came forward and missed a chance to get back into the match when Antonio crossed low into the Watford box and the ball broke to Burke who smashed his shot over the bar.
A flashpoint in the game came after an hour when the hosts were reduced to ten men when Kelvin Wilson was sent off by referee Paul Tierney. After grappling on the ground with Ighalo the Forest defender then kicked out at the Hornets striker as he looked to get away and was shown a straight red card.
That seemed to galvanise the home side as they upped the tempo of the game and caught Watford napping on a few occasions with Motta taking a booking for the team to stop Antonio breaking away down the left.
And it was Forest who got the next goal to get themselves back into the game after 72 minutes. They won a free kick 20-yards out after Craig Cathcart had fouled Lichaj and Gardner stepped up to bury his effort into the top corner with the help of the crossbar to half the deficit.
With the hosts back in the game it was end-to-end stuff with both sides creating chances. Troy Deeney could have made it 3-1 when he got on the end of Ighalo's pass but hit his effort straight at Darlow.
Ighalo could then have had his second of the evening when substitute Juan Carlos Paredes broken down the right and crossed low across the box but the striker could get anything on the ball.
The hosts missed a glorious chance to level the game with five minutes to go when Ben Osborn found Gardner in the Watford box. His venomous shot was parried by Gomes straight to Antonio at the back post but he scuffed his effort wide with the goal gaping.
Watford took advantage of that miss and made the game safe after 87 minutes when Guedioura's long range strike was parried by Darlow and the ball broke to Abdi on the edge of the box and his half-volley found the bottom corner of the Forest net.
Full Time: Nottingham Forest 1-3 Watford
Nottingham Forest: Darlow, Kane, Wilson, Hobbs, Lichaj, Mancienne, Osborn (Lansbury), Gardner, Burke, Antonio (Barrow), Akpom (Walker)
Subs Not Used: Evtimov (GK), Fox, Vaughan, Blackstock
Watford: Gomes, Cathcart, Angella, Connolly (Hoban), Motta (Paredes), Watson, Guedioura, Abdi, Anya (Tozser), Ighalo, Deeney
Subs Not Used: Bond (GK), Layun, Munari, Vydra
Att: 20,723 (1,942 Hornets)
Ref: Mr Paul Tierney