Date: 4th April 2015 at 1:55pm
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10-man Watford battled to a crucial point at Derby County last night thanks to a late strike from Odion Ighalo which saw the game end 2-2. Matej Vydra gave Watford the lead midway through the first half before Darren Bent levelled from the spot in first half stoppage time after Marco Motta was dismissed for denying a goal scoring opportunity. Thomas Ince’s curling effort put Derby ahead just before the hour mark but Ighalo’s leveller after 75 minutes secured the Hornets a crucial point.

Slavisa Jokanovic made two changes to the Watford side that lost 1-0 to Ipswich Town before the International break. Gabriele Angella came in for Joel Ekstrand who is missing with a serious knee injury. The other change saw Matej Vydra come in for Daniel Tozser as the Hornets started with three strikers.

Steve McClaren opted to start George Thorne for the first time this season after their summer signing recovered from a serious knee injury. Darren Bent was preferred in attack despite the return to the squad of talisman Chris Martin. Thomas Ince started for the Rams after pulling out of the England U-21 squad last week.

The hosts started brightly in the opening stages keeping good possession and working the Watford defence. Johnny Russell nearly got in down the Derby right but was forced wide by Marco Motta before crossing harmlessly behind for a goal kick.

Watford’s first opportunity of the game came after 12 minutes when Miguel Layun’s drilled corner found Troy Deeney in the box but he couldn’t direct his header goalwards.

After 15 minutes the hosts created the best chance of the game so far when a clever short corner from Thomas Ince found Darren Bent in the box 10-yards out but his low shot was brilliantly saved by Heurelho Gomes.

Watford were the next team to come close when Odion Ighalo picked up the ball 25-yards out and ran at the Derby defence before shooting just wide via a deflection off Richard Keogh.

Watford continued to grow into the game and they took the lead midway through the first half. Ighalo failed to give up a loose ball after losing possession on the edge of the Derby box. He challenged Cyrus Christie for the ball with the rebound falling perfectly for Matej Vydra in the box to fire low past Lee Grant and into the bottom corner.

Derby responded well to going behind and were almost level five minutes later when Will Hughes picked up the ball in space just in front of the Watford defence. He cut inside and unleashed a shot from 20-yards which flew just wide of the near post.

The Hornets, however, managed the game well in the first half and had a chance to double their lead when Adlene Guedioura pounced on a loose ball and ran into the box but his effort from a tight angle was saved by Grant.

Back came Derby when Richard Keogh played a defence splitting pass to Bent. The striker miscontrolled the ball but it broke to Ince whose goalbound shot was defelcted behind.

The game changed on the stroke of half time when the hosts levelled after Marco Motta was dismissed for Watford. Derby broke after winning back possession with Russell collecting the ball in the box before being brought down by Motta. The penalty was clear but the full back was dismissed by referee Kevin Friend for denying a goal scoring opportunity which may have been a little harsh.

Nonetheless Bent stepped up and smashed the spot kick into the net to send Derby in level at the break.

Half Time: Derby County 1-1 Watford
Second Half

Despite being down to ten men it was Watford who created the first chance of the second half. Substitute Daniel Tozser whipped a free kick into the box which Deeney headed goalwards only to be denied by a good save from Grant.

Moments later Deeney picked the ball up again 25-yards and fired towards goal but his effort went wide of the post.

The hosts struggled to get into their rhythm despite the man advantage in the second half but they took the lead after 57 minutes through Tom Ince. The on-loan Derby winger collected the ball wide on the right and cut inside taking advantage of a lucky break to curl into the bottom corner past Gomes from inside the box.

After taking the lead Derby failed to go for the kill and kept possession which allowed Watford to force their way back into the game. Another Tozser free kick came close to finding Tommie Hoban at the back post whilst Ighalo nearly got on the end of Gabriele Angella’s ball into the box.

With fifteen minutes to go Watford did get a deserved equaliser through Ighalo. After chesting off Hoban’s ball forward Ighalo then made a run onto Guedioura’s exquisite through ball to finish coolly into the bottom corner past the despairing Lee Grant.

From then on it was all hands to the pump for the visitors as they looked to repel Derby’s late efforts to find a winner. Bent found space behind the Watford defence but his low effort was brilliantly saved by Gomes.

Craig Cathcart then came to Watford’s rescue when Russell out muscled Angella on the touchline and crossed into the box but the defender was on hand to clear before a Derby player could react.

As the game moved into six minutes of stoppage time Gomes was at his best again to deny substitute Chris Martin when he kneed the ball goalwards from a late corner.

From that resulting corner Gomes was in top form again to palm over Keogh’s firm header as Watford held out for a vital and well deserved point.

Derby County 2-2 Watford

Derby County:
Grant, Christie (Lingard), Keogh, Shotton, Forsyth, Bryson (Martin), Thorne (Hendrick), Russell, Hughes, Ince, Bent

Subs Not Used: Roos (GK), Albentosa, Warnock, Ward

Watford: Gomes, Motta, Cathcart, Angella, Hoban, Watson, Layun (Anya), Guedioura, Vydra (Tozser), Ighalo (Connolly), Deeney

Subs Not Used: Bond (GK), Doyley, Pudil, Munari

Att: 31,748 (2,457 Hornets)

Ref: Mr Kevin Friend