WATFORD moved a point closer to avoiding the drop today with a well-deserved point against Gordon Strachan`s Middlesbrough. The Hornet`s will be thankful though that Paul Hart`s struggling Crystal Palace were unable to build on their equalizer against Cardiff before ultimately succumbing to a defeat which left them below the Hornet`s in the drop zone.
Malky Mackay was able to re-call midfielder Henri Lansbury after a couple of games out with an ankle knock whilst January signing Will Buckley was finally able to make his full debut after two sub run-outs behind Heidar Helguson as a secondary striker.
The Hornet`s came out the blocks quickly and dominated the early proceedings, Tom Cleverley unlucky not to repeat his midweek trick from a dead-ball, curling a free kick up and down quickly only for Aussie stopper Brad Jones to palm it around the post.
From another set piece, a corner this time which found it`s way to the edge of the area for John Eustace to smash a perfect volley past Jones and into the bottom right-hand corner from the ‘D` of the penalty area. Eustace`s fourth goal of the season would you believe?
It`s fair to say that the former Stoke City midfielder is not everyone`s cup of tea and his time at Vicarage Road has had more than it`s fair share of up and downs. Today I felt Eustace was poor with the ball at his feet; on a number of occasions simply charging towards the ball and hopefully prodding it as hard as possible towards the ‘Boro goal, however his off the ball work is a lot better so I suppose I (even as a fan of his) as well as others have to be more patient and understanding.
Middlesbrough`s game plan was quite a simple one – counter attack. They were prepared to let Watford dominate the game and carve out a few chances but their best chances of scoring came on the break but without any real pace up top it looked unlikely to pay dividends.
However, that all changed on fifty minutes when nippy forward Leroy Lita came on for former Aberdeen forward Lee Miller.
Just five minutes after coming on it was Lita who drew Middlesbrough level. Aussie Rhys Williams was left with enough room at the back post to hook the ball to the back post via Scott Loach`s palm allowing Lita to nod home at the far post.
Lita`s leveler didn`t kill off the Hornet`s advances however and Heidar Helguson was left head in hands as he raced onto a through ball, firing horribly wide from close-range. To Watford`s dismay the Icelander was not offside.
Lita though was intent on adding to his eighth of the season was unlucky not to snatch a late winner as he drove an effort just wide of Scott Loach`s far post after being played in down the left.
Referee: Mr R East
Middlesbrough: Jones; Hoyte, McManus, Wheater, Taylor; O`Neill (c), Robson, Williams, Arca (Franks); Miller (Lita) and Killen.
Scott Loach – 6
Unlucky not to prevent goal – not his fault however.
Aidy Mariappa – 6
Much improved than of late.
Jay DeMerit (c) – 6
More like the Captain America of old ableit of couple of slices/hacks.
Martin Taylor – 6
Lloyd Doyley – 6
Got forward well and wasn’t troubled by O’Neill.
Don Cowie – 6
Used the ball a lot better and got wide.
Henri Lansbury – 6
John Eustace – 6
Good goal, decent defensively, poor going forward.
Tom Cleverley – 7
Although arguably greedy at some points, the brightest spark going forward for the Hornets.
Will Buckley – 6
Often procrastinated too much; if he can cut that element out of his game then we’ve got a decent player on our hands – ran at men, got in good positions etc.
Heidar Helguson – 5
Toiled and won his headers but to little effect.
Chased the ball down tirelessly and made a general nuisance of himself.
We ditched the dodgy kick off routine
At last! Maybe Malky is swayed by the VitalWatford opinion. I was delighted to see a dummied pass find it’s way to Henri Lansbury who chipped the ball wide instead of the usual aimless hoof from kick off.