Watford beat Ipswich Town to continue climb up Championship
Watford’s spirit and perseverance was rewarded as they came from behind to beat Ipswich Town 2-1, stretching their unbeaten record against the Tractor Boys to an incredible 15 games in all competitions.
The Hornets could have taken the lead as early as the fourth minute when Troy Deeney failed to beat keeper Alex McCarthy in a one-on-one situation but Ipswich struck in the 18th minute when Jay Emmanuel-Thomas capitalised on a bad misjudgement by Carl Dickinson.
It should have got even worse for the Hornets just past the half-hour when Emmanuel-Thomas laid a chance on a plate for Michael Chopra but he somehow missed the target from two yards out.
The hosts continued to plug away after the break, getting the upper hand in terms of territory and possession, and they were back on terms in the 71st minute when Sean Murray calmly dispatched his fifth goal in seven games after Deeney had again been denied by McCarthy.
The equaliser firmly swung the game in the Hornets’ favour and nine minutes from time Deeney scored what proved to be the winner with a fine curling finish from a tight angle.
This was Watford’s fifth consecutive victory over their Suffolk opponents and their seventh in succession in all competitions at Vicarage Road against their opponents. Intriguingly, it also moved Sean Dyche’s men to within six points of the play-offs as they moved up to 13th in the table - their highest position since after the first game of the season.
The Hornets may have gone into the game, like their opponents, unbeaten in their last five games but Dyche opted to make two changes from the team that won 2-0 at Bristol City on Tuesday.
The fit-again John Eustace replaced Prince Buaben, while Joe Garner was favoured to Chris Iwelumo as Deeney’s strike partner.
The visitors were immediately on the front foot from the kick-off, with Emmanuel-Thomas having the first shot in the second minute but it struck a team-mate in an offside position.
However, the Hornets really should have taken the lead with their first attempt two minutes later when Garner was found in plenty of space down the left and he centred for Deeney, who had plenty of time to pick his spot but was denied by the legs of McCarthy.
Alex Kacaniklic produced some impressive trickery to get away on the left but his cross did not match the quality of the play that led to it but then the Hornets’ penalty area came under a sustained period of pressure.
First Daryl Murphy had a shot blocked before Emmanuel-Thomas attacked the right side of the area and struck an angled drive that Tomasz Kuszczak had to block behind. From that corner, Murphy had another on-target attempt blocked before a second corner saw the left-sided midfielder glance a header not too far wide of Kuszczak’s left-hand post.
The Irishman continued to pose a threat, heading further wide from his side’s third corner of the match, before coming in off the right flank and curling a left-footed effort wide of Kuszczak’s right-hand post to take his personal attempts count to five inside the opening 12 minutes.
Watford though, weathered that storm and started to ask a few questions of their own, only for them to be punished for a mistake all of their own making in the 18th minute.
There didn’t appear to be too much danger when Andy Drury played the ball in from the left but Dickinson, completely unaware Emmanuel-Thomas was loitering behind him, was indecisive, heading the ball down without any conviction and the former Arsenal player pounced to put the Tractor Boys 1-0 up.
In the left-back’s partial defence though, he did not seem to get a call from Kuszczak when the keeper should have helped his team-mate out but Dickinson should still have nodded the ball behind if he was in any doubt.
The game became increasingly scrappy after the goal but how the Hornets didn’t go two down in the 34th minute only former Vicarage Road loanee Chopra will know.
Again Dickinson was indecisive when Aaron Cresswell’s ball from the left ricocheted off Jonathan Hogg and across to Emmanuel-Thomas, who beat the Hornets’ left-back with ease on the outside before squaring across the six-yard box to the unmarked Chopra, who somehow contrived to put a sitter wide from two yards out.
Having survived that huge let off, Watford mustered just their second attempt when Garner worked the ball into Deeney but McCarthy was equal to his right-footed strike from around 14 yards.
Murphy dragged his sixth effort of the half wide from the edge of the 18-yard box two minutes before the break. But the Hornets had another opening in injury time when a slip from Cresswell let in Garner, who pulled the trigger with his right foot but saw his shot blocked behind.
Dyche made a change at the start of the second half, bringing on Buaben for Hogg, but little of note happened until the 53rd minute when Kacaniklic was checked as he tried to break through but referee Peter Walton played advantage as Deeney took up the play. The striker managed to retain possession and find Kacaniklic, who tried to play a give and go with himself around the defence and managed to get to the ball but McCarthy read the danger.
However, moments after Iwelumo had come on for Garner, the keeper was in trouble after letting Deeney’s close-range effort squirm from his grasp but the referee adjudged a foul had been committed before the Hornets could make the most of the rebound.
Kuszczak held at the second attempt when Emmanuel-Thomas tried to catch the keeper off-guard with a driven free-kick into his near post from the right on the hour before Murray clipped in a cross that Iwelumo, who had to lean back to get to the ball, headed wide.
It was beginning to look like it might be one of those days for the Hornets, only for a young player to continue his hot streak in the 71st minute.
The initial credit must go to Iwelumo and Buaben for fashioning the opportunity for Deeney, who battled past a defender to get in a shot that was blocked by McCarthy but Murray kept his composure to calmly convert the rebound and take his tally to five goals in his last seven appearances.
The equaliser firmly swung the momentum and the Hornets began to up the ante and nine minutes from time they got their reward.
Carlos Edwards sold McCarthy short with an attempted back pass that Deeney latched onto but with his back to goal and the keeper behind him. A lay-off to Kacaniklic seemed the best option but Deeney spun and, from a pretty acute angle, curled the ball over the keeper and a man on the line to make it 2-1.
Ipswich were not finished though, and it took an improvised flick from Nyron Nosworthy to divert a header from substitute Ryan Stevenson over his own crossbar, although Kuszczak was right behind his defender.
The hosts still had four minutes of injury time to see out but they did that without any major scares to ensure Ipswich’s Hornets hoodoo continued.
Watford: Kuszczak; Doyley, Nosworthy, Taylor, Dickinson; Murray, Hogg (Buaben 46), Eustace, Kacaniklic; Deeney, Garner (Iwelumo 54). Not used: Loach, Bennett and Assombalonga.
Ipswich Town: McCarthy; Edwards, Delaney, Smith, Cresswell; Drury, Bowyer (Hyam 78); Emmanuel-Thomas, Martin (Carson 83), Murphy; Chopra (Stevenson). Not used: Lee-Barrett and Sonko.
Referee: Peter Walton.