Entertaining exchange as Watford draw at Peterborough United
Watford rounded off their away campaign with an entertaining 2-2 draw at Peterborough United to equal last season’s points tally and extend their unbeaten run on their travels to a seventh game.
There was no shortage of action for the superb travelling army of 1,760 fans to enjoy and they could have been forgiven for wondering why their team weren’t comfortably in front at half-time. The reason for that was primarily the excellent Paul Jones.
The Peterborough keeper pulled off two exceptional saves to deny Chris Iwelumo and John Eustace and also thwarted Sean Murray and Troy Deeney, while Jonathan Hogg spurned another golden opportunity.
The Hornets were dominant in the opening period but all they had to show for it was Deeney’s tenth league goal of the season to cancel out a Lee Tomlin penalty after Nyron Nosworthy had brought down the dangerous Paul Taylor.
The second half turned out to be more even but it was the visitors who got the goal their first-half play had deserved when Murray netted his second superb set-piece goal in as many games by scoring from a 25-yard free-kick.
The lead was to be shortlived though, as Paul Taylor equalised with an equally fine strike from outside of the area and Peterborough looked as if they had scored again soon after when a Craig Alcock piledriver appeared to cross the line after crashing down off the underside of the bar but it was not given.
However, the Hornets had more cause to feel hard done by because on top of their numerous first-half chances, they also had a clear penalty for handball turned down after the break as referee Phil Gibbs decided to award the home side a free-kick instead.
Following the 2-2 draw at Brighton & Hove Albion which extended the Hornets’ run to just one defeat in 11 games, Sean Dyche chose to field an unchanged side. Adrian Mariappa was back on the bench following his one-match ban and Gavin Massey, fresh from returning from his loan at Colchester United, was also among the substitutes.
Posh went into the match on the back of three successive defeats but boss Darren Ferguson only made the one change, with Mark Little coming in for Gabriel Zakuani.
Both sides were positive from the outset but it was the Hornets who almost went in front with their first chance of note in the fourth minute when a throw-in from the right was flicked on at the near post by Iwelumo and Murray struck a half-volley into the ground but keeper Jones read the bounce well and saved.
Watford continued to have the better of it, with Carl Dickinson’s long throws from the right causing problems in a Posh defence that looked less than secure.
However, Paul Taylor did ask questions at the other end in the 11th minute when he twisted and turned his way past Martin Taylor on the right side of the area before pulling the ball back for Lee Frecklington, whose right-footed piledriver literally knocked Hogg off his feet. Despite the referee gesticulating for the Hornets medical staff to get on to the pitch quickly, the midfielder was fine to continue.
The hosts had another chance soon after when a Tomlin shot was blocked by Martin Taylor but it rebounded to Paul Taylor on the edge of the area and the striker hit a first-time volley wide.
But Watford were undone by the Posh forward man in the 13th minute when he got goal-side of Nosworthy after heading a ball over the top forward. Although the Hornets centre-half was able to get back and make a challenge, there was little doubt that he fouled Paul Taylor and a penalty was the outcome.
Nosworthy was perhaps fortunate not to be booked as well, while Tomasz Kuszczak almost bailed out his team-mate by getting a firm hand to Tomlin’s spot-kick low to his right, but it had enough power to creep into the net and give the hosts a 1-0 lead.
The Hornets were quick to regroup after that setback and they really should have levelled in the 24th minute.
Lloyd Doyley burst into the area on the right and struck a low cross which Iwelumo intelligently laid off to Hogg, who blazed horribly over when there was really no excuse for not hitting the target.
Watford went closer still with their next chance two minutes later when Murray’s long free-kick from just inside the opposition half was flicked towards goal by Iwelumo but Jones did superbly to touch the ball on to his near post before it was partially cleared.
However, the ball was returned from the right by Prince Buaben, Deeney tried to turn it goalwards but missed his kick but his attempt distracted Jones. However, a defender got back on the line to block it but he struck his attempted clearance straight at Deeney and the ball rebounded into the net to make it 1-1 and give the forward his tenth league goal of the campaign.
The space the Hornets were finding down the sides of the Posh backline was alarming from a defensive point of view, but Watford upped the ante and sought to expose it at every opportunity.
Doyley galloped into the right side of the area before firing over, Eustace mis-hit a shot wide and Buaben had an effort blocked before the Hornets looked certain to take the lead in the 35th minute, only to be denied by a brilliant save.
The Hornets had men over at the back post when the ball was crossed from the right and Eustace seemed certain to score when he headed back across goal, only for Jones to deny him with a superb full-length stop, pushing the ball onto the far post.
Another great chance came and went for the visitors five minutes later when Deeney was played in one-on-one but once again the inspired keeper was equal to it and was quickly off his line to save.
But for the excellence of Jones, the Hornets would have had three or four goals to their name in the first half but they were served a warning four minutes before the break when Paul Taylor teed up Tomlin on the edge of the box and he fired narrowly wide of Kuszczak’s right-hand post.
The amount of possession and territory Watford had enjoyed in the first half was quite incredible and still the chances kept coming for them as the game moved into two minutes of injury time.
First Deeney saw a low curling effort destined for the far corner deflected narrowly wide before Iwelumo forced his way into the six-yard box and almost set up Murray.
It was no surprise that Ferguson made changes at the interval given his side’s performance in the opening 45 minutes, with Tommy Rowe and Frecklington making way for Kgosi Ntlhe and Grant McCann.
The hosts did have the first effort of the second half, with George Boyd firing wide from 20 yards, but normal service was quickly resumed as Deeney set up Buaben on the right side of the area and he stepped inside his man but his shot was blocked.
But four minutes after the restart, Watford’s efforts were finally rewarded thanks to the latest example of the talent that is Murray.
The Hornets were awarded a free-kick 25 yards out in a central position and off a run up of no more than four strides the youngster curled the free-kick around the wall and inside the far post to make it 2-1.
But the visitors’ joy was to last only five minutes due to an equally impressive goal.
Posh worked a neat corner routine that saw the ball played back towards the edge of the area from the left and the ball was dummied twice for Paul Taylor to catch it absolutely perfectly and Kuszczak was given little chance as the shot flew past him to make it 2-2.
Replays will be needed to make sure but the Hornets appeared to have a big slice of fortune two minutes later when another fine strike from Alcock crashed down off the underside of the bar and looked to have crossed the line, only to bounce back into play. However, the referee’s assistant was not in a position to decide – and couldn’t really be blamed for being behind further up the pitch given where the shot was struck – and so 2-2 it stayed.
Having survived that scare, Jones was forced into his next decent save when he had to tip over a Buaben header after Iwelumo had flicked on and then the big striker tried to release Deeney but his angled effort was blocked.
The Hornets had a clear penalty appeal turned down in the 70th minute when a Murray corner from the right was handled, but only because the referee decided a Posh player had been pushed first and awarded the hosts a free-kick.
Dyche decided to make a change four minutes later, giving Matty Whichelow only his second league appearance of the season as a replacement for Iwelumo, and the substitute was soon causing problems with some useful tricky runs.
The Hornets were finishing strongly and six minutes from time Deeney’s flick on put Whichelow in behind the right side of the defence and he attempted to shoot across Jones, but the keeper was equal to it and blocked with his legs.
Watford had more than a reasonable case for a penalty in injury time when Kuszczak launched a free-kick into the box and Martin Taylor was almost having his shirt ripped off by an opponent but the referee was not interested.
Peterborough United: Jones; Little, Brisley, Alcock, Rowe (Ntlhe 46); Frecklington (McCann 46), Tomlin, Newell (Coulson 75), Boyd; P Taylor, Barnett. Not used: Ball and Grant.
Watford: Kuszczak; Doyley, Nosworthy, M Taylor, Dickinson; Eustace; Buaben, Hogg, Murray; Iwelumo (Whichelow 74), Deeney. Not used: Loach, Mariappa, Garner and Massey.
Bookings: Dickinson for a foul on Paul Taylor (35); Eustace for a foul on Paul Taylor (74); Newell for a foul on Buaben (81); Ntlhe for a foul on Buaben (83).
Referee: Phil Gibbs.