Fernando Forestieri comes off the bench to score twice and give Watford victory over Sheffield Wednesday
Fernando Forestieri came off the bench to score twice and fire Watford back to second in the Championship as they came from behind to beat Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 and get Vicarage Road rocking tonight.
The Hornets were in some bother when Gianfranco Zola decided to put on the Argentine striker and Nathaniel Chalobah at the start of the second half.
After Matej Vydra had missed a sitter to put the his side in front, a series of mistakes led to Michail Antonio giving Wednesday the lead soon after. The home side’s goal then came under a sustained bombardment for around ten minutes and it took a combination of some fine stops from Jonathan Bond and downright good fortune to prevent the visitors extending their advantage.
Having got to the break just the one goal behind, the Hornets regrouped and by midway through the second period they had turned the game around thanks to Forestieri.
First, he was in the right place at the far post to turn in a Marco Cassetti flick from a corner and 11 minutes later he finished superbly after good work by Troy Deeney.
This was a real gutsy display by the Hornets, who needed another fine save from Bond just before the end to make sure of the win which took them to within five points of leaders Cardiff City, who were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Derby County.
Zola made two changes from the side which was pegged back at the death by Wolverhampton Wanderers last Friday, both of which perhaps had an element of surprise about them.
Jonathan Hogg came in for Chalobah, who was not named in the starting line-up for only the second time since the start of November, while Daniel Pudil returned for Lloyd Doyley. This meant Ikechi Anya retained his place as right wing-back, with Cassetti moving back to the right of the central defence. Manuel Almunia was still not fit to return, so Bond continued in goal and Deeney took over the captaincy.
Wednesday boss Dave Jones made just the one change from the side that suffered a first league defeat in eight at home to Nottingham Forest on Saturday, with Kieran Lee coming in for Leroy Lita. This meant Hornets old boy Martin Taylor had to settle for a place on the bench.
The Hornets were quickly out of the blocks, winning two corners in the opening five minutes, the second of which came after Cassetti had produced a lovely flick over his own head and then saw his right-footed volley from the edge of the area deflected behind.
Deeney was the next to have an effort in the eighth minute, accelerating away from Lewis Buxton down the left before breaking into the area and hitting a cross-shot wide of the far post.
Watford had started purposefully and at a good tempo, although Antonio had the visitors’ first effort from wide on the right which never threatened Bond’s goal as it fizzed wide of his near post. Soon after though, Connor Wickham was found in space by Antonio’s delivery from the right and the England Under-21 striker was able to chest it down and hit a fine right-footed half-volley on the turn that was superbly tipped over by Bond.
The Hornets keeper didn’t look too comfortable at the resultant corner however, as Wednesday tried to crowd him but the ball was eventually bundled out by Buxton at the far post.
Soon after though, came one of those moments that had the majority inside Vicarage Road rubbing their eyes in collective disbelief.
The Hornets built down their right, with Almen Abdi nodding the ball into the path of Anya, who broke into space in the area before squaring to seemingly lay Vydra’s 21st goal of the season on a plate for him, only for the striker to inexplicably miss the target from six yards out.
If that was incredible, so to an extent was the catalogue of mistakes that led to Wednesday taking the lead in the 20th minute.
The problems started when Hogg was dispossessed in midfield and Cassetti was bundled off the ball by Jeremy Helan. The Italian got back though, and seemed to have regained control of the situation, only to then play a back pass to Bond when the sensible option would surely have been to knock it into touch. The Hornets keeper initially looked like he would be able to clear, but slipped and Antonio was on the scene to knock the ball in and make it 1-0.
What followed over the next five minutes was to continue the theme and the Hornets were extremely fortunate not to find themselves at least two down. The fact they weren’t was down to their keeper and more than a shade of good luck.
The problems continued for Watford when their opponents were awarded a free-kick to the left of centre around 25 yards out. Miguel Llera struck it powerfully left-footed and Bond made a fine one-handed save to stop it going inside his left-hand post. However, he pushed the ball up and Buxton was first to the rebound, heading it and the ball looked as if it had dropped over the line, but the linesman’s flag on the Rous Stand side stayed down.
Moments later, Helan struck a left-footed drive which Bond could only push back out into the area and Lee had a superb opportunity to bury the rebound, but fired wide of the target. Still the onslaught continued though, with Danny Pugh venturing forward from left-back to chance his arm with a drive which Bond managed to deal with more comfortably.
Having somehow withstood that storm, the Hornets came close to equalising with their first on-target attempt when an Anya cross from the right looked to have gone too deep but Pudil arrived at the back post to connect perfectly on the half-volley, only to see it tipped over by Chris Kirkland.
Back came Wednesday with their shoot on sight policy though, with Wickham connecting well with a right-footed strike from 25 yards which Bond was again equal too, pushing it over his bar.
The end-to-end excitement continued, with the Hornets again going close, first in somewhat fortuitous circumstances when Llera challenged for the ball near the edge of his own area and then had to watch as the ball went narrowly wide of his own goal. From the resultant corner, the Hornets spurned another good chance to equalise, this time Joel Ekstrand blasting over from ten yards after the set piece had bounced up favourably in the area.
Before that incident, Ekstrand had been on the end of a challenge from Lee which earned the first yellow card of the evening and the visitors were to suffer a more serious blow five minutes before the interval when Jose Semedo came on to replace Giles Coke, who had been injured while squeezing between two yellow-shirted opponents to get in a shot.
That was to be the last attempt of a half which saw Wednesday have eight on-target attempts to the Hornets’ one.
Zola wasted no time trying to turn things around, making a double change at the start of the second half, with Chalobah replacing Hogg and Forestieri coming on for Pudil and switching to a 4-3-3 formation.
Within five minutes of making the change, the Hornets could have been back on terms when Anya, who had switched to the left, was able to dance his way to the by-line and pull the ball back in the danger zone and Forestieri was not far away from connecting.
Soon after though, Wickham had the visitors’ first effort of the half when he headed narrowly wide of the near post but on 53 minutes were level - and the substitution did reap its rewards.
Anya, who had started the second half very promisingly, forced a corner down the left which Abdi took, Cassetti got across the near post to get a lovely flick and Forestieri arrived at the back stick to thump the ball into the roof of the net to make it 1-1 before taking out the frustration of his misses of Friday night by kicking the corner flag out of the ground as he celebrated.
Boosted by equalising, the Hornets were immediately back on the front foot with Anya again leading the charge. Zola’s men kept possession well in and around the box before working the ball to Abdi, who fired narrowly over from the edge of the area.
Helan wasn’t too far away from getting his head on the end of a Pugh free-kick at the other end before the Wednesday left-back was booked for persistent fouling.
But the momentum was now with Watford and in the 64th minute they took the lead thanks to the little Argentine again.
This time Deeney was the creator, surging away down the right before pulling the ball back to Forestieri, who took a touch to shift it on to his right foot before hitting a lovely low right-footed finish to double his tally 11 minutes after netting his first to put the Hornets 2-1 to the good.
During the celebrations, Vydra tripped an opponent and was booked for his troubles but the Wednesday manager’s response to going behind was to replace Pugh with Jermaine Johnson.
Helan also saw yellow for a foul on Forestieri but Watford still needed to be careful at the back as they were almost caught out when two defenders went for the same ball but the move ended with a Llera shot deflected wide.
The visitors played their final card in the 76th minute, with Lita coming on for David Prutton, but Watford could have eased some of the pressure had someone in a yellow shirt managed to get a touch on the end of an inswinging Abdi free-kick soon after. To help firm things up at the back though, Zola sent on Doyley for Anya with seven minutes of normal time remaining.
Johnson then shot wide and Lita was booked for dissent, as was Forestieri for a blatant foul on Helan before Bond make another superb stop, arching his back to tip away Lita’s far post header back across goal in the last minute.
The ending was edgy but there was no denying what this victory meant to the Hornets fans and players alike as they celebrated with real passion after the final whistle.
Watford: Bond; Cassetti, Nosworthy, Ekstrand; Anya (Doyley 83), Abdi, Hogg (Chalobah 46), Battocchio, Pudil (Forestieri 46); Deeney, Vydra. Not used: Doyley, Murray, Bonham and Geijo.
Sheffield Wednesday: Kirkland; Buxton, Llera, Gardner, Pugh (Johnson 67); Lee, Prutton (Lita 76), Coke (Semedo 40); Antonio, Wickham, Helan. Not used: Taylor, Madine, McCabe and Bywater.
Bookings: Lee for a foul on Ekstrand (36); Pugh for persistent foul play (60); Vydra for tripping opponent (64); Helan for a foul on Forestieri (70); Lita for dissent (88); Forestieri for a foul on Helan (89).
Referee: Darren Sheldrake.
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