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Watford suffer first Championship defeat of the season at Blackpool
5:02pm Saturday 31st August 2013 in Latest Sport
Watford were made to rue missing a succession of first-half chances as Thomas Ince came off the bench to fire Blackpool to a 1-0 victory and inflict a first defeat of the season on the Hornets at Bloomfield Road this afternoon.
Gianfranco Zola’s men played very well in the first half and their opponents could not really have complained had they been two or three goals down at the break. As it transpired though, the game was still scoreless at the interval after Troy Deeney had seen a penalty saved, Matthew Gilks made a couple of other good saves and Davide Faraoni and Diego Fabbrini had both hit the woodwork.
The Seasiders improved after the break as their opponents’ performance level dropped markedly and with nine minutes to go Ince ran at the defence before beating Manuel Almunia with a low shot to clinch the Tangerines’ third 1-0 win of the season.
The Hornets line-up showed two changes from the team which drew 1-1 with Nottingham Forest last Sunday, one of which was enforced with Lloyd Doyley ruled out with a dead leg. Joel Ekstrand took his place and Faraoni returned for Daniel Pudil.
Despite their unbeaten start to the season, Blackpool came into the game amid an injury crisis, leaving Paul Ince with just one recognised central defender after Gary MacKenzie was ruled out with a hamstring injury following last week’s 1-0 victory over Reading.
This meant Chris Basham moved from right-back to partner Kirk Broadfoot in the heart of defence, with central midfielder Neal Bishop switching to right-back. Isaiah Osbourne came into the side, as did Reading match-winner Tom Barkhuizen to make his first start for the Tangerines, with Bobby Grant dropping to the bench.
The hosts weren’t too far away from taking the lead inside three minutes when a corner from the right was flicked goalwards by Ricardo Fuller but a combination of Almunia and Almen Abdi prevented Nathan Delfouneso from turning it in.
Watford were soon on the front foot though, with Abdi seeing a shot blocked before Deeney sent a looping header over the top following a delivery from the right. Blackpool were then opened up down their right as Ikechi Anya slipped in the overlapping Lewis McGugan but his cross was too close to Gilks.
Deeney had the Hornets’ first attempt on target in the eighth minute with a rasping drive from 25 yards which Gilks did well to push over his own bar. But three minutes later the visitors were handed a great opportunity to take the lead when a lovely run from Abdi was cut short by a rash challenge from Bishop and referee Geoff Eltringham had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. However, Deeney, who had already scored two penalties this season, was unable to make it three as Gilks dived to his left to save the spot-kick which although well struck, was at a decent height for the keeper.
The home side were appealing for a penalty of their own soon after when they claimed Marco Casseti had handled but this time the referee was unmoved. He also missed an incident moments later when Gabriele Angella was head-butted by an opponent as Blackpool prepared to take a free-kick, but Eltringham did act when Jack Robinson went through the back of Faraoni and was rightly booked.
The Hornets continued to be the more threatening side though, and were denied by Gilks again when a deep Abdi cross to the back post broke for Angella but he was unable to turn it past the keeper.
Gilks made a more straightforward save in the 25th minute when the diving keeper plucked McGugan’s curler from the left side of the area out of the air after the midfielder had come inside and worked some space.
Five minutes later Faraoni fired a 25-yard effort wide from the right side of the pitch after being picked out by McGugan when Iriney won back possession. But the Hornets were then fortunate that Almunia was not tested when Angella made a couple of careless errors when trying to deal with an awkward long ball, made more difficult by the windy conditions.
Barry Ferguson talked himself into the referee’s notebook after an over-zealous shoulder barge on Diego Fabbrini which gave the Hornets a free-kick in a decent position but McGugan was unable to capitalise, curling his set piece over the top.
The visitors though, missed another great opportunity to take the lead in the 40th minute when a corner was taken quickly on the left and the ball was swung into the box where Faraoni got clear, only to see his downward glancing header rebound off the far post and then his follow up was kept out by more good work by Gilks.
To add insult to injury, the Hornets were denied by the woodwork again three minutes later when Deeney superbly held the ball up in the area and laid it back to Fabbrini, whose right-foot shot from the edge of the 18-yard box cannoned back off Gilks’ right-hand post and then Faraoni put the follow up wide.
Anya was unable to extend Gilks with the first effort of the second half but moments later the Hornets needed Almunia to come to their rescue when a routine ball was not dealt with and it sat up invitingly for Fuller to strike a half-volley, but the Hornets keeper did well to parry it around his near post.
There was to be another close call from the corner though, as Barkhuizen turned the ball goalwards and it ricocheted back across goal and narrowly wide off Anya.
Blackpool’s best spell of the match continued with Broadfoot coming up from the back to head a corner from the left down and wide of Almunia’s left-hand post before Fuller sliced a long throw from the same side of the pitch high over the target.
Delfouneso did put the ball in the net around the hour mark but the assistant’s flag was already up for offside but Watford then began to see more of the ball again, with Cassetti having a shot blocked.
Angel was booked for a foul on Angella and the Seasiders’ manager introduced his son into the fray, with Thomas Ince replacing Barkhuizen. And the substitute was soon involved, hitting a shot wide of Almunia’s near post.
Faraoni fired a speculative effort over at the other end before Iriney saw yellow for a foul on Ferguson and Fernando Forestieri replaced Fabbrini.
Blackpool had the next effort after 76 minutes when Angella was booked for upending Fuller on the left edge of the area and Ferguson’s powerfully-struck set-piece had to be tipped over by Almunia.
The hosts had been knocking on the door and with nine minutes remaining they made the breakthrough thanks to the young talent that is Ince.
The substitute picked up possession in midfield and immediately drove at pace at the Hornets defence. Iriney was in pursuit but having already been booked, he couldn’t risk mistiming a challenge and Ince’s run pulled Angella out of the middle of the defence and created an angle for him to beat Almunia with a low left-footed drive.
Zola made a double change with four minutes of normal time to go, bringing on Javier Acuna and Sean Murray for Abdi and Iriney, and then Forestieri dragged a shot harmlessly wide.
And it was Forestieri who was to have the last chance to salvage a point for the Hornets four minutes into injury-time but he dragged a left-footed shot beyond Gilks and wide of the far post as Blackpool extended their unbeaten start to the season and brought Watford’s end to an end.
Blackpool: Gilks; Bishop, Basham, Broadfoot, Robinson; Angel, Ferguson, Osbourne; Barkhuizen (Ince 65), Fuller, Delfouneso (Caton 90). Not used: Halstead, Chopra, Grant, Harris and McGahey.
Watford: Almunia; Cassetti, Angella, Ekstrand; Faraoni, Abdi (Acuna 86), Iriney (Murray 86), McGugan, Anya; Deeney, Fabbrini (Forestieri 73). Not used: Bond, Belkalem, Pudil and Smith.
Bookings: Robinson for a foul on Faraoni (19); Ferguson for a foul on Fabbrini (37); Angel for a foul on Angella (65); Iriney for a foul on Ferguson (73); Angella for a foul on Fuller (76); Ekstrand for a foul on Fuller (90).
Attendance: 13,345 (1,175 away).
Referee: Geoff Eltringham.
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