Watford were handed several warnings which they didn’t listen to during the first half against Bolton Wanderers, so the visitors can have few complaints that they are currently 2-0 down at the break.
‘Third time lucky’ is the phrase but for Bolton’s opening goal it was fourth. Watford failed to deal with three consecutive set piece deliveries but fortunately the home side were unable to capitalise. So when the fourth wasn’t cleared on 35 minutes, they could only have themselves to blame that Lukas Jutkiewicz was able to stab home at the far post to make it 1-0.
It was a similar story for the second goal on the stroke of half time. Joe Mason had been slipped in behind Watford’s high defensive line on several occasions before he finally made it count when he slotted the ball into the far corner from 12 yards out.
The Hornets made three changes to their starting XI, as Davide Faraoni replaced Daniel Pudil, with Ikechi Anya switching to the left, Sean Murray came in for Cristian Battocchio and, as Beppe Sannino suggested in the week, Chu-Young Park made his first start, as Mathias Ranegie made way.
The Golden Boys almost went behind inside ten minutes. With Marco Cassetti off getting treatment and Daniel Tozser dropped in to cover, Mark Davies was allowed to drive forward and slip Mason in. Luckily Manuel Almunia was alert and rushed out to save with his legs.
The Hornets had excellent chances of their own. Fine wing play from Ikechi Anya resulted in Troy Deeney having a header at goal but it was too central and parried away. And later in the half, Faraoni, who was performing well, beat Tim Ream before having a powerful shot punched away by Adam Bogdan. Tozser also sent a low drive wide of the near post.
However, Bolton were the better side by some distance and deserved to lead by two goals at the interval.
A Wanderers counter saw Mason through on goal only for Ekstrand to time his tackle perfectly.
The visitors needed another last-ditch tackle from Faraoni when Mason beat Gabriele Angella to a ball and rounded Almunia.
Watford’s inability to cope with set piece deliveries is worrying and Almunia was forced into action when Mason had a header on target.
It was a hugely frustrating first half for Watford were they were the architects of their own downfall.
Bolton Wanderers line-up: Bogdan; Baptiste, Wheater, Mills, Ream; Pratley (Danns 24), Spearing, Medo, Davies; Jutkiewicz, Mason.
Subs: Lonergan, Hall, Knight, Trotter, Lee, Eagles.
Watford line-up: Almunia; Angella, Cassetti, Ekstrand; Faraoni, Merkel, Tozser, Murray, Anya; Deeney, Park.
Subs: Bond, Belkalem, Doyley, Hoban, Battocchio, Pudil, Ranegie.
Follow the second-half action here.