Watford’s unbeaten run extends to five matches following today’s 2-2 draw with Blackpool but it felt like a defeat after Isaiah Osbourne denied the visitors victory with an injury-time goal.
The Hornets led 2-0 after just 21 minutes thanks to Ikechi Anya and Troy Deeney’s goals and Gianfranco Zola’s men were comfortable for most of the first half.
However, their inability to maintain possession meant the second period was a difficult one and after Kevin Phillips reduced the deficit shortly after the break, Osbourne scored from 20 yards in injury time to secure Pool a point.
Watford made four changes to their starting XI; Fitz Hall replaced the injured Lloyd Doyley, Cristian Battocchio made his first start due to Jonathan Hogg’s suspension, Anya was in for Marco Cassetti and Fernando Forestieri made way for Matej Vydra.
Both sides had corners early on but it was Watford who started the brighter and took the lead after just four minutes. Manuel Almunia gathered a Pool corner and rolled the ball out to Battocchio. He found Matej Vydra who slipped the ball through to Anya and the winger coolly slotted past Matt Gilks.
It was almost 2-0 moments later as Troy Deeney released Vydra on the right side of the penalty area and his pull back would have left Nathaniel Chalobah with a simple finish had Alex Baptiste not been there to clear.
The advantage was doubled midway through the half when Mark Yeates’ free kick fell to Deeney eight yards from goal and he hit his shot into the roof of the net.
The Hornets were extremely comfortable, particular in the opening half an hour. Elliot Grandin had a shot blocked and there were a couple of crosses sent into the area but the only time Watford’s goal was troubled was when Almunia took too long with a pass back and his clearance went straight to Phillips, who directed his header narrowly wide of the empty goal.
Pool improved as the half came to a close and shortly after the impressive Mark Yeates hit the side netting from 18 yards, Tom Ince forced Almunia to save after a jinking run.
But Watford were good value for their lead and were 2-0 up the break.
The home team started the second half much better than the first and Ince was put through minutes after the restart. His shot was straight at the on-rushing Almunia and was saved. Nathan Delfouneso also had a tame header easily saved.
Blackpool did reduce the deficit though when Watford failed to clear from a corner and a Pool attacker reached the byline and his low cross was turned in from close range by former Hornet Phillips.
Watford’s inability to keep possession did not cause too many problems in the first half but it did in the second. The Hornets were unable to retain the ball and if they were not attacking themselves, then the visitors were inviting pressure.
Delfouneso had a header comfortably saved and Gomes fired yards over the bar from distance but on the whole, Pool were unable to make the most of their possession.
Gomes was proving to be a real threat as the half went on. Within a minute, he forced Almunia to tip over, almost caught out the Watford goalkeeper with the resulting corner and then dragged wide from 18 yards.
Blackpool’s star man for much of this season has been Ince, who was relatively quiet in the opening 70 minutes. However, the England Under-21 international almost equalised when he cut on to his left foot and rattled the crossbar from 18 yards.
Michael Appleton’s men continued to be the side on the ascendancy and had a penalty appeal turned down with 15 minutes remaining when they believed a shot hit the arm of Hall.
One of the few times Watford maintained possession it ended with a decent chance for Zola’s men. After a period of possession, a 40-yard diagonal ball from Murray released Deeney, who cut inside the defender, laid the ball off to Battocchio but his shot was blocked. Chalobah had a shot from distance saved also.
Pool continued to search for their equaliser though and Almunia needed to tip Wes Thomas’ header wide with less than ten minutes remaining.
It looked as though the Hornets would hold on for the five minutes of injury time but when Ince ran across the edge of the area, Osbourne curled a 20-yard shot past Almunia and into the bottom corner.
Ince sliced a long-rabge effort wide but the rest of injury time was largely uneventful and Watford had to settle for a point.
Blackpool: Gilks; Broadfoot, Baptiste, Cathcart, Crainey; Basham, Sylvestre (Osbourne HT); Grandin (Gomes 29), Delfouneso, Ince; K. Phillips (Thomas 68).
Subs: Harris, Angel, Dicko, Halstead.
Watford: Almunia; Ekstrand, Hall, Hoban; Anya (Cassetti 60), Yeates (Murray 75), Battocchio, Chalobah, Pudil; Deeney, Vydra (Forestieri 82).
Subs: Bond, Thompson, Smith, Geijo.
Referee: Kevin Wright.