Watford’s superb away record continued as they made it ten league wins on the road this season with a 2-0 victory away to Ipswich Town.
The Hornets capped off a tremendous opening 20 minutes with a well-worked opener from Ikechi Anya – his second in as many games – but they were unable to build on their superb start to the contest.
The visitors were below par for much of the contest in terms of possession, without really being overly troubled by Ipswich, and Nathaniel Chalobah secured the three points with 18 minutes remaining.
There was a lot of talk before kick-off as to whether Gianfranco Zola would make wholesale changes but in the end the head coach opted for just three, one of which was forced.
Daniel Pudil was ruled out through illness so Joel Ekstrand came into the backline, with Anya switching to the left flank. Jonathan Hogg replaced Cristian Battocchio in midfield and Fernando Forestieri was handed a start up top, with top scorer Matej Vydra rested.
Watford went into tonight’s game with the unofficial title of joint highest scorers in the top four divisions of English football, but Ipswich have been much improved at the back of late.
The introduction of Mick McCarthy, and more recently the signing of Richard Stearman, has shored up a defence which before the manager’s arrival had leaked on average two goals a game.
But there was little sign of that improvement in the opening minutes as Watford started the contest at a frantic pace.
Slick passing resulted in Troy Deeney reaching the byline after just two minutes but his pull-back was in-between the unmarked Hogg and Forestieri.
Hogg has yet to score for Watford since he signed for the club 18 months ago but the combative midfielder went agonisingly close when his 25-yard half-volley rebounded off the crossbar.
Watford’s football was fluid and it wasn’t long before they created another opening. This time it was Almen Abdi who reached the byline and pulled the ball back. Deeney’s shot was deflected and Forestieri was unable to reach the ball as it trickled wide.
Michael Chopra and David McGoldrick sliced efforts from distance wide in the opening ten minutes for Ipswich, however, the visitors were without doubt the side in the ascendency.
Watford’s attractive play in the opening quarter of an hour deserved a goal and it was duly delivered following another slick move. A flowing passage of play down the left flank, which involved defender Joel Ekstrand and Hogg, resulted in Deeney flicking the ball into the path of Anya who, from 15 yards, was able to side-foot his shot into the bottom corner past Henderson and the covering defender on the line.
The Hornets had another half chance when Henderson’s clearance almost rebounded off Luke Chambers into the path of Forestieri, but Ipswich recovered well after the goal and started to enjoy more possession and territory.
The home supporters believed their side should have been awarded a penalty half an hour into the contest when Martin burst into the box and left his leg trailing as Abdi made his challenge. The midfielder made the most of it and referee Roger East said no penalty.
The Tractor Boys were the better team as the first half came to a close but Manuel Almunia was only forced into two routine stops before the break. McGoldrick was allowed too much space as he fired a low drive from 20 yards straight at the Watford goalkeeper and former Hornet Chopra also saw an overhead kick land safely into the arms of Almunia.
Ipswich started the second period well also and Martin’s low cross would have reach Chopra had it not been for Chalobah’s sliding challenge.
Martin had another penalty appeal turned down when he claimed his shot struck the arm of Doyley but this claim was even less believable than the one in the first half.
Anya had a shot deflected onto the roof of the net but it was Ipswich who were on top following the restart.
And the home crowd thought they had their equaliser when Almunia could only fumble McGoldrick’s cross-shot and Tommy Smith thumped the ball into the net. However, the offside flag went up and the goal was chalked off.
Ipswich sent several deliveries into the box during the second 45 minutes but on each occasion, Watford did enough to nullify the danger.
The Golden Boy’s passing in the first half was fluid and incisive but it deteriorated following the goal and their ability to retain possession was even worse in the second half. Hogg flashed another effort from distance comfortably wide but clear-cut openings were few and far between.
Forestieri had a glorious opportunity to extend his team’s advantage midway through the half when Deeney slipped in the diminutive forward. The Argentine cut inside Smith well but he sliced his effort wide from 18 yards.
Watford had been poor at retaining possession for much of the second period but in one quick, slick move they all-but secured victory. Deeney laid the ball back to Abdi, he picked out the run of Chalobah and the England Under-21 international coolly slotted the ball into the bottom corner with his right foot from 12 yards out.
Ipswich continued to apply pressure and substitute Aaron Mclean missed the ball as he attempted an overhead kick whilst unmarked, but Watford’s back three coped with relative ease.
An inch-perfect cross from Aaron Cresswell was headed goalwards by Mclean and Cresswell curled a free kick on target, both of which Almunia saved well, but the three points were never in doubt following Watford’s second goal.
Ipswich: Henderson; Stearman, Chambers, Smith, Cresswell; Edwards, Hyam, N’Daw, Martin (Mclean 54); Chopra, McGoldrick (Nouble 65).
Subs: Loach, Hewitt, Kisnorbo, Drury, Murphy.
Watford: Almunia; Doyley, Ekstrand, Nosworthy; Cassetti, Hogg, Chalobah, Abdi, Anya (Forsyth 78); Forestieri (Geijo 73), Deeney (Yeates 85).
Subs: Bond, Murray, Vydra, Battocchio.
Referee: Roger East.