Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting WO to 80360, or email us
Wolverhampton Wanderers equalise in injury-time to deny Watford another away win
Watford missed the opportunity to open up a three-point lead over the chasing play-off pack as they were pegged back by an injury-time equaliser which earned struggling Wolverhampton Wanderers a 1-1 draw at Molineux. tonight.
The Hornets were the better side in the first half but it took a superb follow-up save from Jonathan Bond to deny Bjorn Sigurdarson after the keeper had rather nervously dealt with Kevin Doyle’s first effort.
That was to be the visitors’ only scare of the opening period though, and three minutes before the break they took the lead courtesy of lovely 20-yard free-kick from Almen Abdi.
The hope was that Watford would kick on after taking the lead but they didn’t and the longer it stayed at 1-0, it gave their opponents increased hope.
Bond again made a fine save to prevent Sigurdarson from scoring but either side of that Ikechi Anya and Fernando Forestieri missed fine opportunities to make the points safe. And the Hornets were made to pay for their profligacy three minutes into injury time when Bakary Sako spun to fire past Bond.
Even then, the Hornets should still have won it two minutes later when Forestieri was presented with an even better chance in the area, but he fired badly over from ten yards.
There were few surprises about the side Gianfranco Zola selected as he made two changes from the starting line-up that beat Derby County 2-1 last time out. Manuel Almunia failed to shake off his hamstring problem in time, so Bond made his first league start for the Hornets after coming on shortly before half-time on Saturday. The other adjustment saw Troy Deeney replace Alex Geijo up front. Daniel Pudil, who missed the last two matches through illness, was back but had to settle for a place on the bench as Ikechi Anya retained his place in the team.
Dean Saunders also made two changes following the 2-1 defeat to Cardiff City as he attempted to end the hosts’ 12-game run without a win which had seen them sink into the bottom three. Stephen Hunt made his first league start of the season after recovering from a hip injury, with Danny Baath dropping to the bench, while Doyle came in for Tongo Doumbia, who was not involved.
Both sides started purposefully and it was the visitors who created the first opening in the sixth minute. Marco Cassetti had space to attack down the right and he ventured forward before laying an intelligent pass into Abdi, who checked back out on to his left foot but his side-footed effort from the right side of the easy was easily dealt with by keeper Carl Ikeme.
Within 90 seconds though, Wolves were almost caught out when they carelessly gave the ball away at the back and it broke for Cristian Battocchio, who tried a right-footed curler from the edge of the area that was deflected narrowly wide, with Ikeme rooted to the spot.
The visitors had now started to get into their stride and were playing their passing game in a composed and controlled fashion against a side who, perhaps not surprisingly given their plight, were looking anything but at times.
Wolves though, had their first moment of promise in the 15th minute when, after Bond had decided to stay on his line when he couldn’t get to a cross from the left, the ball ran to Sako on the right side of the area. He got away from Joel Ekstrand before firing in a left-footed shot which Nyron Nosworthy managed to head away before it could trouble the Hornets’ stopper.
This increased the home side’s belief and four minutes later they would have taken the lead, but for a superb second save from Bond after a not particularly convincing first one.
Sako was again the creator at the business end, finding Doyle thanks to a bit of good fortune on the edge of the area and he struck a shot which was saved comfortably by Bond, but he parried it straight back into the danger zone. The ball dropped invitingly for Sigurdarson, who looked certain to bury the left-footed volleyed rebound, only to be denied by a wonderful reflex save from the keeper, leaping away to his right.
This close shave sparked Watford back into life and within a minute their front two were combining on the counter-attack, with Troy Deeney crossing from the right to pick out Matej Vydra, who was denied an attempt at goal by a good tackle. Soon after, Deeney leapt highest to connect with a Cassetti cross from the right but Ikeme was able to pluck the ball out of the air above his head.
Captain-for- the-night Lloyd Doyley was the next to chance his arm with a 30-yard effort which he connected well enough with, but it was deflected up in the air for Ikeme to claim at the second attempt.
The Wolves keeper was tested again in the 33rd minute by Cassetti’s side-footed effort from the right side of the area after left-back Jack Robinson had been unable to properly clear Anya’s cross from the opposite flank.
Watford’s approach play continued to be promising as the half drew to a close, but they were finding it tricky to break through the home side’s well organised two banks of four. If you can’t go through the opposition though, you either go wide or, in Abdi’s case, over them – and in very impressive fashion.
The visitors were awarded a free-kick in a dangerous central position around 20 yards out after Vydra had been clipped on the heel by Karl Henry and you could almost sense what would happen next as the Swiss midfielder curled it over the wall and out of the reach of Ikeme, inside his right-hand post, to net his tenth of the campaign and make it 1-0.
The first incident of note after the break was the first yellow card of the evening, shown to Sigurdarson for a foul on Ekstrand.
Watford were soon getting back into their groove though, with Nathaniel Chalobah striking a simply stunning 40-yard cross-field pass to set Anya away on the left. His cross broke for Abdi, whose half-volley was blocked and then Vydra fired the follow-up over from the edge of the area.
The home side’s first chance of the second half came from their first corner of the match, which Sigurdarson headed wide after Bond had come and committed himself. Soon after, Doyle drove in off the left side before hitting a low shot from the edge of the area which the Hornets’ keeper safely gathered.
Wolvs continued to have marginally the better of it as the hour-mark came and went but Saunders decided it was time for a double change after 63 minutes, bringing on Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and Jake Cassidy for Doyle and Hunt.
Three minutes later though, Watford should have had the points in the bag.
Cassetti skipped away from Robinson with ease on the right and was allowed to advance unhindered all the way to the by-line before squaring the ball across the area but Anya, for the second match running and from a similar position, missed when it seemed easier to score. Moments later though, Battocchio let fly from 25 yards and it took a fine tip over from Ikeme to deny him.
The Wolves boss made his third and final change in the 70th minute, taking off captain Henry and replacing him with David Davis before Roger Johnson saw a far-post header from a corner deflected behind. The Wolves centre-half also connected with the resultant set piece but headed wide.
Incredibly, it took the hosts until the 75th minute to win only their second free-kick – Watford had 12 by this point – but it was awarded after Abdi had pulled back Davis and was rightly booked.
Forestieri came on for Vydra three minutes later but moments before, it had taken Bond’s second fine save of the match to prevent the hosts from equalising.
Davis was the instigator, attacking down the right before finding Sigurdarson in space inside of him. The striker closed in on goal before hitting a low drive which Bond superbly kept out but the ball still broke free but Robinson was unable to get around the rebound and sliced it wide.
Watford had not been particularly convincing for most of the second half but Forestieri spurned a great opportunity to make life easier for his side with nine minutes left when he blazed high and wide from 15 yards after being teed up by Deeney.
Jonathan Hogg came on for Chalobah and Anya made way for Pudil before the Hornets looked to hit the home side on the counter with five minutes left. Battocchio led the charge and waited for Forestieri to get up in support before slipping in his team-mate to his left. The two Argentines then swapped passes as they entered the area before Forestieri had a shot blocked.
The fourth official signalling five minutes of injury time offered Wolves further encouragement and twice Bond was called into action to deal with crosses. But in the third minute of stoppage time, Wolves’ efforts were rewarded when Cassidy was able to get in a low cross from the right and Sako spun and hit a right-footed past the helpless Bond to make it 1-1.
Despite that setback Watford could, and arguably should have won it in the fifth minute of added time.
Doyley attacked down the right and his deep cross was headed back into the danger zone by Pudil, Deeney spun and failed to connect with a volley but the ball sat up perfectly for Forestieri, only for him to slice a golden opening over from ten yards.
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Ikeme; Doherty, Johnson, Gorkss, Robinson; Sako, Henry (Davis 70), O’Hara, Hunt (Cassidy 63); Doyle (Ebanks-Blake 63), Sigurdarson. Not used: Edwards, Ward, Batth and De Vries.
Watford: Bond; Doyley, Nosworthy, Ekstrand; Cassetti, Abdi, Chalobah (Hogg 82), Battocchio, Anya (Pudil 85); Deeney, Vydra (Forestieri 78). Not used: Yeates, Murray, Bonham and Geijo.
Bookings: Sigurdarson for a foul on Ekstrand (47); Abdi for a foul on Davis (75).
Attendance: 18,571 (725 away).
Referee: Paul Tierney.