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Troy Deeney equalises to earn Watford a draw at Ipswich Town in Giuseppe Sannino's first match at Hornets helm
5:00pm Saturday 21st December 2013 in Sport
It is now ten games without a win for Watford but Giuseppe Sannino has his first point on the board as Hornets boss after his new charges came from behind to earn a 1-1 draw at Ipswich Town.
The visitors had defended well in the main but it looked as if they were heading for a first defeat in nine visits to Portman Road when David McGoldrick scored a 73rd-minute penalty, controversially awarded for handball against Gabriele Angella.
Watford hadn’t created a great deal until that point but eight minutes later they were back on terms when Troy Deeney showed good anticipation to react to a deflected Marco Cassetti pass to equalise.
That said, Sannino’s side needed a large slice of good fortune to ensure they extended their unbeaten away run to six matches when Ipswich missed three opportunities in quick succession, including a gilt-edged header hitting the bar when it seemed easier for Luke Hyam to score.
Sannino made no fewer than seven changes to the last starting XI selected by Gianfranco Zola for the 1-0 defeat at home to Sheffield Wednesday as a new Hornets dawn got underway at Portman Road.
Back came goalkeeper Manuel Almunia, Lloyd Doyley and Angella after their respective injury problems, while Joel Ekstrand also returned to the backline following suspension. Lewis McGugan and Daniel Pudil were restored to midfield and Diego Fabbrini was chosen to partner Troy Deeney up front as Watford returned to a 3-5-2 formation.
The Tractor Boys came into the game on the back of a four-match unbeaten run that has lifted them to tenth in the table and Mick McCarthy opted to keep faith with the same line-up which started their 0-0 draw at Nottingham Forest last time out.
The Hornets started soundly, if not spectacularly, during a scrappy opening to the game but apart from a Daryl Murphy header, which he glanced well wide from a Luke Chambers right-sided cross in the eighth minute, neither side created anything of note in the opening stages.
Tommy Smith could have few complaints at picking up the game’s first yellow card in the 12th minute when he scythed down Deeney in the centre circle. But the Hornets were slowly but surely starting to enjoy more of the possession as the contest passed the 15-minute mark, although they still couldn’t find the sufficient quality in the final third to get in an attempt at goal.
There was no shortage of effort and application from the visitors, with Sannino consistently urging his new charges on from the sidelines to press their opponents all over the pitch. And that approach helped yield the Hornets’ first attempt in the 25th minute when Cassetti’s ball forward was cushioned down by the head of Deeney into the path of Fabbrini on the right side of the area. Initially the Italian shaped as if he was going to cross before taking his man on the outside and hitting a right-footed shot which struck the outside of Dean Gerken’s left-hand post.
Soon after though, Aaron Cresswell saw a left-footed strike from the edge of the area deflected over and from the resultant corner, Deeney had to head away Smith’s goal-bound header from inside his own six-yard box.
Ipswich went closer still in the 30th minute when McGoldrick had the time and space to take aim from around 22 yards and Almunia was forced to make a fine save, diving away to his left to push away the right-footed strike.
Another chance came and went for the home side five minutes later when McGoldrick swung over a cross from the right and Murphy got his head to the ball towards the far post area but the opportunity was always going wide of Almunia’s right-hand upright.
The Hornets were a shade fortunate not to be caught napping five minutes before the break when their opponents worked a free-kick routine. Having been awarded the set piece towards the right side of the penalty area, Cresswell played it short for Hyam, who in turn played it square for McGoldrick, who had peeled out of the area and into space. However, the striker couldn’t get his first-time strike on target.
The home side were finishing the first half in the ascendency and Almunia had to be alert again to parry away an angled rising Frank Nouble drive away at his near post after the forward had showed some neat footwork to get away from both Pudil and Ekstrand on the right side of the 18-yard box as the opening period ended goalless.
The second half began in similar fashion to the first, although Ipswich continued to look to try and assert themselves in what were unpleasant conditions with driving rain and a stiff wind.
Ryan Tunnicliffe had a goal-bound effort from 20 yards blocked by Angella after more good work by McGoldrick, who had been the most threatening player on the pitch to date. But Watford then responded with their first on-target effort of the afternoon as Fabbrini released Sean Murray on the right side of the area and his rising drive was dealt with by Gerken.
Pudil was cautioned in the 61st minute for catching Luke Chambers off the ball and then Hyam and McGoldrick, twice, both fired well wide of either side of the target with speculative efforts from distance.
Watford almost had an opening in the 69th minute when a neat back heel from McGugan put Deeney into space on the left but as the Hornets’ leading scorer attempted to pick out one of three teammates in the centre, his cut back clipped a defender and the opportunity was lost.
But Watford’s resistance was broken in controversial circumstances two minutes later when referee Graham Scott adjuged a Nouble ball in from the left had been handled by Angella and awarded a penalty. The Hornets were livid at the decision and the official was surrounded by five yellow-shirted players. But after Ekstrand had been booked for dissent, McGoldrick confidently stepped up and sent Almunia the wrong way to give the hosts the lead.
After George Thorne had also been booked for also talking out of turn to the referee, Sannino made his first substitution as Hornets boss in the 77th minute by bringing on Cristian Battocchio for Murray. Within two minutes, the visitors weren’t too far from equalising when Christophe Berra and Gerken got in a horrible mix-up but as Cassetti prepared to pounce, the defender just managed to clear in time.
Pudil was then replaced by Anya but in the 81st minute the Hornets did level when Cassetti looked to drive in a low delivery from the right angle of the penalty area and although the ball deflected off an opponent, Deeney anticipated the half chance superbly very well and stole in to beat Gerken at his near post and make it 1-1.
Sannino made it three changes in six minutes in the 83rd minute when Fernando Forestieri came on for Fabbrini. Five minutes later, the Hornets survived a remarkable let off.
Some credit should go to Alumunia in the first instance because he did well to get behind a McGoldrick piledriver from 15 yards. But such was the power on the shot, all the keeper could do was parry it up into the air. Hyam reacted first and looked certain to head in the rebound, only to watch in disbelief as the ball rebounded back off the crossbar where it was then headed away by Angella to Nouble, who also had a fine chance with the net follow-up but fired over the top.
Having somehow survived that passage of play, the Hornets had a chance of their own soon after when Anya came in off the left and hit a shot from the edge of the area but he fired it wide.
That was the last opportunity either side had as the Hornets drew for a fifth successive away match.
Ipswich Town: Gerken; Chambers, Berra, Smith, Cresswell; Hyam, Tunnicliffe, Skuse; Nouble, McGoldrick, Murphy. Not used: Loach, Edwards, Anderson, Mings, Graham, Tabb, Taylor.
Watford: Almunia; Doyley, Angella, Ekstrand; Cassetti, Murray (Battocchio 77), Thorne, McGugan, Pudil (Anya 80); Deeney, Fabbrini (Forestieri 83). Not used: Bond, McEachran, Iriney, Nosworthy.
Bookings: Smith for a foul on Deeney (12); Pudil for a foul on Chambers (61); Ekstrand for dissent (72); Thorne for dissent (77).
Attendance: 16,385 (1,027 away).
Referee: Graham Scott.
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