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Matej Vydra penalty gives Watford win over Peterborough United
It looked like it was going to be one of those days but a late penalty from Matej Vydra gave Watford a 1-0 win over Peterborough United and three points their second-half display deserved in terms of chances created.
After a relatively dull opening 45 minutes in which Daniel Pudil had clipped the crossbar from an angled free-kick, the Hornets created a host of chances in the second period but were unable to convert one of them until the decisive moment.
Nathaniel Chalobah forced Bobby Olejnick into a fine save, and later hit a post, while Fernando Forestieri had an effort cleared off the line as the Hornets threatened to take charge after the break in front of the biggest crowd so far this season at Vicarage Road for the club's Family Day.
But just when it was looking like the hosts would have to settle for a frustrating point, Pudil was fouled in the area by Kane Ferdinand and substitute Vydra emphatically converted from 12 yards.
Gianfranco Zola made two changes from the side that lost to Middlesbrough last time out, although one was enforced because of Neuton’s foot injury. With Nyron Nosworthy and Joel Ekstrand also sidelined due to muscle and ankle problems respectively, Lloyd Doyley returned in defence. Higher up the pitch, Forestieri was given the nod over Vydra to partner Troy Deeney in attack.
The visitors gained the first corner of the match inside the opening 15 seconds and from George Boyd’s set piece from the right, Tommy Rowe sent a looping header onto the roof of Manuel Almunia’s net.
Posh continued to make most of the early running, with Michael Bostwick seeing a long-range effort blocked, while Almunia had few problems in dealing with a Tyrone Barnett off-target header.
Watford gradually started to get their attacking game going though, and they almost created an opening when a lovely back-heeled flick from Forestieri almost allowed Deeney to break through on goal.
But it took until the 24th minute for the next chance to arrive as Barnett flashed a header wide from a Mark Little cross.
The next incident of note came seven minutes later when Deeney was hustled off the ball by a couple of opponents and made a rash challenge on Boyd. Although referee Geoff Eltringham played the advantage, the Hornets striker could have few complaints about being shown a yellow card after the ball went dead.
Watford finally created their first effort of note three minutes later, although the angle looked to be difficult that it was down to the player’s ability that one was created at all.
The situation arose when the hosts were awarded a free-kick to the right of the penalty area and Pudil whipped it in left-footed and the ball clipped the bar before going over.
As is so often the case when a team has waited a long time for a chance, a second arose soon after when Forestieri’s deep corner from the left was headed down and not too far wide of Bobby Olejnick’s left-hand post by Fitz Hall.
However, it was Posh who created the best chance of the half a minute before the break when Boyd put Emile Sinclair in behind the Hornets defence and he squared for Barnett, who mis-hit his attempted finish.
There was still time for Nathaniel Knight-Percival to even up the booking count when he saw yellow for pulling back Almen Abdi as a largely disappointing half ended goalless.
Darren Ferguson made a change at the start of the second half, bringing on Kgosi Ntlhe for Rowe.
But it was the home side who were quickly out of the blocks, creating three chances within the space of a minute.
The instigator was Forestieri, who attacked down the left and broke into the area before coming inside on his right foot, only to see his on-target effort blocked. However, the ball fell for Nathaniel Chalobah, who struck a fine curling effort that forced Olejnick into an even better save.
From the resulting corner, Tommie Hoban saw a header deflected wide but the Hornets had the bit between their teeth now and more opportunities followed.
First, Deeney rather prodded an attempted right-footed finish at Olejnick but then the striker played in Forestieri, who cut back on his right foot to open up the target, only to curl the ball narrowly wide of the far post.
The next opening for the hosts came just before the hour when Chalobah received the ball in the area and weighed up his options before hitting a right-footed strike that bounced off the near post and back into the grateful arms of Olejnick.
The Peterborough boss chose to make his second change soon after, with Grant McCann coming on for Craig Alcock and then Ntlhe was booked for pulling back Marco Cassetti.
Ferguson played his final card in the 67th minute, bringing on Saido Berahino for Sinclair but before then McCann had struck a rasping drive from 25 yards that wasn’t too far over.
But back came the hosts, with Chalobah curling another effort over before releasing Forestieri, who did almost everything right as he dinked the ball over the keeper but the ball didn’t have enough pace on it as it rolled agonisingly towards the net and Shaun Brisley was able to get back and clear off the line.
Jonathan Hogg had a couple of efforts blocked before Forestieri was played in on the left side of the area but he snatched his shot into the side netting.
Zola boosted his attacking options further with 17 minutes remaining by replacing Abdi with Vydra.
However, the next opening went the visitors’ way, and it was a worrying one defensively for Watford as an unmarked Boyd was picked out by a fine Berahino cross from the right but his header was pretty much straight at Almunia, although he still had to react sharply to push the ball away.
Alex Geijo and Mark Yeates came on for the closing stages in place of Deeney and Forestieri respectively but it looked like it was going to be one of those days until the last minute of normal time when Ferdinand rather needlessly tripped Pudil on the left side of the area as the ball was going out of play and referee Eltringham immediately pointed to the spot.
Vydra took the responsibility and dispatched the penalty emphatically, slamming the ball down the middle of the goal to give the Hornets the goal the number of chances they had created merited.
However, Zola's men still had to see out three minutes of injury time and during it Doyley produced a fine block to repel a shot from Berahino and the visitors also forced three corners.
But Watford did safely negotiate injury time to pick up their second home win of the campaign and also their second clean sheet.
Watford: Almunia; Doyley, Hall, Hoban; Cassetti, Hogg, Abdi (Vydra 73), Chalobah, Pudil; Deeney (Geijo 85), Forestieri (Yeates 88). Not used: Murray, Anya, Thompson and Bond.
Peterborough United: Olejnick; Alcock (McCann 60), Brisley, Knight-Percival; Little, Ferdinand, Bostwick, Boyd, Rowe (Ntlhe 46); Sinclair (Berahino 67), Barnett. Not used: Zakuani, Swanson, Tomlin and Richardson.
Bookings: Deeney for a foul on Boyd (31); Knight-Percival for a foul on Abdi (45); Ntlhe for a foul on Cassetti (63); Pudil for dissent (83); McCann for a foul on Deeney (85).
Referee: Geoff Eltringham.