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Adrian Mariappa sent off as Watford draw with Hull City
Watford safely negotiated 25 minutes with ten men to pick up a point against Hull City in their penultimate game of the season at Vicarage Road following a 1-1 draw.
Both goals came inside the opening 12 minutes – James Chester heading in an Andy Dawson corner before Troy Deeney applied the finishing touch to a John Eustace effort to equalise – but the Hornets were numerically up against it from the 65th minute.
Adrian Mariappa came on at half-time as a replacement for Martin Taylor but his return from injury was to be shortlived as he picked up two yellow cards within the space of three minutes and left referee Phil Dowd little option but to send him off.
There was no complaint about the two yellow cards but the challenges were mistimed and probably stemmed from the rustiness of having missed the last five games.
Sean Dyche made one change from the side that performed well in holding Cardiff City to a 1-1 draw on Monday, with Joe Garner replacing Britt Assombalonga, who dropped to a bench that featured the fit-again Mariappa.
The Hornets were on the front foot from the whistle, winning a corner inside the opening minute, but the visitors soon responded with one of their own – and they made the breakthrough from it in the fourth minute.
Dawson whipped in the set piece from the right and centre-half Chester flicked in a near post header that gave Tomas Kuzczak no chance to score just the Tigers’ fourth goal in eight matches and make it 1-0.
After Taylor had received treatment for a head injury, Watford had their first attempt in the tenth minute when Garner struck a powerful half-volley across goal and wide after Sean Murray had headed the back across the area following a free-kick from the youngster that had caused problems.
Deeney then had the chance to run at the Hull rearguard but his shot from the edge of the area didn’t really trouble Vito Mannone. But it didn’t take the hosts long to pull level.
After Garner’s attempted cross from the right had been put behind by Dawson, Murray’s corner from the right found Eustace in space in the area and he was able to bring the ball down before stabbing it goalwards and Deeney applied the decisive touch to equalise in the 12th minute.
Soon after though, Kuszczak was called upon to make a fine save from another Chester header after Dawson had whipped in another dangerous corner from the right.
The Hornets keeper also made a sharp reaction stop to thwart Matty Fryatt from close range in the 21st minute but Robert Koren looked to have a straightforward opportunity to convert the rebound, only for the ball to bounce up awkwardly and his effort was deflected behind.
Fryatt hit another effort wide of the near post as Hull continued to ask questions with their movement and numbers getting forward to support the lone striker as they enjoyed plenty of possession.
But it was Watford who had the next opportunity in the 33rd minute when Eustace’s diagonal ball picked out Murray coming in from the left at the back post but he was unable to generate too much power on his angled effort and Mannone saved comfortably.
Hull continued to have the better of the exchanges as the half came to a close and Koren wasn’t too far away from something special two minutes before the break, curling a free-kick from all of 35 yards narrowly off target, although Kuszczak looked to have it covered.
There were more nervous moments in the Hornets defence as the game moved into the first minute of stoppage time. Again a Dawson corner caused problems, this time Fryatt diverted the ball back across goal and the home side failed to clear their lines before Joshua King put a header over from close range.
The Hornets were forced into a change at the start of the second half, with Mariappa replacing Taylor, who’d been struggling with effects of the head injury he sustained earlier in the game.
Hull looked to have created the first opening three minutes after the restart when Tom Cairney’s pass slid in Fryatt but Nyron Nosworthy’s fine challenge forced the striker to snatch his shot wide of Kuszczak’s left-hand upright.
Nick Barmby made his first change in the 52nd minute, with Cameron Stewart replacing King, who limped off, before Chester picked up the game’s first yellow card four minutes later for a mistimed challenge on Garner.
Carl Dickinson had Watford’s first effort of the half in the 59th minute when he broke forward from left-back and hit a 25-yard strike that wasn’t too far off the mark.
Mariappa’s return to action was marked by an unwanted, but justified, yellow card two minutes later for taking out Stewart near the edge of the area but although Dawson got his free-kick up and over the wall, Kuszczak read it and saved relatively easily.
Having been booked, the last thing Mariappa could afford was another poor challenge but he committed it just three minutes later, clattering into Liam Rosenior and he knew what was coming before referee Dowd had produced a second yellow card followed by the inevitable red.
The defensive reorganisation saw Lloyd Doley move in alongside Nosworthy at centre-half, with Prince Buaben moving to right-back. But despite being at a numerical disadvantage, the Hornets didn’t come under considerable pressure following the dismissal, although substitute Robbie Brady, who had replaced Richard Garcia, dragged a shot wide with 12 minutes remaining.
Kuszczak was forced to go to ground to push Koren’s 20-yard strike around his near post before Chris Iwelumo came on for Garner with seven minutes left. The substitute’s first involvement was to try an audacious dipping half-volley from 30 yards that was always going wide, even though it was well struck.
Although there might have been a temptation to go defensive after being reduced to ten men, the Hornets looked to attack when they could and finished strongly.
First, Mannone had to hold on to a well-struck shot from Deeney, with Iwelumo ready to pounce if the keeper let the ball slip from his grasp, and then the substitute had a powerful effort blocked.
Indeed, the Hornets weren’t far away from snatching an injury-time winner when a long free-kick into the Hull box was inadvertently headed back towards his own goal by Chester and Mannone managed to get down to it but the rebound didn’t fall kindly for the hosts.
Watford: Kuszczak; Doyley, Nosworthy, Taylor (Mariappa 46), Dickinson; Eustace, Hogg; Garner (Iwelumo 83), Buaben, Murray; Deeney. Not used: Loach, Whichelow and Assombalonga.
Hull City: Mannone; Rosenior, Chester, Cooper, Dawson; King (Stewart 52), Evans, Cairney, Garcia (Brady 75); Koren; Fryatt. Not used: Oxley, Brady, Bradley and Olofinjana.
Bookings: Chester for a foul on Garner (52); Mariappa for a foul on Stewart (62); Mariappa for a foul on Rosenior (65) – sent off.
Referee: Phil Dowd.