A dramatic and scarcely deserved injury-time equaliser for Sheffield Wednesday took some of the gloss off Watford’s promotion party as they were denied the title following a 1-1 draw at Vicarage Road.

Few could argue that the Hornets should have taken all three points but they paid the price for not scoring more than one goal as Atdhe Nuhiu’s late leveller, and Bournemouth’s 3-0 win at Charlton Athletic, ensured it was the Cherries who were promoted as champions.

The only surprise at the end of a first half which Watford increasingly dominated was they were not more than a goal to the good.

Matej Vydra made the vital breakthrough in the 25th minute, heading home after a Troy Deeney shot had been parried by Chris Kirkland, but after that Almen Abdi spurned two great openings to at least double his side’s advantage.

Watford remained in charge after the break but the impetus increasingly went out of their play. That said, they still didn’t look to be in any danger until it went wrong in stoppage time.

The final outcome led to a strange atmosphere inside Vicarage Road, but there is still plenty for the Hornets players, staff and fans to celebrate as they look forward to Premier League football next season.

Slavisa Jokanovic was always going to have make one change from the side that clinched promotion with a 2-0 win at Brighton & Hove Albion last weekend following the end of Adlene Guedioura’s 93-day emergency loan, but he ultimately decided on three. In came Marco Motta, Miguel Layun and Vydra as Juan Carlos Paredes and Odion Ighalo dropped to the bench.

Sheffield Wednesday were beaten 2-1 at home by Leeds United last time out and head coach Stuart Gray also made three changes. Kirkland started in goal in place of Kieren Westwood and Felipe Melo and Will Keane were also included, taking the outfield places of Lloyd Isgrove and Jacques Maghoma.

After a fairly uneventful opening inside a rocking Vicarage Road, the Hornets had the first opening in the fifth minute when Vydra set Motta away in acres of space on the right but his attempted delivery towards Deeney was intercepted.

Heurelho Gomes had to be alert to pounce to his right to claim a free-kick which was headed back across goal soon after, but the home side had an appeal for a penalty turned down in the tenth minute when Ben Watson’s curved pass put Deeney in behind but Kirkland just seemed to get enough on the ball as the Hornets’ top scorer went to go round him.

Replays of the incident were not available during the match but subsequent footage showed that Kirkland made contact with Deeney before any touch he got on the ball and referee Lee Probert should have awarded a spot kick.

Another chance came the home side’s way three minutes later when Deeney harassed Tom Lees into giving the ball away inside his own area and Vydra hit a first-time snap-shot which Kirkland did well to block with his legs before he was caught by Deeney as he sought to get his head to the loose ball.

Watford then had a period of generally keeping possession well, but having to be patient as news filtered through that Bournemouth had taken the lead at Charlton Athletic to put them back in pole position for the title. Soon after they were two goals to the good.

Jokanovic’s men did have a promising opportunity in the 22nd minute when a Vydra run at the heart of the Wednesday rearguard was brought to an illegal halt, but Abdi could only hit the wall with his 25-yard free-kick.

But the Owls defence were not to hold out for too much longer as the roof was lifted off Vicarage Road in the 25th minute.

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A lovely touch and turn by Deeney took him away from a defender and through on goal and although his effort was blocked by Kirkland’s legs, Vydra followed in and kept his composure to head into the unguarded net to make it 1-0 with his 16th of the season.

That lead could have been doubled four minutes later when Deeney turned provider, sliding in Ikechi Anya down the left side of the defence but his angled shot hit the side netting.

The chances continued to come with Gabriele Angella heading over an Abdi corner, before Deeney’s pass into the area gave Abdi a clear sight of goal, but he opened up his body too much and placed his attempted finish wide of the far post.

Having offered very little up front, the Wednesday boss decided to change things in the 37th minute as Caolan Lavery was replaced by Nuhiu. But still the Hornets kept coming, with Deeney the next to try his luck with a curled effort from the left side of the 18-yard box that didn’t go too far wide of the far post.

Three minutes later the Owls defence was sliced open again as Deeney’s incisive pass again set Motta away on the right and his first-time delivery set up another gilt-edged chance for Abdi, only for him to lift it over the bar.

The one-way traffic continued as Motta beat Jeremy Helan for the umpteenth time in the opening period but after getting into the area he chose to go it alone and didn’t really get hold of his shot.

The 44th minute came and passed with a wonderful ovation for Nic Cruwys, which Jokanovic joined in with on the sidelines, as the Hornets moved to within 45 minutes of the Championship title.

Watford stayed firmly on the front foot after the restart and it took a superb challenge from Lewis Buxton to deflect over a Deeney shot after he had been put through on goal in the 48th minute. The resultant corner was half-cleared to Layun, who dragged a right-footed shot wide from 25 yards.

Wednesday didn’t muster an effort on goal in the first half, but they did end that unwanted statistic in the 51st minute, although Harry Maguire’s sliced effort from the right side of the area was never going to trouble Gomes.

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Deeney’s next attempt came three minutes later as he headed high and wide from a Vydra cross after another attractive build-up that also involved Motta.

The yellow tide continued to hold sway but a mistake by Vydra on halfway gave Maguire a sniff of an opportunity around the hour mark, but he was unable to find a way past Angella, who defended superbly to shepherd the ball out for a goal kick.

Motta’s positive attacking afternoon came to an end with a standing ovation in the 67th minute when he was replaced by Paredes. That was soon followed by a second change as Daniel Tozser came on for Anya.

Moments after that substitution, the Hornets had another good opening when Deeney released Abdi, but his first touch was heavy and Kirkland was able to save.

Jose Semedo received the game’s first yellow card in the 72nd minute for a foul on Watson before three changes happened six minutes later as Stevie May and Isgrove came on for Keane and Kieran Lee, while Ighalo replaced Vydra.

While the remainder of the contest was never an exercise in going through the motions, the Hornets rarely had to get out of second gear as they remained firmly in control as Vicarage Road increasingly got ready for one massive party.

But that atmosphere was to change very suddenly in injury time as Watford's inability to kill the game off came back to haunt them.

The Owls were awarded a free-kick right of centre around 40 yards out, the ball was played to the back post where the home side were unable to clear their lines and Nuhiu forced it home to score an equaliser with his side’s only on-target attempt of the match.

With their fans now massed around the sides of the pitch, Watford tried to find a dramatic winner. Tozser had a 25-yard shot parried and the rebound didn’t fall kindly, while the home side also forced a couple of corners which Gomes came up for an almost got on the end of one.

With the Watford keeper stranded upfield, Wednesday did break but referee Probert decided that would be the right time to end proceedings. The obligatory pitch invasion did then happen as the Hornets fans celebrated promotion to the Premier League but it was Bournemouth who went up as title winners.

Watford Observer:

Watford: Gomes; Angella, Cathcart, Connolly; Motta (Paredes 67), Layun, Watson, Abdi, Anya (Tozser 69); Deeney, Vydra (Ighalo 78). Not used: Bond, Munari, Forestieri, Hoban.

Sheffield Wednesday: Kirkland; Vermijl; Lees, Buxton, Helan; Lee (Isgrove 78), Semedo, Melo; Maguire, Keane (May 78, Lavery (Nuhiu 37). Not used: Wildsmith, Maghoma, De Havilland, Bus.

Bookings: Semedo for a foul on Watson (72).

Attendance: 20,172 (2,195 away).

Referee: Lee Probert.