Watford were made to pay the price for not killing the game off as an equaliser deep into injury time from Chris Mepham snatched a last-gasp 1-1 draw for Bournemouth at Vicarage Road.

Vladimir Ivic’s side had otherwise done what they are becoming increasingly good at, got their noses in front through a quality goal and challenged their opponents to try and break them down. Once again their organisation and resilience looked like being enough, only for the afternoon to end in a sense of frustration and irritation.

The Hornets were to have several reasons for feeling aggrieved by referee Tim Robinson’s decision making and the first time was as early as the second minute when Lloyd Kelly was fortunate to escape a red card for a dangerous challenge on Ismaila Sarr.

The hosts were soon to take a firm grip on the game though, scoring a delightful goal as Craig Cathcart and Sarr set up Stipe Perica to score on his full league debut.

Watford were then defensively comfortable for the most part and looked the more likely to score the next goal in the closing stages, only for their failure to get a second to come back and bite them at the death.

Ivic shuffled his pack for the second of three games his side faced within a week following their 3-1 victory over Blackburn Rovers on Wednesday.

Back came Jeremy Nagakia and William Troost-Ekong, while Perica made his Hornets league debut following his summer move from Udinese.

Ben Wilmot and, perhaps surprisingly, Joao Pedro dropped to a bench that once again included Etienne Capoue, while Kiko Femenia was not involved in the match-day 18.

Bournemouth boss Jason Tindall went one better in terms of changes, making four from the 1-1 draw at Cardiff City.

In came Kelly, Lewis Cook and Philip Billing in the centre of midfield and Johua King up front. Dan Gosling, Junior Stanislas and Dominic Solanke dropped to the bench, while Adam Smith was not involved.

The first incident of note should have seen the visitors reduced to ten men as early as the second minute when Kelly went in studs up on the side of Sarr’s knee, but he escaped with a yellow. The Hornets winger was, thankfully, okay to continue after receiving treatment.

There was little in the way of goalmouth action in the opening stages but that was to emphatically change in the 12th minute as the Hornets took the lead in wonderful fashion.

Cathcart started the business end of the move with a superb cross-field pass to the right which Sarr killed instantly with his first touch before playing a tantalising cross into the middle where Perica was already on the move and was able to stretch out a leg to beat Asmir Begovic to get on the scoresheet on his full Championship debut.

Watford Observer:

Perica celebrates his first Championship goal

The visitors’ problems were to intensify five minutes later when they lost Jefferson Lerma to injury and he was replaced by Solanke.

The Hornets could have been in trouble soon after when Nathaniel Chalobah missed his kick in midfield, allowing Solanke to break and play in Arnaut Danjuma close to the byline, but his cut back was turned behind for a corner.

James Garner picked up a needless yellow card in the 25th minute for a trip on Billing after losing out in a challenge as Bournemouth continued to try and take the game to their hosts. But Ben Foster did not have a save to make until the half-hour when Solanke hit a right-footed effort straight at him.

The Hornets were not helping themselves though, with some sloppiness in midfield. Tom Cleverley and Garner were both guilty of this in one move, leading to Christian Kabasele bringing down Danjuma on the edge of the penalty area. The Cherries player took the free-kick himself but couldn’t find a way past the Watford wall.

The hosts could have been in trouble as the game entered first-half injury-time when defensive indecision allowed the ball to bounce in the area; it was then half cleared to the Bournemouth left where Sergio Rico swung over a cross but Solanke couldn’t get enough on his header to trouble Foster.

Perica then required treatment after being caught on the head by a stray elbow from Billing, and the Cherries midfielder also escaped punishment for a high challenge on Cleverley, but the visitors were unable to find a way back before the break as the Hornets went in one to the goal.

Ivic made a change at the start of the second half and it was no great surprise as Garner, who had been hot-headed at times in the opening 45 minutes, was replaced by Capoue.

The substitute almost made a near instant impact when, after some one-touch passing in midfield, he played an incisive pass that put Sarr through on goal on the left side of the area, but the Senegal winger was thwarted by Begovic at his near post.

Bournemouth were again fortunate when referee Robinson failed to spot Kelly’s pull on the shirt of Sarr as he sought to break into the area. Had he done so, a second yellow card would surely have followed.

Watford then survived a let-off when King fired a rising drive narrowly wide of the near post before the referee did show a yellow card after initially playing an advantage when Cleverley fouled Jack Stacey.

Foster had enjoyed a relatively low key first hour of the game but that changed when he had to dive full length to push away an angled drive from Solanke after he had been found by Billing’s pass.

The card count was levelled up again in the 64th minute when Rico saw yellow for a foul on Perica and at the same time Domingos Quina was introduced for Cleverley.

Rico also could have seen a second yellow for a clumsy swipe at Sarr’s legs before Tindall made his second change, introducing Stanislas for Danjuma.

Begovic was soon to be a worried man though, as Quina picked up the ball on the turn just over halfway before accelerating forward and letting fly from 30 yards; his strike moving and dipping as the Cherries keeper shovelled it behind.

The substitute then caught the eye again with a back heel that put Sarr in on the left and his low cross was just behind Perica, who then landed awkwardly as he sought to retrieve the ball.

Watford Observer:

Perica is helped off following his injury

It was soon clear the striker would be unable to continue and he went off holding his arm across his body, suggesting he may have damaged his shoulder or collarbone. Pedro replaced him with ten minutes of normal time remaining.

The substitute wasn’t far away from scoring his fourth of the season minutes after coming on when Begovic did just enough to get the ball away from him after having to deal with another Quina piledriver in unorthodox fashion.

Pedro then fired over from an acute angle on the right side of the area before the signalling of seven minutes of injury time afforded the Cherries hope of still getting something out of the contest. And they were to take it.

The Hornets looked like they had survived the scare when a back-tracking Foster tipped over a king header. However, they failed to clear their lines from the resulting corner, the ball was played back in from the right, an under-pressure Foster failed to get sufficient distance on his punch, it was fired back into the danger zone and Mepham turned the ball home from virtually on the goalline.

While many will point to the quality of the officiating as a key factor in the outcome of the game, Watford will know they only have themselves to blame for not taking the three points.

Watford Observer:

Bournemouth celebrate their dramatic late equaliser

Watford: Foster; Kabasele, Troost-Ekong, Cathcart; Ngakia, Garner (Capoue 46); Chalobah, Cleverley (Quina 64), Sema; Sarr, Perica (Pedro 81). Subs not used: Bachmann, Wilmot, Murray, Sierralta.

Bournemouth: Begovic, Mepham, S Cook, Kelly; Stacey, Lerma (Solanke 17), Cook, Billing, Rico (Riquelme 86); King, Danjuma (Stanislas 73). Subs not used: Travers, Gosling, Surridge, Simpson.

Bookings: Kelly for a foul on Sarr (2); Garner for a foul on Billing (25); Cleverley for a foul on Stacey (56); Rico for a foul on Perica (64); Chalobah for a foul on Kelly (90).

Referee: Tim Robinson.