|Ipswich Town 0 v 2 Watford|
Tuesday, 19th February 2013 Kick-off 19:45
Town 0-2 Watford
Tuesday, 19th Feb 2013 21:51
A goal in either half from Ikechi Anya and Nathaniel Chalobah saw Watford to a 2-0 victory over the Blues at Portman Road. The impressive visitors had already struck the bar via Jonathan Hogg before Anya’s well-worked 18th minute goal. Town gradually came more into it but the Hornets sealed the victory through 18-year-old Chelsea loanee Chalobah with 18 minutes remaining.
Michael Chopra started only his third game under Mick McCarthy against his former loan club Watford, having netted the winner against Blackpool on Saturday.
Daryl Murphy dropped to the bench with Lee Martin back at left midfield after his hamstring injury. Another ex-Hornet, Scott Loach, returned to the squad but was on the bench with Stephen Henderson keeping his place in goal.
Watford boss Gianfranco Zola made three changes with Joel Ekstrand, Jonathan Hogg and Fernando Forestieri coming into the side for Daniel Pudil, who is ill, Christian Battocchio and Matej Vydra.
There was an early scare for the Blues when Troy Deeney cut the ball back across the area from the right but either behind or in front of all of his team-mates.
The visitors were starting much the stronger and in the fourth minute Jonathan Hogg seized on a loose ball in space 30 yards out and unleashed a powerful strike which beat Henderson but crashed against the top of the bar.
The pressure continued with Almen Abdi finding Deeney inside the area but his shot at goal struck a defender and went wide with 18-year-old Chelsea loanee Nathaniel Chalobah close to adding a touch before it went out.
Chopra screwed Town’s first shot at goal wide in the eighth minute but home attacks were rare in the opening minutes with the Blues unable to keep hold of the ball against a confident Watford side moving the ball around quickly.
On 11 Guirane N’Daw made the most of an error by Nyron Nosworthy but David McGoldrick’s shot was too high after good work from Chopra.
However, Town were finding Watford’s quick passing in and around the box difficult to cope with and in the 19th minute the visitors went in front. Hogg cut inside from the right and found Deeney, who fed Ikechi Anya, who curled the ball past Henderson and beyond the despairing Aaron Cresswell.
Within a minute, Stearman made what appeared to be an important challenge as Anya went through, colliding with Henderson, however the linesman’s flag was raised. The Blues defender appeared to injure his hand in the clash with his keeper.
Fernando Foriestieri was through in the 24th minute with the Hornets looking like they might score another at any moment. Henderson was out quickly but hit Luke Chambers with his clearance, the ball cannoning out to the Town right and to relative safety.
The Blues felt they should have been awarded a penalty in the 29th minute when Martin cut in from the left and looked to be tripped as he ran past Hogg, but referee Roger East waved away the protests.
Town were more in it but without particularly threatening, while the Hornets, the best passing side to visit Portman Road by some distance this season, were always a danger when Town surrendered possession. On 34 Chopra over-hit a pass which would have seen skipper Carlos Edwards through on goal.
Soon after, McGoldrick shot low from 20 yards but failed to seriously Manuel Almunia in goal for Watford. Town weren’t far from getting on terms in the 44th minute when Edwards returned a corner from deep, McGoldrick headed it down but the ball bounced over Stearman as he looked to head home.
As the half moved into injury time, Tommy Smith was booked for a foul on Forestieri. From the freekick, Chalobah eventually shot straight at Henderson.
Just before the break, Stearman crossed from the right and Chopra pulled off a superb overhead kick but too close to Almunia. Any distance either side of the former Arsenal man and it would have been a goal.
Town ended the half on the attack but overall the visitors were good for their lead, having begun the game very strongly. On another day they might have found themselves substantially more than the single goal in front with chances both before and after going in front.
The Blues, who were very much given the run around in the early stages, might well have had a penalty when Martin was fouled and could have got back on terms late on with Chopra and Stearman both going close.
Town started the second half on the front foot and Martin sent across a dangerous ball early on but Nosworthy slammed it behind for a corner.
The Blues continued to push and in the 52nd minute Edwards's cross from the right was just taken out of McGoldrick’s reach by Nosworthy’s flicked header. The loose ball ran to Martin, whose strike was blocked. The former Manchester United winger made way for Aaron Mclean in the 54th minute.
Town had the ball in the net on 56 after Almunia had parried a cross from Edwards which Chopra had sought to help on into the net. Smith was first to the rebound into the net but with the linesman’s flag raised.
Deeney backheeled wide for Watford, but the Blues had been the more threatening side in the first quarter hour of the second period. On 59 Deeney was booked for a late tackle on Stearman.
Smith headed over in the 65th minute before Frank Nouble replaced McGoldrick up front. A minute later Forestieri was booked for time-wasting after being flagged offside.
Watford might have gone two in front in the 68th minute when Smith cleared to Deeney, who found Forestieri. The Argentinian tricked his way into space in the area but lashed well wide. Not long after, Stearman and Abdi both picked up yellow cards for fouls in separate incidents.
Forestieri scuffed a shot on the turn through to Henderson in the 71st minute with Watford starting to get back on top again.
And a minute later, they increased their lead via another well-worked goal. Chalobah, who had started the move, was superbly played in by Hogg and had no trouble playing the ball across Henderson and into the net from just inside the area.
Sub Nouble shot wide on 76, then N’Daw lashed a freekick into the Watford wall in the 81st minute with Town continuing to push but without creating too much which tested Almunia.
Mclean scuffed a spectacular-looking overhead kick well wide with three minutes of normal time remaining, then headed Cresswell’s cross to Almunia’s left, the keeper getting down well to save.
As the game moved into injury time, Almunia saved Cresswell’s freekick down to his left and in the dying moments sub Craig Forsyth got ahead of Chambers at the far post as a cross flew in from the right.
But Almunia was never really seriously tested and soon after referee Roger East’s whistle signalled full-time and a deserved victory to the Hertfordshire side, who are now undefeated in Suffolk since March 2004.
Town didn’t play particularly poorly, they just met a better side. Watford started very strongly and could have had the game settled before the Blues came more into it late on in the first half.
A few months ago the Blues might have collapsed, as they did at Crystal Palace and Leicester, but since Mick McCarthy took over they aren’t anything like as vulnerable after going behind and being put under pressure.
The second period was more even, but the visitors still looked more dangerous going forward and sealed it with the excellent Chalobah’s goal.
Town kept huffing and puffing in the final minutes but never really looked like getting back into the game.
Town: Henderson, Stearman, Chambers, Smith, Cresswell, Edwards (c), Hyam, N’Daw, Martin (Mclean 54), Chopra, McGoldrick (Nouble 65). Unused: Loach, Hewitt, Kisnorbo, Drury, Murphy.
Watford: Almunia (c), Doyley, Ekstrand, Nosworthy, Cassetti, Hogg, Chalobah, Abdi, Anya (Forsyth 78), Forestieri (Geijo 72), Deeney (Yeates 87). Unused: Bond, Murray, Vydra, Battocchio. Referee: Roger East (Wiltshire). Att: 16,821 (Watford: 954).
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