Match Report: Watford 0-0 Tottenham Hotspur
By Kevin Affleck
It says something about the revival that has taken place in these parts under Nigel Pearson that the vast majority of the near 22,000 crowd left Vicarage Road disappointed with a point. Imagine that just over a month ago, being disappointed with a point at home to Tottenham that stretches the unbeaten run to five matches and one that keeps the points tally ticking over nicely.
Everyone would have dearly loved it to have been all three, especially on an emotionally-charged afternoon to mark the three-year anniversary of the passing of Graham Taylor, and no-one will be more disappointed than Troy Deeney. He looked like being the hero yet again at this place when Michael Oliver awarded a penalty on 68 minutes. All money was on the captain to rattle in his fifth in six matches. He went through his usual routine, took his time and nailed one to his left but Paulo Gazzaniga guessed right and pulled off a fine flying save. The only surprise was he didn't wait for the 'keeper to move, as he did against Manchester United and Aston Villa, and go down the middle or to the right, but he won't need anyone to tell him that. It was only his sixth miss in 34 penalty attempts, the last coming at the same end of the ground against Martin Dubravka in May 2018.
Anyone who knows Deeney will know he'll be determined to put it right on Tuesday night against Aston Villa, particularly at a ground where he will get a fair bit of stick. Beware, the Villains, of a wounded Deeney.
It was a real shame the penalty didn't go in as you could make a real case for the home side deserving all three points, especially on the back of a barnstorming second-half display. They had a real go at Spurs, made the most of the running in the second 45, looked a real threat, fashioned the most chances and yet, such is the way of football, it took a remarkable goal-line clearance at the end from new boy Ignacio Pussetto to deny Spurs all three points.
Pussetto wasn't signed for his goal-saving qualities, but this was quite a way to introduce and endear yourself to the crowd and your teammates. The clearance was as important as a goal would have been at the other end. The fact he was back there, in a position to scoop one off the line, was hugely encouraging. He's exactly the sort of character Pearson will want in his dressing room.
His injury-time intervention helped keep a fifth clean sheet in nine matches and that is exactly the foundation on which you build a charge up the table. There was again much to be encouraged about with this performance, so many encouraging portents and it felt completely different to the ones picked up from the same results against Bournemouth, Sheffield United and Crystal Palace. The hearty nature of the applause at full-time told you that.
The Hornets took a while to get into the game as Spurs, without their target man Harry Kane at the focal point of their attack, played some lovely football in the final third, popping the ball around with real fluidity and neatness. The home defence had to have its wits about it.
Adrian Mariappa was excellent in stopping Son Heung-min, so often the nemesis for the Hornets, from pulling the trigger on the left corner of the six-yard box; Nathaniel Chalobah made a fine challenge on the same player; Craig Dawson blocked one from Lucas Moura from close range and then, at the end of the half when the defence was pierced, Ben Foster came off his line to smother Moura.
Feeding of two thirds of possession and playing very much on the counter, there was a corkscrewing run from Gerard Deulofeu, one Ismaïla Sarr smashed over the bar, an audacious near-post flick Deeney tried and, finally, a second bite at a corner from Chalobah that Gazzaniga looked like he had mis-judged for a moment before he back pedalled to tip over. It was all a touch disjointed and a bit stop start, summed up by a delay for an audio communications issue with referee Michael Oliver's equipment. That really didn't help the flow.
The Hornets were immediately more cohesive at the start of the second half and had two very presentable chances in the space of five minutes. Arriving late in the box from a Sarr cut back, Doucouré couldn't quite wrap his foot around one and then Sarr will know he should have connected better with a chance that fell his way in the right side of the box. If he had caught it even half as well as the one he got against Aston Villa at the other end, then the net would have bulged. Deeney then fired a deflected effort just past the far post.
It was starting to simmer nicely, even boiling over when Doucouré and Harry Winks were booked after a flash point. Sarr and Giovani Le Celso exchanged a few words soon after as the game started to bare its teeth. It looked like one goal either way might decide it, that that's all it would take.
The Hornets got the chance to grab it from the spot and all the smart money would have been on Deeney but, for once, the script wasn't written for him. Still, the team huffed and puffed, they didn't feel sorry for themselves, and it took a brave clearance from Japhet Tanganga to prevent Etienne Capoue from slamming one in left footed against his former club.
Pussetto then trumped Tanganga when it came to saving his team, though, and that act of defensive escapology might, you never know, turn out to be so crucial in the final analysis. One thing for sure is that the Argentine has already made a name for himself at this place.
HORNETS: Foster; Mariappa, Dawson, Cathcart, Masina; Capoue, Chalobah (Pereyra 79), Doucouré; Sarr (Pussetto 89), Deeney (C), Deulofeu.
Subs not used: Gomes (GK), Gray, Quina, Holebas and Kabasele.