On the day dedicated to the goal-scoring exploits of club legend Luther Blissett, this contest served up a dismal example of how not to find the back of the net. What either of these sides would give to have had an ounce of Blissett’s famed potency this afternoon.
In the 100th instalment of this new-found rivalry, it wouldn’t be harsh to say that both sides wouldn’t have scored for another hundred on this sort of form. Alas, the Hornets are a point closer to their objective and a defeat to their south-coast rivals, which looked on the cards at times, was avoided.
With England manager Roy Hodgson in attendance, the stage looked set for Troy Deeney, on his 250th appearance for the club, to steal the headlines, but the Hornets captain and, in all honesty most outfield players wearing yellow, failed to cover themselves in glory during the worst of the four goalless draws at Vicarage Road this season. There was only one shot on target in the first period.
Quique Sanchez Flores made four changes to the side that eased past Leeds into the quarter-final of the FA Cup last weekend, with Odion Ighalo coming back in to spearhead the attack. The Hornets’ top-scorer could’ve had a brace in the opening ten minutes and missed the chance of the game later on.
Ighalo shifted past Harry After and Steve Cook to fire into the side netting before skewing a half volley just wide of Artur Boruc’s left post moments later.
These two sides dominated the Championship last season, scoring goals for fun and have developed a reputation for producing entertaining clashes in recent years. However, after an exciting end-to-end opening, this one turned into a scrappy, messy affair.
Watford struggled to gain the ascendancy in the first half while Bournemouth controlled possession but left their cutting edge in the dressing room. The most notable moment of the half involved Junior Stanislas pulling up with an injury then walking off the pitch for treatment before wandering back on to receive treatment.
Bournemouth tested Watford’s resolve but to no avail. Arter fizzed a volley comfortably wide of Heurelho Gomes’ goal before Benik Afobe was flagged for offside after breaking clear of the Watford back four.
The game was desperately crying out for some quality. It was tense, cagey and probably up there with one of the worst 45 minutes of the season. Nathan Ake’s escape attempt didn’t go to plan when the young left-back hurdled the advertising boards to fall flat on his back side in the stand.
The only positive to take out of the first half was that it couldn’t get any worse. Miguel Britos made sure it didn’t after the break, leaping to the Hornets rescue once again to deny the turning Max Gradel from close range.
It was then Gomes’ turn to save the under par Hornets with a contender for save of the season in the second. The Brazilian called on his incredible reflexes to claw Arter’s swirling goal-bound strike around the post.
Despite the Cherries mounting pressure, Watford blew the chance of the game soon after. Amrabat wriggled past Charlie Daniels and delivered a perfect chipped pass into Ighalo who fluffed his lines from eight yards out. The Hornets top goalscorer doesn’t usually need that many bites at the Cherries. Nothing went the Hornets way in this drab encounter.
Bournemouth came close with a late effort from Gradel but and, perhaps rightly so, neither team came away with a crucial win towards their differing survival bids.
Watford: Gomes, Ake, Britos, Cathcart, Paredes, Capoue (Suarez 55), Behrami, Watson, Amrabat (Abdi 82), Deeney, Ighalo. Subs not used: Pantilimon, Nyom, Prodl, Anya, Holebas.
Bournemouth: Boruc, Daniels, Francis, Cook, Smith, Stanislas (Gradel 21), Arter, Surman, Ritchie, King, Afobe. Subs not used: Federici, Gosling, Elphick, Iturbe, Distin, Murray.
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Attendance: 20,835 (2,111 away)