It’s taken a month longer than it should have but, finally, Watford have done it. The Hornets have cleared 40 points in the Premier League. And they should thank Heurelho Gomes for getting them there.
The Brazilian has often kept Watford in matches this season. Never more so than against West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns this afternoon. He saved not one, but two penalties from Saido Berahino. The Hornets may as well get his name engraved on the Player of the Season award.
Gomes’ heroics ensured Watford secured a 1-0 win and those important three points. It wasn’t particularly pretty (at times it was grotesque) but it was enough and that’s all that matters. Doing it in style can wait. Perhaps next season? Or maybe in next weekend’s FA Cup semi-final?
Watford’s performance at The Hawthorns was a reflection of the Hornets’ top flight campaign. Gritty, effective and with a dash of quality when required.
Before kick-off the game was described by many as a dead cert to be last on tonight’s Match of the Day. The opening 45 minutes did little to change that opinion. Yes, there was a goal but the standard of football on display was poor.
Chances were sparse as a result. Gomes was forced to save from Stephane Sessegnon while Ben Foster had little to do during the half. Yet he was beaten in the 27th minute. Adlene Guedioura, making his first ever Premier League start for Watford, won a corner which he delivered. Ben Watson nipped to the front post, made the deftest of contact on the ball and diverted it into the far corner.
It was an advantage Watford held at the break. You felt half-time would give both Quique Sanchez Flores and Tony Pulis an opportunity to improve their side’s performances.
West Brom started the half with a greater tempo when in possession. They were almost rewarded with a goal but Gomes did well to deny Gareth McAuley’s header.
Foster then produced a reminder as to why, while on loan from Manchester United, he claimed Watford’s Player of the Year award in 2007. He produced a stunning one-handed save to stop Troy Deeney’s shot from 12 yards finding the top corner. It was a world-class save from the Baggies stopper.
The game then sprung into life. Both sides suddenly played with energy and there was plenty of movement off the ball. It led to chances being created, one of which resulted in West Brom earning a penalty.
A neat pass behind Watford’s defence put Berahino in on goal. Gomes dived at the striker’s feet and brought him down. Berahino stepped up and drilled his shot towards the right-hand corner. Gomes guessed right and saved. Watford cleared the rebound. You started to get the feeling that it would be the Hornets’ afternoon.
There was, however, a fleeting moment of dissension from the travelling away support when Sanchez Flores replaced Guedioura with Mario Suarez in the 64th minute. It was a decision which was roundly booed.
West Brom dominated the final half-hour of the game but Watford repelled attack after attack. That was, until the 87th minute when Etienne Capoue tripped Berahino in the area. It was another clear penalty.
But Gomes repeated the trick he’d performed earlier in the half, this time diving to his left to deny Berahino. It was definitely the Hornets’ day.
At full-time the roar from Watford’s travelling support told the story. Their side is safe. A second season of Premier League football beckons for the first time. What a way to start a historic eight days for the club.
West Bromwich Albion: Foster, Dawson, McAuley, Evans (McManaman 67), Chester, Fletcher, Yacob (Gardner 75), Sessegnon, Berahino, McClean, Rondon (Anichebe 67). Not used: Myhill, Olsson, Sandro, Leko.
Watford: Gomes, Nyom, Prodl, Britos, Ake, Guedioura (Suarez 64), Capoue, Watson, Jurado (Behrami 90), Deeney, Ighalo. Not used: Pantilimon, Amrabat, Paredes, Berghuis, Anya.
Referee: Michael Oliver