Watford need to keep their heads and also find them from set-pieces if they are to bring more consistency to this season of wildly fluctuating fortunes.
The Hornets conceded two more goals from dead-ball situations here, one from a corner and another from a free-kick, and now are just one shy of reaching double figures in the goals-shipped-from-set-pieces department. It’s not good enough.
Neither is their disciplinary record, which now stands at three red cards, including two in as many matches, and 34 yellows, including yet another for dissent, this time from the captain. In fairness, Roberto Pereyra, the player in the Watford side least likely to produce an act of violent conduct, was harshly sent off and if anyone was going to complain about it then it should be the captain, Troy Deeney, who was booked.
The red card, shown in the 81st minute, came at a terrible time for the Hornets (not that there is ever a good time to go down to ten men) as led by the excellent Nordin Amrabat, they were building up a head of steam as they attempted to claw their way back from two goals down. An equaliser, rather than a West Brom third, looked most likely.
Christian Kabasele had halved the deficit, caused by goals from Jonny Evans and Chris Brunt, on the hour mark and Deeney and Pereyra had good chances to level things up. But they went begging and Matty Phillips, who almost joined Watford in January, wrapped things up with the third in injury time. The sight of Allan Nyom, who left the Hornets in the summer, wildly celebrating the goal in front of the Watford fans just rubbed salt into the wounds.
Heading to set-piece specialists West Brom was not the assignment Walter Mazzarri would have wanted with his defensive resources at such breaking point that 18-year-old rookie Andrew Eletheriou was named on the bench. The lack of telepathy and understanding at the back is certainly contributing to the alarming number of goals conceded from crosses, Jonny Evans the latest to profit: the former Manchester United defender outmuscled Kabasele to head in the first. Mazzarri was furious with the goal, straying out of his technical area and onto the pitch to express his displeasure.
Just two minutes earlier, Gareth McAuley was a touch lucky to only get a yellow when he dragged down Amrabat, the effervescent winger, who had intercepted a West Brom back pass. Even then you got the impression it wasn’t going to be Watford’s afternoon.
They could have helped themselves, most notably on 34 minutes when many in the wall turned their backs when Chris Brunt let fly. The shot took a wicked turn off Zuniga, wrong-footed Heurelho Gomes and nestled into the back of the net. Watford now had a mountain to climb.
They should really have gone into the dressing room, if not all square like they did at West Ham, then certainly with a lifeline. Amrabat played a superb ball across the face of goal and Deeney was all set to tap in his 100th goal for the club in his home county when Stefano Okaka, making his first start for the club, inexplicably stuck out his leg and took it away from the captain. You can only imagine what Deeney must have said to him.
Indeed it was a surprise Okaka emerged for the second half as he was that bad in the first but Mazzarri stuck to his guns and his gameplan.
And the visitors could easily have been level had Craig Dawson not managed to block a goalbound effort from Deeney after Zuniga had got in behind Nyom. Deeney couldn’t believe he hadn’t scored.
The goal Watford had been threatening eventually came when Kabasele scored from two yards after contributions by Okaka and Deeney. Kabasele was a striker just three years ago and he looked like an arch poacher in becoming the ninth player to score for Watford this season.
With the bit between their teeth and having survived Phillips attempting to bend one into the far post, Watford sensed a point and Mazzarri threw on Odion Ighalo for Zuniga in a bold attacking move. You can only guess that Isaac Success is not 100 per cent because the situation was tailormade for his rip-roaring pace.
Amrabat was at the heart of everything Watford did well and he delivered a lovely floated ball to Deeney at the back post but it was nodded away by Gary Yacob in what was a smart piece of defending. West Brom had a game on their hands.
Pereyra then had a chance to go round Ben Foster on the penalty spot but the former Watford loanee read the Argentine’s intention and a glorious chance went begging.
It was to be Pereyra’s last involvement as, nine minutes from time, he was sent off after reacting to the spiky James McLean smashing the ball at him. Quite how Salomon Rondon and Hal Robson-Kanu did not receive any punishment was a mystery. Things got ugly for a minute.
Watford were still very much smarting from that controversial decision when Phillips received the ball 40 yards out, drove towards the box and put it into the bottom corner from 18 yards for the third. Game set and match.