Referee:Anthony Taylor Attendance:20,014
Wilfried Zaha struck 12 minutes from time at Vicarage Road to raise hopes of a visiting fightback but the hosts held on as Roberto Pereyra’s 53rd-minute strike and Jose Holebas’s freak second (71) proved enough.
Graham Taylor never managed three straight wins at the start of a first division season, a run that carried Gracia’s team to second place ahead of Chelsea’s game against Newcastle United and pegs Watford above champions Manchester City for the week. They might not have played any of the title contenders yet, but amongst those for whom survival is the first thought – Brighton, Burnley and now Crystal Palace – Watford have been ruthless.
This snarl of a game was deep into stoppage time when Luka Milivojevic swung over one last hopeful corner kick and, with the majority in the arena anxiously holding their breath, Joel Ward leapt unchallenged into the six-yard box only to head wide of the post. The locals’ outpouring of relief at the miss was almost as deafening as the raucous delight which greeted the final whistle moments later.
The build-up to this game was all about Harry Hornet who, in answer to a question from a journalist, had been branded a ‘disgrace’ by Roy Hodgson for an incident two years ago that I doubt Hodgson had actually ever seen, when Harry collapsed behind Zaha while the post-match handshakes were happening. Sticking up for your player is all well and good but Roy lost all credibility when he claimed, with a straight face, that Zaha didn’t dive. Sorry, Roy he gets booked for it, which was what provoked Harry’s action. You couldn’t help but feel that Roy’s words would come back to haunt him.
It feels more like March than August bank holiday weekend. Palace have brought the traditional Croydon microclimate with them and it dampens our quick start before it gets going. Only the hissing, spitting hot fat of this fixture burns on unperturbed, and it hadn’t needed Roy Hodgson ambling into a Harry-shaped animal trap in the visitors’ pre-match press conference to ignite it. Our encounters have a bad-tempered, even spiteful undercurrent all of their own.
It only took four minutes for the game’s first talking point to occur. As Capoue tripped Zaha in the middle of the pitch, the referee awarded the midfielder a yellow card. At the time and due to where I was sitting I thought this decision was harsh. Replays show however that Capoue may have been lucky to stay on the pitch, after a potentially dangerous challenge.