Despite Adrian Mariappa’s red card with more than half an hour remaining, Watford added to the one-goal lead they held at that point with a Deeney penalty and Ismaila Sarr’s second goal in three games sealing a vital victory for Nigel Pearson’s resurgent side, to pull them back within two points of 18th-placed Villa.
The hosts dominated during the opening exchanges and, despite a brief rally from Villa, it remained that way for much of the first half – though Ben Foster had to be alert in the 25th minute, diverting Wesley’s downward header over the crossbar after Conor Hourihane’s smart cross. Minutes later Wesley appealed for a penalty after a clash with Craig Cathcart, but VAR ruled that no foul had been committed.
Centre-back Ezri Konsa was at fault by allowing Deeney to charge down his clearance and Abdoulaye Doucoure’s shot was parried by the diving Heaton, but Watford’s number nine nipped in to slot the rebound through the goalkeeper and beyond a defender sliding over the line.
Targett, run ragged by Sarr all afternoon, goes down with a hamstring injury inside Villa’s half. Villa continue their attack but are dispossessed; Sarr bypasses his downed marker to release Deeney, who uses the prone Targett to stay onside. Dean Smith is later to suggest that he’d hope his team would have played the ball out in reversed circumstances, but they’d had the chance to and not done so. More desperation from a lost manager. Troy thunders into the area before being felled by Luiz; again, Smith is to claim shoulder to shoulder, suggesting once again that he doesn’t know his arse from his elbow since the clumsy barge is with the hip, not the shoulder. It’s not a dirty challenge, it’s just rubbish. There’s nothing tentative about Troy’s contribution this time.
The nerves were properly calmed on 70 minutes when Deeney released Capoue who played a gorgeous cross for Sarr who sped into the box to meet it and shot past Heaton. My heart sank when VAR was invoked for a possible foul in the build-up and I begged for that gorgeous goal not to be disallowed. After an agonising wait, the referee pointed to the centre circle and I punched the air again. On 72 minutes, GT’s face came up on the big screen adorned with both Watford and Villa badges and the great man’s name was sung with gusto as I wiped a tear from my eye.