The upshot of Deeney’s 28th and 29th successful penalties for the club he has served for nearly ten years is that the Hornets’ destiny remains firmly in their own hands with three games remaining. It isn’t quite snookers but Bournemouth alone now, because of the goal difference, need seven points to overtake the Golden Boys in their last four games, one of which is against Manchester City. And that’s without the Hornets getting anymore points.
The Hornets were underwhelming in the first-half and the visitors deservedly led through Dwight Gayle. However, two second-half penalties from Troy Deeney turned the game in Watford’s favour, taking them six points clear of the bottom three.
Watford, who hit the post through Danny Welbeck, were indebted to a vital save by Ben Foster from Allan Saint-Maximim before the break – leaving them in position to mount another recovery in the second half.
The hosts improved after the restart as Kiko Femenia was brought down inside the box by Matt Ritchie, allowing Deeney to level (52). The Watford captain completed the turnaround with a carbon copy from the spot after Javier Manquillo upended Ismaila Sarr (82), as Nigel Pearson’s side moved six points clear of the relegation zone.
The basis of Pearson’s success has been his ability to organise this team defensively. At times since the restart it has been tempting to wonder if there is another gear in there, if Watford are programmed to start every game like a team clinging on to a narrow 1-0 lead in the 88th minute against Barcelona 2011
The build up to both penalties was agonising. Not having showered yet as I write this on Sunday morning my hair is still bent in the twisted contortions my fingers forced it into in the interminable build up, exacerbated by the TV director’s fondness for dramatic close-ups at the expense of following what and when was happening on the pitch. Both penalties were dispatched with exactly the bloody-mindedness, venom and decisiveness that you’d been praying for, that you’d seen in your mind’s eye, like something out of a Marvel movie. The first bang down the middle, the second high to the keeper’s right, both were pressure shots. Taking a kick like that in front of a full stadium is one thing, taking it in front of an empty stadium with the responsibility undiminished but without the will of the crowd behind you something else. Goes without saying, this took cojones (thanks Pete). Dubravka would have needed to be right behind either to stand a chance. He wasn’t.
It was (yet another!) must win game for Watford…and they did it! With their blood pressure slowly settling down and smiles on their faces, Jon, Jas and Mike gathered to discuss the latest valuable victory for the golden boys.