Watford’s starting 3-5-2 formation felt like a Watford ghost of Christmas present. New Hornets Head Coach, Giuseppe Sannino, may have made 7 changes from the last line up named by Gianfranco Zola a week earlier, but the faces and ethos didn’t seem too different. The Ipswich Town team seemed like a Watford ghost of Christmas past – a team happy to find themselves 10th in the championship, after struggling with relegation last season, and a stern talking British manager.
The tie had a scrappy feel at the start. Watford began as slightly the better side with a series of good linking plays which came to nothing, showed that attack was most definitely in mind, but new tactics were still getting used to. Pressure was certainly the aim with Troy Deeney showing intent to cause the Ipswich defence problems, creating several opportunities for the Hornets, even forcing an early yellow card for Ipswich defender Tommy Smith. The desire for Watford was to get the ball back as high up the pitch as possible. The first half an hour saw Watford with the upper hand, but it took until 26 minutes for Dean Gerken, in the Ipswich goal, to be truly troubled. Diego Fabbrini’s shot that hit the angle of the post and the bar. Almunia at the other end had little to do, with only set plays getting the Tracktor boys anywhere close to scoring.
As the half time oranges were calling, Watford continued to make chances. Lewis McGugan was running more with the ball, Diego Fabbrini seemed more at home carrying it through the middle rather than out wide and we saw more productive strength from Troy Deeney. However, there was a distinct lack of final product from Watford that was still present in the first 45 minutes at Portman Road.
The rain that had started half way through the first half continued into the second half. Both teams pushed for their first goal – Watford with all the stylish moves, but the roar of the Ipswich fans made the game feel it was more in their hands. Watford kept to the plan and on 55 minutes Sean Murray went closest forcing a good save. The roar of an animated Sanninio, who wasn’t interested in the constraints of the tactical area, was not having an effect to change the “nice football, but no goals” pattern of recent frustrating Watford results. That frustration grew for Watford fans when Gabrielle Angella was judged to have handled a crossing ball in the penalty area on the 71 minute. It was hit home for Ipswich by David McGoldrick. The Watford Head Coach’s substitutions saw Sean Murray replaced by Cristian Battocchio and Anya on for Daniel Pudil. Would this add a new attack to Watford game? It did in the 81st minute with Troy Deeney adding his 10th goal of the season when he stretched to meet a deflected Cassetti cross at the near post. The third and final attacking minded sub was made with 8 minutes to go when Fernando Forestieri replaced Fabbrini.
The closing 5 minutes saw a cool Watford, but Ipswich on the front foot with a frustrated home crowd behind them. Their final best chances came in a spell of about 10 second in the 87 minute. After a fantastic Almunia save, a header against the bar and then a wide shot to finish off their last real chance. Watford, seemingly happy with an away draw tried to take the tie with the fresh legs of Fessi and Anya, but to no avail.
It was only game one of Gisueppe Sannino’s tenure as Watford Head Coach, but I think we’re yet to see the Watford ghost of Christmas future.
Watford Line Up:
Almunia (GK) (C)
Doyley, Angella, Ekstrand
Cassetti, Murray (Battochio, 76), Thorne, McGugan, Pudil
Bond (GK), Battocchio, McEachran, Forestieri, Anya, Iriney, Nosworthy