It looked a certain home win: one team searching for their fifth straight win in front of their own fans and one who hadn’t won away since October. Yet it didn’t follow the script as Sheffield Wednesday dramatically lost at home to Watford.
Even though there was no Stuart Gray on the touchline for Sheffield Wednesday, the odds were stacked against Watford prevailing at Hillsborough.
You have to go back to October for the last time the Hornets triumphed on their travels, a 14-match winless run and having been beaten on their last three away days. By contrast, Wednesday went into this fixture seeking a fifth consecutive home win.
But with head coach Gray attending his son’s wedding, a commitment which was agreed by the club when he joined the South Yorkshire outfit as first-team coach in December 2012, the Owls appeared to miss his presence in the technical area as Watford went ahead in the fifth minute when ANGELLA bundled the ball in after Wednesday failed to deal with Tozer’s inviting free kick.
Kirkland initially kept out McGugan’s header but he could no nothing about Angella’s follow-up.
Wednesday responded in a positive manner to falling behind. Firstly, Afobe threatened on the right-hand side, cleverly tricking his way past Doyley before ultimately running the ball out of play.
Then Maguire’s neat lay-off gave Best a sight at goal and his fierce volley forced Almunia into a finger-tip save. From the resulting corner, Buxton saw an effort hacked away from near the goal line.
Watford looked dangerous on the counter attack but it was Wednesday who continued to create openings.
A short corner by Mattock picked out Maguire, whose goalbound strike was superbly blocked by Angella.
Maguire fed Buxton in the 19th minute and his dangerous centre was brilliantly gathered by Almunia, with Best lurking in the middle.
It took a fantastic header by Doyley to stop Mattock’s delivery reaching Best in the centre. Wednesday recycled possession only for Lee to scuff his shot.
From the resulting goal kick, Watford doubled their advantage through MCGUGAN. Pudil latched on to Almunia’s punt upfield and was given way too much time and space by Wednesday’s defence. Ultimately, his pinpoint cross was glanced in by McGugan in the 24th minute.
Back came the Owls and Almunia had to be alert to turn away Afobe’s rasping drive following good work by Best.
The second goal lifted Watford. McGugan’s tame effort from distance was comfortably gathered by Kirkland.
But the hosts had a major let-off just after the half hour mark when the Hornets arguably should have grabbed a third. A lovely flowing move resulted in Doyley floating in another cross which went slightly behind Deeney but he squared the ball to Tozer on the edge of the area and it took a wonderful last-ditch challenge by Helan to deny the midfielder.
Wednesday were just lacking a cutting edge in the final third: Afobe laid a lovely pass into the path of Palmer, who dragged wide when he should have done better.
Pudil joined Angella in the referee’s notebook after a late tackle on Lee in the 42nd minute. Maguire dinked the free kick towards the back post and Best, under pressure from several Watford defenders, nodded off target.
Watford made Wednesday pay for their profligacy when DEENEY grabbed a third. He beat the offside trap after racing on to McGugan’s lovely through ball before poking a shot past Kirkland. Two minutes later, DEENEY bagged his second and Watford’s fourth. The striker notched his 20th goal of the campaign from inside the six yard box after Kirkland initially saved his shot and Ranegie somehow struck the post.
The Owls got the goal their attacking merited in the 54th minute when AFOBE headed in Palmer’s delightful delivery. It was the youngster’s second goal in 11 appearances since joining Wednesday on loan from Arsenal.
Watford’s pace and quality going forwards continued to unsettle Wednesday’s fragile back four. McGugan shrugged off a weak challenge by Palmer before firing straight at Kirkland. Coaches Lee Bullen and John Deehan threw on Nuhiu at the expense of Maguire, who, apparently, in anger, walked off the pitch and trudged straight down the tunnel. Nuhiu nearly made an instant impact when he met Buxton’s teasing cross in the but he directed his header straight at Almunia. Onyewu summed up Wednesday’s frustration when he headed against the bar in the closing stages.