Tue 04 Nov 14
at 21:35 PM
The Report: Blues 2 Watford 1
Gary Rowett’s reign as Blues boss continued in exhilarating fashion as Clayton Donaldson’s brace turned over table-toppers Watford at St. Andrew’s.
A highly appreciative home crowd – the biggest of the season so far – roared their approval at the final whistle after a tremendous display of guts and no little skill from their side. Donaldson’s goals came early and late in the contest, rendering Fernando Forestieri’s leveller meaningless, and put broad smiles on the faces of Bluenoses young and old.
Rowett received a rapturous welcome from the fans before kick-off and the St. Andrew’s faithful had reason to cheer just two minutes into the action as the hosts raced into an early lead. Stephen Gleeson cut the ball back from wide on the left, Donaldson poked out a leg to direct a shot goalwards and a deflection off Joel Ekstrand’s leg deceived Huerelho Gomes’ in the visitors goal. The new boss couldn’t have wished for a better start to his first home game in charge.
But sadly the hosts held the initiative for just five minutes as the Hornets hit right back. Watford’s equaliser also came from a move down the left. Lloyd Doyley’s cross fell nicely to the feet of Forestieri whose initial shot was parried away by Darren Randolph but frustratingly it rebounded straight to the Argentinean. He made no mistake with his follow-up effort, crashing an unstoppable half-volley into the far corner of the net in emphatic fashion.
A game continued at a frantic pace with both sides taking it in turns to make in-roads into the opposition penalty area. Koby Arthur and David Cotterill were both lively outlets for Blues in the attacking third, the latter letting flying with a fierce first-time effort from distance that whizzed a few yards wide of Gomes’ goal.
That opportunity had been created by a Caddis cross and the Scot was involved again as Blues missed a golden chance to go back in front on 28 minutes. Caddis delivered a delicious out-swinging cross that arrived invitingly to the head of Shinnie but his fellow countryman was only able to direct his effort into the turf from just six yards out.
Caddis' crossing was proving a useful weapon in Blues’ armoury. Another terrific centre found its way to Paul Robinson at the far post and the skipper was adamant that his header struck an arm of a Watford player but his appeals came in vain. From the same attack the hosts did win a free-kick in a dangerous area around 30 yards from goal. Cotterill took it and his swerving shot was beaten away by Gomes.
The helter-skelter nature of the game was maintained during the closing minutes of the half as both teams went close. Firstly, Randolph made amends for misjudging a cross when the ball was cleared to Troy Deeney and the striker’s vicious drive looked to be heading for the net until the Blues keeper's fingertips diverted it over. At the other end, Cotterill cut inside and sent in a shot from a narrow angle that Gomes was unable to hold and a moment’s panic ensued until the visitors cleared the danger.
Gleeson was next to try his luck with an effort from distance. Although in truth it never looked like troubling Gomes, the keeper did choose to parry away rather than attempt to collect the shot. It was the last notable action of a highly encouraging first-half for Blues and the home fans heartily clapped their heroes off the pitch.
Watford looked the livelier during the early stages of the second period with Odion Ighalo’s curling shot drifting harmlessly over Randolph’s crossbar on 50 minutes. But Blues soon regained their momentum and laid siege on the Hornets goal during a frenetic two-minute spell just before the hour mark. Tommie Hoban came to his side’s rescue to hook the ball away from just in front of the goal-line as Donaldson waited to tap into an empty net from Arthur’s low cross. But the Ghanaian inadvertently prevented another goal-bound effort as Caddis' shot from the edge of the area struck the teenager’s foot and bounced away to safety.
Rowett’s team continued to push forward. Cotterill sent in another low fizzing effort that hit Donaldson on its way towards the goal, the striker subsequently penalised for offside as he attempted to force the ball over the line.
Deeney threatened to muscle his way through the Blues defence on 69 minutes but then teed up Ighalo. Under pressure from Randolph, the Nigerian couldn’t get his shot away and the ball eventually bounced back off him and away for a goal-kick.
Rowett made his first change on 73 minutes as fit-again Demarai Gray replaced Arthur. The young winger almost made an immediate impact when a lofted ball arrived at his feet on the left side of the area. Unfortunately he wasn't able to make the cleanest of contacts on his volleyed effort but it still needed Hoban to be in the right place to hack the ball away.
Blues’ positive display got its just rewards with five minutes left as Donaldson grabbed his second goal of the game to put the home side back in front. Cotterill was the creator with a superb angled cross and Donaldson rose majestically to crash an unstoppable header past Gomes to send the home fans behind that Tilton Road goal into raptures.
There were no late scares as Blues safely got through three minutes of injury time to secure only their second home league win in the last 12 months and maintain the air of positivity that has surrounded St. Andrew’s since Rowett’s arrival.