Report: Watford 0-1 Bolton
Bolton Wanderers claimed their third consecutive win on the road with a hard fought victory at Watford.
Jermaine Beckford scored the only goal of the game midway through the first half, capitalising on a mistake by Manuel Almunia, to seal the points for Wanderers and extend their unbeaten run to eight league games.
Manager Dougie Freedman introduced Darren Pratley to the starting line-up for the clash at Vicarage Road, with Rob Hall the man to miss out from the team that beat Millwall two weeks ago.
Meanwhile, hosts Watford, were without attacking duo Troy Deeney and Lewis McGugan but handed on loan Chelsea man Josh McEachran his eighth start of the season.
Watford began the game with real purpose in front of the home support as they looked to unnerve the Bolton backline and continue their record of the Championship’s highest scorers in the opening 15 minutes.
The first opportunity of the game however fell to Bolton just before the quarter mark.
Neil Danns and Jermaine Beckford continued their excellent relationship in the final third, as the on loan Leicester City man delivered a teasing cross from the right flank into the path of the Whites’ top goal scorer, but off balance the centre forward couldn’t test Almunia with a close range header.
Five minutes later, Danns, the creator of the last Bolton move, showed excellent technique and improvisation to bicycle kick a bouncing ball inside the Watford penalty area inches wide of the post.
Gianfranco Zola’s men continued to implement their style of play on the contest in Hertfordshire but were unable to ask any question of Bolton goalkeeper Andrew Lonergan.
Lonergan’s counterpart in the opposite goal Almunia gifted Beckford his fifth league goal in seven games in the 26th minute as the Whites raced into the lead at Vicarage Road for the second consecutive season.
Showing his predator instinct, Beckford pounced on a dropped ball by the former Arsenal number one to slide home in front of the 884 travelling support from BL6.
Beckford’s opener didn’t have any impact on how the remainder of the first half panned out with Watford continuing to press forward with a couple of half chances but unable to force Lonergan into a save as Wanderers headed into the break leading by one goal to nil.
Interestingly, Watford boss Zola opted to replace his number one Almunia at half time with 20-year-old Jonathan Bond introduced for the remainder of the game.
The Hornets began the second half in similar fashion as they held onto possession but were unable to show any cutting edge in the final third with the Bolton back four all making a number of important tackles and blocks.
On the hour mark, Watford fashioned their first meaningful opportunity on goal and were unlucky not to draw level as Italian U21 international Fernando Forestieri hit a 25-yard strike forcing a smart save from Lonergan.
Seconds later, Bolton went up the other end as Chung-Yong Lee, fresh off the back of captaining his national team in two recent international games, cheekily tried to lob substitute goalkeeper Bond from the edge of the penalty area but his effort sailed over the crossbar.
With 16 minutes to go manager Freedman made his first change of the afternoon as Andre Moritz was introduced in place of Pratley after a tireless performance from Bolton’s number 21.
It turned out to be a quiet second half for Bolton’s attacking players, however Danns came close to sealing the win for Bolton 12 minutes from time as he escaped the challenge of Daniel Pudil to cut inside and rifle an effort on goal but Bond was on hand to beat away.
Bolton continued to halt any Watford attack that came their way with Pudil having the last chance of the game hitting a wayward effort wide of the right hand post.
Freedman’s men professionally saw out to the remainder of the game to seal their third consecutive win and continue their climb up the league table.