Football Features

How Brighton exploited two of Watford’s worst habits to earn draw

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 20:36, 8 February 2020

Brighton & Hove Albion snatched a valuable point from the jaws of defeat against Watford in the Premier League on Saturday.

Graham Potter’s men were staring at a third loss in five games but dug deep and came from behind to secure an important draw in their quest to stave off relegation.

As for their guests, it seems old habits die hard. Abdoulaye Doucouré, who has become a serious threat from midfield for the Hornets following Nigel Pearson’s appointment, scored a third goal across his last six league outings to put the visitors in front, but as often during this campaign they were unable to hold on.

It’s becoming a running theme for Watford this season no matter who’s in charge. This inability to defend a lead. It can go a long way to explain why they are in their current predicament. Just when it looked like three crucial points were heading up north to Hertfordshire came the hammer blow.

There was a sense of inevitably. Brighton were dominating possession (67.2%) and had already nine shots on goal, four of which found the target. Ben Foster was being kept on his toes, with the former England international goalkeeper producing two saves, but there was nothing he could do in the 78th minute.

Adrian Mariappa’s unfortunate own goal, inadvertently converting a Alireza Jahanbakhsh ground cross into the box, ultimately meant Watford have now dropped no fewer than 17 points from a winning position this season, with eight of them coming in their last three games.

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Consequently, this leaves them in the bottom three but one point from safety. If they have been able to hold their nerve then it stands to reason the danger zone would be in Watford’s rear-view mirror. Instead, only West Ham (19) – who are level on points with them – have been more lackadaisical in this regard.

Even more worrisome is the manner of the goal Pearson’s team conceded. Incredibly, since the start of the 2018/19 season no Premier League side has shipped in more own goals than Watford, with half of those coming this season. This self-destructive tendency is no doubt a concern but, more realistically, also very unlucky on their part. As the old saying goes, though, you make your own luck. Watford retreating, and dropping back, only made it easier for Brighton to force an error.

As things stand, from Crystal Palace in 14th place to second-bottom Watford the gap is six points, Brighton – now winless in six league games – visit high-flying Sheffield United after their winter break while their hard-done-by opponents make the journey to Old Trafford as they seek a rare double against Manchester United.