15 April 2023

Joao Pedro stars as Watford reignite top-six hopes with win over Bristol City

15 April 2023

Watford made light of their recent struggles to climb back into the promotion picture with a fortuitous 2-0 victory over Bristol City at Vicarage Road.

Two Joao Pedro shots resulted in the goals that gave Chris Wilder’s side their first win in five matches.

However, the responsibility for the ball ending up in the Bristol City net on both occasions lay with the visitors.

Harry Cornick needlessly turned Pedro’s sixth-minute shot into his own net before a shocking mistake by City keeper Max O’Leary allowed another Pedro effort that was straight at the keeper to squeeze between his legs.

While the home side rarely looked convincing and saw their woodwork struck twice in the second half, Watford nevertheless still retain a chance of making the play-offs.

The result was a disappointment for City manager Nigel Pearson, who received a rousing reception from the Watford fans prior to kick-off.

Pearson managed the Vicarage Road club as recently as July 2020, although present incumbent Wilder is the eighth man to have overseen a Watford match since then.

The opening goal came after a quickly taken free-kick found Pedro in the area. After pivoting, he drove a low cross-shot towards the far post where Cornick stuck out a leg to divert the ball into his own net.

The former Luton player tried to make amends, only to see Watford keeper Daniel Bachmann claw away his goal-bound header before he lifted another shot wastefully over from eight yards.

A reminder of the quality that Watford possess arrived in the 25th minute when a neat interchange between Ismaila Sarr and Hamza Choudhury ended with the former stinging the hands of O’Leary with a rising drive.

The visitors came tantalisingly close to an equaliser four minutes into the second half. Following good work from Andi Weimann, Nahki Wells stabbed a shot goalwards which brought a magnificent one-handed reaction save from Bachmann.

From the rebound, Wells reacted quickest but saw his header come back off the post.

Sadly for Pearson’s side, O’Leary was anything but secure after 54 minutes when he allowed a routine Pedro shot through his legs as it dipped in front of him.

Even then, City might have found a way back into the contest when they were awarded a free-kick 20 yards from goal.

Wells curled his effort beautifully over the bar but saw it dip a fraction too late and bounce off the top of the Watford crossbar.

In spite of the defeat, remaining fixtures between sides beneath them mean that City are now almost certain to be playing in the Championship again next season.

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