27 August 2023

Ryan Hedges’ stunning finish gives Blackburn hard-fought win at Watford

27 August 2023

A sensational second-half goal from Ryan Hedges earned Blackburn a 1-0 win at Watford.

Hedges produced a brilliant piece of skill to lift it away from Wesley Hoedt and juggle before smashing past Daniel Bachmann in the 72nd minute.

The counter-attack had sprung from an error by substitute Imran Louza, who had been dropped to the bench for disciplinary reasons by Watford manager Valerien Ismael.

The win lifted Rovers up to ninth and left the Hornets stuck in 15th after a third successive match without a goal.

Watford shaded scrappy opening exchanges. Matheus Martins saw a shot on the turn deflected behind before Hoedt headed over at the back post.

A passing move that began in their left-back area saw Rovers fashion their first shooting chance but Hornets goalkeeper Bachmann did well to parry Sammie Szmodics’ drive.

Szmodics lost possession soon after that to hand Watford a chance. Rovers keeper Aynsley Pears emulated Bachmann by beating away Martins’ shot and the Brazilian went even closer in the 29th minute by cutting in from the left and thumping a drive that smacked off the Rovers crossbar.

The half-hour mark saw supporters applaud the memory of Blackburn PA announcer Matt Sillitoe, who died aged 30. Before kick-off the passing of ex-Hornets goalkeeper Andy Rankin, who died aged 79, was marked in the same way.

Watford went close again just before the break when Tom Dele-Bashiru launched a powerful shot that Dominic Hyam threw himself in the way to block.

Louza – who had turned up late for training earlier in the week – replaced Ismael Kone at the start of a second period that began with Martins only just off target with two more long-rangers.

Watford made a double change just before the hour mark, with new striker Mileta Rajovic on for a debut. Andy Moran, on loan from Brighton, then came on for a Rovers bow and immediately fired a decent opportunity at Bachmann.

Hyam, who had only just survived a penalty shout for handball, was booked for illegally stopping Ryan Andrews reaching the Rovers box, with Louza firing over from the free-kick move.

Rajovic also failed to hit the target before Louza was booked for a foul on Adam Wharton.

The game was crying out for a goal – and Hedges conjured up a cracker in the 72nd minute. Louza lost possession and substitute Sam Gallagher’s pass sent Lewis Travis sprinting goalwards but Ryan Porteous stopped him with a fine tackle in the box.

Hedges seized on the loose ball however and, juggling it on the top of his boot to get it under control, lashed high past Bachmann from a tight angle on the right.

Martins was unlucky again with a shot that Pears tipped on to his left-hand post to leave Watford without a goal since the 43rd minute of their opening game.

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