12 August 2023

Watford and Plymouth share the spoils with goalless draw at Vicarage Road

12 August 2023

An entertaining goalless draw between Watford and Plymouth at Vicarage Road ultimately left both sides frustrated at a spurned opportunity to head the early Sky Bet Championship table.

While the visitors could at least take an unbeaten start to their first second-tier campaign in 14 seasons back with them to Devon, there was scant consolation for Watford who managed to hit the target with just three of their 20 goal attempts.

There was little wrong with the attacking ambition of Valerien Ismael’s side, yet for all their dominance, they were thwarted by both their own profligacy and defiant Plymouth defending.

Having taken the lead in their opening fixture against QPR after just 33 seconds, Watford went in search of an early goal again. With just over seven minutes gone, Matheus Martins clipped over a cross which fell invitingly for Vakoun Bayo to strike on the swivel. His volley missed the post by inches.

Imran Louza went even closer in the 12th minute with a curling left-footed shot, which struck the outside of the Argyle post.

In reply, Morgan Whittaker had a shot deflected wide. A sloppy clearance by Watford goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann then almost let in the visitors before Ryan Porteous timed his tackle brilliantly on Ryan Hardie.

Bachmann’s carelessness did not stop there as he dallied on the ball and was almost embarrassed by a Hardie block, falling on the ball just in time.

For all Watford’s dominance of possession, the visitors always looked menacing on the break with Hardie finding space and testing Bachmann low down as half-time approached.

Plymouth were entertaining travellers during last season’s League One title-winning campaign, a testimony to manager Steven Schumacher’s attacking principles which brought Argyle 11 wins away from Home Park.

That openness went largely unpunished in League One, but they were frequently caught out at Vicarage Road. Both Ryan Andrews and Ken Sema ought to have put Watford ahead with shots just before half-time.

An intricate Plymouth interchange after 53 minutes ended with Hardie slipping in Adam Randell, whose shot was blocked superbly by the onrushing Bachmann.

Watford manager Valerien Ismael’s immediate response was to make a quadruple substitution three minutes later.

The home side’s pressure intensified with Andrews forcing Conor Hazard into a save low down by his post.

As hard as they pressed for the opening goal, it took until the 83rd minute for Watford to fashion a clear chance, but when it fell to Bayo running straight at Plymouth keeper Hazard, the striker wastefully struck his low shot wide.

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