The Sky Blues earned a well-deserved point from an impressive display against Watford at St. Andrew’s.
Dominating the first-half, City looked to have found the Hornets’ weak-point through their crosses from deep, creating several gilt-edge opportunities that saw the Sky Blues disappointed not to be leading at half-time. A more even second-half followed, with both sides enjoying positive spells, as Mark Robins’ side gave a good account of themselves against promotion hopefuls, Watford.
City enjoyed the first sight of goal in the lunchtime clash at St. Andrew’s. Max Biamou looked to repeat some of his midweek magic, following his goal against Forest, after his perfectly-timed run sliced through the Hornets’ offside trap. Beating his marker, the striker drove the ball into the left-hand side of the penalty area before steering his low shot wide.
However, as the game played out at an increasingly frenetic pace, it was Watford who found the better early chances. First, Ken Sema bent his free-kick around the imposing Sky Blues wall but curled the ball wide of the left post. Then, it was Andre Gray’s turn to worry the City ‘keeper with an improvised lob that forced Marko Marosi into action, tipping the ball on to the roof of the net.
Having scored a wonder-goal in the corresponding fixture at Vicarage Road in November, with a 30-yard header, Gus Hamer looked to find the net in similar style at St. Andrew’s. Julien Dacosta played in Jamie Allen on the underlap, running towards the byline, who spotted Hamer in space on the edge of the box. The midfielder met the ball perfectly and powered a header into the corner, but Watford ‘keeper Daniel Bachmann hung on to the ball.
City’s aerial threat continued to trouble the Hornets’ defence. Dom Hyam came closer than anyone to giving City a first-half lead, following Hamer’s free-kick from the right. His cross, flicked on at the near post, found Hyam inches from goal, but the defender couldn’t quite steer his header on target from point-blank range.
Close to creating golden opportunities, time and again, Sky Blues’ searching crosses continued to haunt the Watford backline. As the first-half neared its conclusion, Max Biamou must have believed he had given the Sky Blues a deserved lead: latching on to another pinpoint Dacosta delivery, the ball deceivingly looked to have nestled in the corner but instead rolled the other side of the side-netting.
In a concerted period of City pressure, as the interval drew closer, Callum O’Hare cut inside from the left, looking to create a carbon copy of Baimou’s midweek finish against Forest. O’Hare ran parallel to the box, edging the ball past his marker, before thundering his shot into the keeper’s arms.
Not content to end the half there, City continued pushing forward, determined to take the lead. O’Hare charged forward on a breakaway attack, finding Hamer with a neat backheel, before the Dutchman tried his luck from 25 yards but saw the ball fly wide of the left post.
HALF-TIME: SKY BLUES 0-0 WATFORD
Looking to immediately reverse the first-half momentum, Watford looked certain to be take an early lead, as a through ball was played behind the City defence. However, Andre Gray and Ismaila Sarr stumbled over each other as they struggled for the same ball, enabling the Sky Blues to recover and the ball to roll to Marosi.
In a similar vein to the first-half, City were quick to respond with a chance of their own. Gus Hamer picked up the ball, charging into the box with his typical dynamism, before forcing Bachmannn into a sharp stop.
After a short break in play following an injury to Dacosta, City were keen to press forward, playing on the front foot. O’Hare, the constant link between midfield and attack, found McCallum out wide as the Sky Blues pushed forward on the counter-attack. The wingback sprinted past a defender, looking to drive his shot into the far corner but the Watford ‘keeper stood firm.
The familiar first-half tactic returned for City, as Dom Hyam again looked to open the scoring, with 20 minutes remaining. Hamer’s looping free-kick found the centre-half unmarked in the centre of the box, but his header was aimed straight at the ‘keeper.
An impressive move involving most of the Sky Blues side saw O’Hare force an impressive save from Bachmann. Sam McCallum and Hamer combined on the left before switching to Josh Pask. He found Jamie Allen who moved the ball quickly to O’Hare. Undone by the fast movement, Watford’s defensive solidity dissolved and O’Hare’s far-corner shot was denied by Bachmann.
Despite appearing the more likely side to seal the victory, the visitors looked rejuvenated in the final ten minutes. After having fired wide moments before, the ball fell again to Sarr, who found Joao Pedro in the box. The Brazilian forced a great save from Marosi – though captain Troy Deeney was inches way from converting the rebound, striking the post.
FULL-TIME: SKY BLUES 0-0 WATFORD
Yellows: Francisco Sierralta, Andre Gray
Sky Blues Xl: Marko Marosi (GK), Julien Dacosta (Pask, 66’), Michael Rose, Leo Ostigard, Dom Hyam, Sam McCallum, Matty James (C), Gustavo Hamer (Gyokeres, 85’), Callum O'Hare (Shipley, 85’), Jamie Allen, Max Biamou.
Unused subs: Tom Billson (GK), Kyle McFadzean, Josh Eccles, Wesley Jobello, Will Bapaga, Fabio Tavares.
Watford XI: Daniel Bachmann, Jeremy Ngakia (Perica, 85'), William Troost-Ekong, Francisco Sierralta, Adam Masina, Tom Cleverley, Nathaniel Chalobah (Hughes, 73’), Ken Sema, Ismaila Sarr, Troy Deeney (C), Andre Gray (Joao Pedro, 67’)
Unused subs: Rob Elliot (GK), Craig Cathcart, Ben Wilmot, Marc Navarro, Phillip Zinckernagel, Joseph Hungbo