Watford 1-0 Sheffield Wednesday: Hornets clinch sixth win on the bounce to extend advantage over third-placed Swansea as Tom Lees’ own goal piles more misery on sorry Owls
- Watford have moved nine points clear of Swansea ahead of their game tonight
- Xisco’s side are looking to seal a Premier League return at the first time of asking
- Wednesday player Tom Lees put the ball into his own net in the game’s only goal
Watford remain on track for an instant return to the Premier League but Sheffield Wednesday cursed their misfortune as they slipped further to the relegation mire.
Wednesday, without boss Darren Moore following a positive Covid test, were certain the game’s only goal was offside – not once but twice.
It was scored in his own net by central defender Tom Lees as he slid back to cut out a teasing cross from Ismaila Sarr and prevent it reaching Isaac Success at the back post.
Watford moved nine points clear of third-placed Swansea after beating Sheffield Wednesday
An early own goal from Tom Lees was enough to secure the Hornets’ sixth win on the spin
Watford star Isaac Success celebrates after Lees puts the ball into his own net on Good Friday
An offside flag went up immediately against Success but there is no VAR in the EFL and referee Chris Kavanagh awarded the goal after consultation with his assistant Dan Cook.
The protests were led by Lees, who thought Success must be interfering with play because he forced him into a split-second decision to attempt the interception and he seemed to have a strong case even before the Wednesday coaching staff realised Sarr might have been offside as well.
‘The first pass into Sarr looks offside,’ said assistant manager Jamie Smith. ‘Then the cross is offside because if the guy wasn’t there Leesy wouldn’t have gone for it. If he doesn’t go for it the guy taps it in and he’s offside.’
Daniel Bachmann and William Troost-Ekong challenge Wednesday’s Josh Windass for the ball
Francisco Sierralta looks to get body between ball and goal to deny Windass of an equaliser
Defeat at Vicarage Road piles more misery on the Owls who are losing hope of survival
Watford (4-3-3): Bachmann; Kiko, Troost-Ekong, Sierralta, Masina; Chalobah (Sanchez 84), Hughes, Zinckernagel (Gosling 61); Sarr, Success (Gray 61), Pedro (Sema 71)
Subs not used: Foster, Hungbo, Kabasele, Lazaar, Ngakia
Goals: Lees (7, own goal)
Booked: Hughes, Sierralta
Sheffield Wednesday (3-4-1-2): Wildsmith; Borner, Lees (Shaw 85), Urhoghide; Reach, Hutchinson, Pelupessy (Palmer 77), Paterson (Green 82); Bannan; Windass, Rhodes
Subs not used: Brown, Harris, Hunt, Jackson, Kachuga, Penney,
Booked: Wildsmith, Urhoghide, Reach, Borner
Manager: Darren Moore
Moore recorded a positive test on Thursday morning and Smith became the sixth different person to take charge of Wednesday this season.
There have been four permanent managers: Moore, Garry Monk and Tony Pulis, caretaker boss Neil Thompson and Andy Holdsworth who stepped in amid a previous Covid outbreak for an FA Cup tie at Exeter.
None of them have enjoyed a great deal of good fortune. They started the season with a six-point deduction and have rarely been out of the bottom three. With eight games left, the Owls are still adrift and staring at a third dip into League One since relegation from the Premier League in 2000.
Watford, meanwhile, have hit a rich vein of form under Xisco Munoz, winning 10 out of 11 to secure themselves in the Championship’s automatic promotion places. They are within six points of leaders Norwich who conceded a late equaliser at Preston.
‘I promise you we are very ambitious,’ said Xisco. ‘Everyone wants the best. We are working very hard. We are winning. We are cutting out the mistakes. But it is important to have humility and keep going with this same attitude until the final game. The first target is to guarantee a place in the play-offs.’
The Watford boss has a wealth of Premier League talent at his disposal including Sarr, the Senegal international winger who cost a club-record £35million and tormented Wednesday in the opening phase exchanges.
He forced the goal in the seventh minute and, when he drifted out of the game Joao Pedro flickered into life on the other flank.
Hornets boss Xisco roars encouragement to his players as they closed out a scrappy victory
Wednesday were without manager Darren Moore who had returned a positive Covid test
Pedro collected a flick from Success and flashed a low shot across goal and narrowly wide, moments before half-time, and was foiled at the near post by goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith before twisting an ankle and hobbling off.
Wednesday produced some fluent passages. Barry Bannan impressed in midfield and yet they created few chances. The clearest opening fell to Jordan Rhodes in the second half but he could not keep it down.
Smith praised his players and insisted they could still escape the drop but time is running out fast.