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Watford 1-0 Nottingham Forest Match Report: Masina Strike the Difference

Watford achieved six wins in seven following a competitive 1-0 victory at home to Chris Hughton's Nottingham Forest.

Similarly to midweek the Watford line-up conjured up some confusion. The injury-struck midfield saw an enforced change of Joao Pedro for Tom Cleverley, with the Englishman picking up a knee injury on Wednesday. This suggested a change of system to a 4-4-2, but some fans speculated that we'd see Ken Sema in the centre of midfield. Will Hughes took the armband in place of Cleverley.

As for Forest, James Garner and Glenn Murray were always going to be the two names thrusted into the spotlight, and they made the Starting XI; Garner alongside Ryan Yates at the base of midfield, and Murray up front in Chris Hughton's 4-2-3-1. 

Once again, Xisco Munoz surprised supporters with how his team set out. He retained the 4-3-3, and Joao Pedro's role was that of Tom Cleverley's, in central midfield. It left many scratching their heads but paid dividends; his performance was assured and he made sure to get involved in every defensive and attacking action. It's important to remember that this isn't Philip Zinckernagel's natural position either; the Dane is found on either wing or behind the striker typically but he, like Joao Pedro, didn't look out of place in the middle of the park. 

Will Hughes stepped up and embraced the responsibility of captain. He wasn't necessarily the loudest on the pitch but showed leadership, advising the younger players on their position and forcing them up the pitch for attacks. 

Despite fielding five natural forwards, Adam Masina was the unlikely goalscorer. Bouncing back to him just inside the box the former Bologna defender fired a venomous shot through Brice Samba's legs and looked absolutely overjoyed to have done so. 

Nottingham Forest boast a better defensive record than Brentford, Reading and Bournemouth, so it was no mean feat to have scored first. Now the objective was to keep things tight at the other end. Francisco Sierralta and William Troost-Ekong are starting to nail down their starting positions and looked confident in every duel they faced today. Glenn Murray had a point to prove, but struggled to make it; he chased down Troost-Ekong every time the Nigerian had the ball at his feet but on several occasions the defender took his time and played his passes efficiently.

Joao Pedro picked up a yellow card halfway through the first 45, and looked a little rash in the tackle at times, but overall it was an admirable showing from the youngster and his fiery attitude showed. 

The Hornets went into the break the better team, but Forest certainly had their chances. 

The second half, similarly to midweek, started quite slowly from a Watford perspective. Forest began to control possession and James Garner's talent began to show, but still they couldn't make use of their opportunities. Watford were counter attacking effectively and almost had a second, Kiko Femenia's trademark drilled cross almost met Andre Gray's foot but Wednesday's Man of the Match couldn't quite reach it. The Hornets looked relatively comfortable but kept a slim lead over their visitors. They reverted to the usual style with 25 minutes to go, Carlos Sanchez replacing Andre Gray and Joao Pedro moving back up to his natural centre-forward role. 

Forest stepped up the gear, and had a flurry of corners test Daniel Bachmann in goal. The Austrian has put in impressive performances since taking up the role of Number 1, but his weakness was exposed today as they packed his six-yard box on the corners. 

Joseph Hungbo's introduction with ten minutes left to play was welcomed, and he fired a dangerous cross into Sarr's path but the Senegal International, similarly to Gray earlier, couldn't reach it. Isaac Success also made an appearance, and his hold-up play (or time-wasting, depending on your stake in the game) was important to Watford's retention of the lead. 

 

Xisco Munoz was delighted with how his side defended but mentioned some disappointment at not making it two or three. He praised the groundsmen for their quick work in improving the quality of the pitch after Wednesday, and congratulated his players for their hard work in achieving six wins out of seven.

Hughton: "That's the difference. We're not too far away from the opposition but it's finding a way to get that win, and that's what the top teams do.

There's one goal difference between the teams over our two games and not much difference in the quality, but they looked more threatening in the final third than us. If we were able to be a little more prolific in front of goal then there wouldn't be much of a difference."

 

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