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NICK SZCZEPANIK'S PRESS VERDICT: WATFORD

3 February 2019

Paul Hazlewood
Nick Szczepanik reviews the media's coverage of Albion's draw with Watford.
When the media unanimously votes the opposing goalkeeper man of the match, you know your team has played well. But it can also mean that your team has not won, which was the case in Albion’s goalless draw against Watford.

All the superlatives – apart, possibly, from one – were saved for Hornets keeper Ben Foster, which was a backhanded compliment to the Albion forwards. 
 
 
Ed Elliott of the Press Association, reporting for The Observer and the Independent, summed it up.
 
“Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster produced an inspired performance as Brighton's winless run stretched to five Premier League games with a 0-0 draw at the Amex Stadium.
 
“Former England international Foster twice kept out headers from Jurgen Locadia and also saved from Shane Duffy and Florin Andone to earn his side a point.
 
“Javi Gracia's battling mid-table visitors gave the travelling fans little to cheer at the other end of the field but the draw was enough to push them above Everton into eighth position.
 
“Albion, meanwhile, endured a frustrating afternoon with a result which extends their difficult start to 2019 and does little for their quest for top-flight survival.” 
 
 
Tom Barclay of The Sun pointed out that Foster has made more saves than any other goalkeeper of the Premier League era.
 
“Ben Foster boosted his position as the best shot-stopper in Premier League history with another masterclass to deny Brighton,” he wrote.
 
“The Watford stopper, 35, went past Petr Cech to top the all-time rankings for number of shots saved in his last outing with a massive total of 1,008.
 
“He extended that further here by frustrating the hosts, saving twice from Jurgen Locadia headers to earn his side a share of the stalemate spoils.
 
“Watford’s lack of threat was summed up by the club’s Twitter feed which posted ‘We’ve had a shot’ and a fist-pump emoji when Will Hughes was denied by Maty Ryan on 56 minutes.
 
“But the final ten minutes was all about Foster’s one-man display to keep out Brighton’s onslaught.” 
 
 
Kieran Gill of the Mail on Sunday began with the obligatory praise for Foster.
 
“Foster, like a shopkeeper closed for business, put the shutters up in front of his goal at the Amex Stadium,” he said. “He was the difference between a draw and defeat for Watford.
 
"The second half, when Brighton played better, it was the moment when he saved us,’ his boss Javi Gracia admitted afterwards. ‘But it’s not a surprise. It was nothing different, nothing I didn’t know.’
 
“Brighton boss Chris Hughton added: ‘It was a game we should have won, it was a game we deserved to win. We came up against a good goalkeeper who made three very, very good saves’.”
 
But Gill also recognised Lewis Dunk’s brave defensive work.
 
“The other highlight of the game came from Lewis Dunk,” he wrote.
 
“One melee inside Brighton’s six-yard box looked like it might result in a goal, or at least a shot on target, but Dunk had other ideas.
 
“The Seagulls defender had fallen to the ground so decided to shield the ball using his face, denying Watford a rare chance to score.
 
“It brought back memories of John Terry diving head-first to stop Slovenia from scoring against England in 2010.”
 
 
 
 
Tom Prentki of the Sunday Telegraph pointed out that “it was also a landmark day for Gracia himself. With this match, he became Watford’s longest serving manager of the Premier League era, albeit with the rather modest tenure of 39 games.
 
“Brighton huffed and puffed but have now only won once in 11 games and not at all in 2019. They have six points from 10 games and are slowly drifting towards the wrong end of the table.
 
“Brighton had done enough to deserve victory, though in truth, neither side showed much quality. Solly March was the home side’s brightest hope and twice created chances in the first half with well-flighted free-kicks which neither Lewis Dunk or nor Davy Propper could convert.
 
“Watford were obdurate but managed no shots on target in the 90 minutes and will be well-satisfied with a point that keeps them comfortably in the top half of the table.
 
“Brighton did all they could to force the matter in the final ten minutes and went desperately close with the chances for Andone and Duffy.”
 
“A very poor game of football,” was Matthew Le Tissier’s verdict on Sky Sports. “Watford had nothing in this game. Mat Ryan won’t even have gone in the shower after that. His kit won’t be dirty.
 
“Watford fans will have been really, really disappointed. A point was an absolute result for them because they didn’t threaten at all.
 
“Brighton will be disappointed because of the number of their efforts on goal, but it wasn’t as if any of their chances were absolute sitters."
 
 
 
Not for the first time, the BBC website was more critical than most of the efforts of Chris Hughton’s men.
 
“The hosts looked the more likely side to get on the scoreboard as Chris Hughton's team had 21 attempts at goal - compared to Watford's five,” Mantej Mann wrote.
 
“However, while they met an inspired Foster in the opposition goal, Brighton only produced four shots on target from their 21 attempts.
 
"And it seems to be a reoccurring theme with the Seagulls of late as they have only scored once in their last four home games in all competitions.
 
“The hosts are creating chances and Pascal Gross - who makes up for what he lacks in pace with technical ability - is influential in their movement forward as the midfielder made 10 key passes.
 
“But Brighton were unable to convert those passes because of inaccuracy or good goalkeeping as Lewis Dunk headed wide from close-range in the first half, and Locadia was kept out twice by Foster.
 
“Nevertheless, Hughton was ‘pleased with the performance’ after his side claimed a point at home against the team currently in eighth.”

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