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Match report: Watford 2 AFC Bournemouth 0
PROFLIGATE Cherries were made to pay for missed opportunities as their poor record in the League Cup continued at Vicarage Road tonight.
The Dean Court outfit more than matched a much-changed Watford team for long periods and created enough chances to have booked their place in the third round for the first time since 2004-05.
But a combination of wasteful finishing and fine goalkeeping kept Cherries off the scoresheet, while the hosts capitalised on a first-half mistake before clinically ending the contest with a ruthless counter-attack clincher.
Cherries defender Elliott Ward, recalled after missing the defeat at Huddersfield to be with his wife Sarah who gave birth to their son Henry on Monday, inadvertently put the Hornets on track for victory by chesting a cross past Ryan Allsop.
Brett Pitman then saw keeper Jonathan Bond brilliantly tip his free-kick on to the woodwork before Andrew Surman and Shaun MacDonald missed the target when well placed.
And Cherries, despite plenty of impressive play in a largely composed performance, were punished when Watford struck on the break on 65 minutes, Javier Acuna teeing up Cristian Battocchio for a sumptuous second.
Ward almost put Cherries back in the contest but Bond was again at his belligerent best to keep out his towering header as Watford progressed.
While his Hornets counterpart Gianfranco Zola opted to make no fewer than 10 changes, Cherries boss Eddie Howe kept faith with the majority of the team which suffered a 5-1 thumping at Huddersfield on Saturday.
Steve Cook and Lewis Grabban were named on the bench and Harry Arter was given a watching brief as Howe drafted in Marc Pugh, Ward and the midfield experience of Richard Hughes.
With Hughes deployed just in front of the Cherries defence in a 4-1-4-1 formation, the visitors made a promising start on the ground where they were hit for six in a Championship baptism of fire.
However, Cherries found themselves with work to do in their bid to reach the third round for only the ninth time in their history after a nightmare own goal handed Watford the initiative.
There appeared to be little danger when Fernando Forestieri floated a hopeful cross into the Cherries penalty area but, in an attempt to cushion the ball back to Ryan Allsop, the recalled Ward served only to chest it beyond his keeper.
The Hornets threatened to double the tally after a sensational volleyed pass from Forestieri had released Daniel Pudil on the right, but the wing-back’s low cross shot was just too far in front of Acuna.
To their credit, Cherries quickly settled and enjoyed the better of the chances in what was increasingly becoming an entertaining spectacle.
Much of the Dorset outfit’s best work came from Pugh on the left flank. The Lancastrian’s trickery earned a 32nd-minute free-kick which almost saw Howe’s men restore parity. Pitman’s firm drive was whipped around the defensive wall and looked destined for the net until Hornets stopper Bond produced an exceptional save to divert the ball on to the far post.
Pitman lashed over after being gifted possession by Davide Faraoni’s mis-placed pass and with the action then switching to the opposite end, Hughes’s deflection did just about enough to ensure Acuna’s vicious long-range effort flew narrowly wide.
Cherries should have gone into the interval level after Pugh had perfectly picked out the well-timed run of Andrew Surman, only for the Norwich City loan man to miss the target.
MacDonald came within inches of an equaliser on 57 minutes. Following a surging run from midfield, the Welshman could only fire wide from the rebound after Bond had brilliantly kept out his initial shot.
Bond then saved solidly after Pugh had tried his luck following a heat one-two with Pitman.
Howe called on substitutes Mohamed Coulibaly and Wes Thomas as Cherries continued to push, but it was the hosts who struck an exceptional second goal following a swift break.
Acuna fed Battocchio and the skilful Watford ace needed no second invitation as he composed himself before sending a delightful lob over Allsop and in off the crossbar.
Cherries, whose creativity gave Howe plenty of encouragement, were again left frustrated by the excellent Bond as his superb parry kept out Ward’s powerful header.
And despite plenty of possession in dangerous areas, a goal to spark any late comeback was not in the script as Watford condemned Howe’s men to a third successive away loss.
Watford: (3-5-2) Bond; Belkalem, Ekstrand, Brown (Angella, 62); Faraoni (Anya, 72), Smith, Battocchio, Murray, Pudil; Forestieri, Acuna (McGugan, 84).
Unused subs: Fabbrini, Ikpeazu, O’Nien, Almunia (g/k).
Cherries: (4-1-4-1) Allsop 6; Francis 6.5, Elphick 7, Ward 6, Harte 6; Hughes 7; Fraser 6 (Coulibaly, 62), MacDonald 6 (Thomas, 62), Surman 7.5, Pugh 7.5* (McDermott, 82); Pitman 6.5.
Unused subs: Cook, Grabban, Addison, Flahavan (g/k).
Referee: Darren Deadman (Cambridgeshire)
Attendance: 9,824 (including 509 away supporters)
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