Watford win at Birmingham | Cleverley: 'It's what I dreamt of last night'


Tom Cleverley celebrated his first match in interim charge of Watford with three points thanks to a hard-fought 1-0 win against strugglers Birmingham.

Emmanuel Dennis’ 44th-minute strike, following an error from the home side, proved enough for Watford to leave St Andrew’s with maximum points.

The Hornets steer further clear of the relegation zone and leave Birmingham embedded in the battle to stay up.

Blues made a bright start to the match, applying early pressure on the Watford defence, and Koji Miyoshi dragged wide the hosts’ first chance of the match.

Emmanuel Dennis celebrates after scoring for Watford at Birmingham
Image:
Emmanuel Dennis celebrates after scoring for Watford at Birmingham

Ethan Laird then narrowly flicked over Juninho Bacuna’s near-post corner before Bacuna found space in the penalty area and had a goal-bound shot blocked.

An energised Birmingham side continued to press for the breakthrough and Bacuna again had a shot blocked inside the penalty area when well placed.

Watford managed to momentarily threaten the Blues goal when Tom Dele-Bashiru curled a left-footed effort over the crossbar.

A second corner fashioned another chance for the hosts as Daniel Bachmann was forced to dive across his goal line and claim an Emanuel Aiwu header.

Birmingham were the masters of their own downfall as they gifted Watford the opening goal.

Aiwu could not control Cody Drameh’s throw-in across his own penalty area and Dennis got the better of the defender before finishing ruthlessly past John Ruddy.

The goal lifted the visitors and Dennis forced Ruddy into a smart low save to deny the striker a quick second goal before half-time.

Watford started the second half the brighter of the two sides and Lee Buchanan had to clear a Mattie Pollock effort off the line before Yaser Asprilla’s shot was cleared over the crossbar.

Birmingham managed to get back into the ascendency and Ivan Sunjic had a good chance to draw the hosts level.

Jay Stansfield drove forward and Sunjic picked up the loose ball in the penalty area but sliced a shot wide from close range.

Blues continued to search for an equaliser and Bachmann made an excellent save to beat away Miyoshi’s drive at goal after an initial effort from Aiwu was blocked.

Substitute Vakoun Bayo nearly made an instant impact for the visitors as his stretching shot flashed across Ruddy’s goal and wide.

Miyoshi spurned another opportunity for the hosts as they continued to apply the pressure on the Watford defence.

Tyler Roberts had a late chance on goal, but Bachmann got down well to save and preserve the points for the visitors.

The managers

Birmingham’s Mark Venus:

“I can’t protect the players for Tuesday, but I can protect them today, I thought they gave everything on the pitch.

“We talk about missing a little bit of quality, that was evident again today, but as far as energy, intensity, desire, purpose and team spirit, that was all there today.”

Venus says his players need be more ruthless in front of goal as they failed to score for a third successive league match.

“We have to finish better, let’s see it as it is, we have to finish better and we have to put the ball in the net,” Venus added.

“We have to raise our quality, we have to do better all those things, all the other things were all there today.”

Watford’s Tom Cleverley:

“It’s exactly what the doctor ordered and it’s what I dreamt of last night. It wasn’t as perfect as it sounds, and we will address some of the problems we faced but I think if the players play with that much desire and heart to stop the ball going in our goal, and we know the quality our team possesses, there’s a bright future in us.

“I came to their game Tuesday and saw them in quite a flat way but today I thought they were excellent, so credit to us for winning the game.

“I can’t praise the back four enough, two academy products, and (Ryan) Porteous was the old head of the four and Dan (Bachmann) was called on a few times, a few more than I like and that’s my job to organise that better.

“The main thing today was the result and that back four deserves a big pat on the back.

“We know that (Emmanuel) Dennis has that explosive burst so as a defender you may think you are comfortable on the ball but then he appears from nowhere.

“We spoke to the players, we thought we’d create chances through high regains today and we didn’t win as many balls as we liked but the one that mattered went in.”



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