Undergoing their poorest start to a Championship campaign in over ten years after accumulating only four points from their opening three matches to begin the 2023/24 season, Watford manager Valérien Ismaël made two changes to his starting eleven following the 1-0 defeat at Stoke City, with Ismaël Koné and Edo Kayembe surprisingly taking the place of Imran Louza and Jake Livermore.
Meanwhile, after also ending up on the losing side after suffering a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Hull City in front of their own supporters, primarily down to playing the majority of the match with ten men following Harry Pickering’s red card after only 17 minutes, Ismaël’s managerial counterpart, Jon Dahl Tomasson went ahead and replaced the suspended defender with Callum Brittain.
WAT: Bachmann, Andrews, Sema, Porteous, Hoedt; Kayembe, Dele-Bashiru, Koné; Martins, Bayo, Asprilla
BLA: Pears, Brittain, Rankin-Costello, Carter, Hyam; Travis, Morton, Hedges; Szmodics, Dolan, Leonard
Looking to extend their one-sided undefeated H2H home Championship record to seven matches, which dates back over two decades to February 2001, Watford enjoyed the marginal attacking advantage throughout the opening processions at Vicarage Road despite not registering a shot on target.
On the other hand, the visitors had only enjoyed the taste of victory on their footballing palates once across the previous seven league encounters, with Sammie Szmodics the first Rovers player to try and take up the task of righting the wrong, as the in-form striker fired straight at hosts’ number one Daniel Bachmann.
However, it should have been Watford who had broken the deadlock in the 22nd minute, however, Matheus Martins came out second best in his one-on-one duel with Aynsley Pears, as the visiting goalkeeper did sublimely to prevent the on-loan Udinese striker’s effort from nestling into the bottom corner. With a further 11 minutes on the match-day clock, Harry Leonard had an equally glorious opportunity to fire his side ahead before the half-time whistle, nevertheless, the teenage striker somehow managed to fire his strike wide of the mark.
With no significant chances for either side in front of goal throughout the opening exchanges in the second half, both managers turned to their substitutes’ benches as the most recent addition through the doors of Vicarage Road Stadium, Mileta Rajović, appeared out of the dugout for his Hornets’ debut. However, it was Blackburn who would ruthlessly strike at the opposite end of the field, as in the 72nd minute, Ryan Hedges was in the right place at the right time to slot home following a clinical counter-attacking charge.Looking like Watford’s most likely attacking protagonist to find a late equalising goal, Martins was close to getting his name on the scoresheet, but once again, Pears came up with a stunning save to not only secure his first clean sheet of the current Championship campaign but more importantly all three points for his side.
The defeat leaves Watford already stuttering in 15th position in the Championship standings. Blackburn Rovers remain only two points adrift of the early-season play-off contenders ahead of their midweek Carabao Cup trip to Harrogate Town.