Middlesbrough stung by the Hornets

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MIDDLESBROUGH boss Tony Mowbray believed his side were the architects of their own downfall in a damaging home defeat to Watford.

Boro dominated the first half but spurned some good chances then gifted Watford an opener seconds before the break.

In the second half, as Boro chased the game, the lively Czech striker scored another on the break before Scott McDonald clawed back a stoppage-time consolation.

“We beat ourselves really,” said Mowbray. “We were well on top in the first half and our game plan was working just as we planned but we just couldn’t score the goal we needed and then found ourselves behind.

“We dominated the first 45 minutes in terms of possession and maybe 90 per cent of the game was played in their half – and we had some really good chances but didn’t make them count.

“But then they scored and that changed the game completely. We had to throw caution to the wind and commit men forward and empty the midfield and against Watford that is always a risk.

“They are the best team in this division in that situation and as we pushed forward they punished us. We learned a lesson today.”

Boro made all the running in the first half. Emmanuel Ledesma’s 30-yard effort in the second minute warmed Manuel Almunia’s hands and Lukaz Jutkiewicz’s shot from inside the penalty area was blocked by Watford defender Joel Ekstrand. George Friend then blasted the subsequent corner over the bar.

Forward Scott McDonald was next to test Almunia with a vicious 25-yard shot and Jutkiewicz dragged a left-footed effort wide from the edge of the area in the 16th minute.

Seb Hines then blazed his shot from six yards off target from Grant Leadbitter’s corner as Boro did everything bar score in the opening half an hour.

Watford saw enough of the ball, but by the time Almunia had turned away Ledesma’s angled shot in the 42nd minute, the visitors had failed to muster a single effort on goal.

But in time added on at the end of the first half Watford struck against the run of play with their first shot of the game.

Matej Vydra pounced on a loose ball in the area and drilled a left-footed shot beyond Boro goalkeeper Jason Steele into the bottom corner.

Boro were still reeling after the restart and Vydra forced Steele into his first save when blocking the striker’s 20-yard shot.

Adam Reach (twice), Ledesma and Haris Faroun all tried their luck from outside the area, the latter’s superbly held by Almunia before Boro boss Mowbray sent on Ishmael Miller for Jutkiewicz in the 69th minute.

Substitute midfielder Merouane Zemmama was then sent on for Ledesma as Mowbray looked to salvage a point, but Watford went close to extending their lead when Vydra’s close-range effort forced a fine reflex save from Steele.

But Steele was helpless when Vydra steered home his second in the 83rd minute, taking Abdi’s cross from the left in his stride to bury another finish into the bottom corner.

McDonald headed home Reach’s cross in the 93rd minute, but it was a mere consolation.

Middlesbrough: Steele, Friend, Bailey, Hines, Rhys Williams, Haroun, Leadbitter, McEachran (Reach 57), Ledesma (Zemmama 71), McDonald, Jutkiewicz (Miller 69). Subs Not Used: Leutwiler, Thomson, Parnaby, Smallwood. Booked: McDonald. Goals: McDonald 90.

Watford: Almunia, Doyley, Ekstrand, Nosworthy, Cassetti, Abdi, Battocchio, Chalobah (Eustace 84), Pudil, Deeney, Vydra (Yeates 89). Subs Not Used: Bond, Forsyth, Anya, Geijo, Forestieri. Goals: Vydra 45, 83.

Att: 17, 499 Ref: Mark Brown (East Yorkshire).