CLARKE NEEDS STRIKER WHO CAN SCORE
ALMEN Abdi gave Steve Clarke a rough return to management as his second half winner edged ten-man Watford past Reading – but the new Royals boss already knows where his problems lie on the pitch.
Swiss midfielder Abdi drilled under Adam Federici in the 70th minute after Hornets’ centre-back Gabriele Angella was sent off moments before half-time for a second yellow card.
Former West Brom manager Clarke was appointed on Tuesday after Nigel Adkins was sacked following Reading’s 6-1 defeat at Birmingham.
And the lack of goalscoring potency from Reading showed new boss Clarke the task in front of him.
“Strikers are there to miss chances, that is what they do,” Clarke said. “Occasionally they get them in the net and that makes everybody happy.
“I’m looking on the pitch and I have all my experienced players out there. As a coach looking for a goal to nick a 1-1 and your goalscorers are on the pitch, you aren’t going to take them off.
“We had a chance to go ahead in the first minute but didn’t take it. We had another couple of chances that on another day could have been goals.”
Referee Gavin Ward booked the hapless Angella for dragging back a countering Glenn Murray before sticking out a hand while slipping to earn his marching orders.
Watford manager Slavisa Jokanovic was left frustrated by the decision, and he said:“It was a soft challenge for the first yellow then he slid accidently. I don’t know if he touched it with his hand.
“Sometimes it is clear when a player should be sent off but I’m not too sure. For English football it was a soft red card.
“Refs sometimes make mistakes, he made a mistake but he’ll be better in the future.”
The Royals should have made the promotion-chasing away side pay for Angella’s misfortune but a series of chances went begging.
Crystal Palace loanee Murray volleyed over inside the first minute before he dragged wide after a low Jordan Obita cross late in the first half.
The striker should have scored ten minutes after the interval as he curled his one-on-one effort wide, attempting to capitalise on a Craig Cathcart missed clearance.
But the chance of the game fell to Nick Blackman who inexplicably dragged his open goal tap in from two yards wide after a cross from Garath McCleary.
“It was a disappointing result, that goes without saying,” Clarke said. “I only had two training sessions and three or four meetings but they tried to put into practice the principles I asked of them.
“By and large we restricted Watford to longer distance shots. I can only remember Adam making two stops. In a strange way I think the sending off helped Watford as it allowed them to cement their game plan.
“In the second half the first goal was always going to be crucial so it’s unfortunate for us it fell to them after we missed two or three chances to make it 1-0 to us."
Watford had few chances throughout but forced Federici into two diving stops in the first half, curtesy of Daniel Purdil’s head and a half volley from the lively Abdi.
But the result gives Watford a four-point buffer in the play-off places after a third straight win.
“It was very important for us to win,” Jokanovic added. “I’m very proud of my team especially in the last 15 minutes where we defended well. It was important to win this type of game. We played very well with ten men and that is very important for a side in our position.
“We had four bad results in a row and now we have won three in a row. It is good for confidence for the club and confidence for the fans.”
OFF YOU GO: Gabriele Angella handles and is shown a second yellow card. Inset: Almen Abdi celebrates the winner for Watford