Daily Star Sunday - - RESULT! - By Harry Pratt

McCarthy 7; Soares 6, Hoedt 7, Yoshida 6, Ber­trand 6; Ho­jb­jerg 7, Lem­ina 6; Arm­strong 7 (Ward-Prowse (73rd) 6), Red­mond 6 (Obafemi 90th), Gab­bia­dini 8; Ings 6 (Austin (40th) 6)

CON­TRO­VERSY reigned supreme on the south coast af­ter both Southamp­ton and Watford felt they were robbed of vic­tory by bungling of­fi­cials.

But while Hor­nets boss Javi Gra­cia re­fused to point the fin­ger of blame at ref­eree Si­mon Hooper for fail­ing to award them a bla­tant sec­ond-half penalty, op­po­site num­ber Mark Hughes was rather less for­giv­ing.

Maybe the Saints’ des­per­ate need for a morale-boost­ing first home win of the cam­paign was be­hind their man­ager’s post-match blast over the off­side de­ci­sion that stopped Char­lie Austin mak­ing it 2-0 in the 67th minute.

Had that been al­lowed, the hosts would surely have taken the points and be sit­ting three clear of the rel­e­ga­tion zone.

As it is, six games with­out a win at home is the worst start to a cam­paign in the club’s his­tory – and only goal dif­fer­ence is keeping them out of the bot­tom three.

Time for Hughes to let rip. The un­der-pressure Saints chief said: “It was clearly a goal. The ref said it hit Maya Yoshida on the way in but he was a yard away from Char­lie’s shot. That would have made it 2-0 and in my opin­ion would have fin­ished the game. Our per­for­mance was good and de­served three points.

“We were given an in­ex­pe­ri­enced ref­eree. It was his fourth game at this level. Would he be given the Manch­ester derby? Ab­so­lutely not. He was not up to the stan­dard re­quired.”

Hughes was then asked what he made of the penalty in­ci­dent at the other end. He added: “That proves my point. He got that wrong too.”

That rant was in stark con­trast to the con­sid­ered, mea­sured re­sponse of Gra­cia a few min­utes ear­lier.

The Hor­nets chief, who is close to agree­ing a new three-year deal, said: “It was im­pos­si­ble for me to see but WATFORD: Foster 7; Fe­me­nia 6, Mari­appa 7, Cath­cart 6, Hole­bas 8; Doucoure 7, Chalobah 6, Hughes 6 (Deeney (40th) 7), Pereyra 7 (Gray (68th) 7); Deulofeu 6, Suc­cess 7 Nathaniel Chalobah told me it was clear. Their player had al­ready been booked and may have been sent off. So it would have changed the game. But I pre­fer not to talk about the ref­eree. He has a dif­fi­cult job.”

Hughes’ prepa­ra­tions had been rocked on Thurs­day by the sack­ing of his board­room ally, vice chair­man Les Reed.

The trou­ble is that since Hughes was given a three-year deal in the sum­mer there has been lit­tle sign of progress and im­prove­ment.

The mood among the home fans be­fore­hand was about as dark as the thun­der­ous weather bat­ter­ing the re­gion. And it was nearly a case of ‘it never rains but it pours’ for Hughes as the vis­i­tors, who had lost last week­end at Newcastle, be­gan well.

They should have scored af­ter four min­utes but Ger­ard Deulofeu had too much time to think be­fore Saints stop­per Alex

McCarthy saved smartly. Manolo Gab­bia­dini S Hooper Fulham (A), Nov 24 Liver­pool (H), Nov 24 Mo­ments later Isaac Suc­cess also went close for the vis­i­tors with a de­flected ef­fort.

Wes­ley Hoedt’s tow­er­ing header was stopped by Ben Foster but the one-time Eng­land keeper was help­less to pre­vent Manolo Gab­bia­dini fir­ing in from the re­sult­ing 19th-minute cor­ner.

Roberto Pereyra was the Hor­nets’ culprit, mis­con­trol­ling in the box – and the Ital­ian hit­man pounced to break his duck for the cam­paign.

The Saints faith­ful mock­ingly chanted: “We want two” – which was sound ad­vice be­cause Watford soon re­gained a foothold af­ter the break.

They were de­nied a spot-kick in the 57th-minute when Ryan Ber­trand hacked down Chalobah. Some­how Hooper failed to see the foul.

Ten min­utes later Austin thought he had sealed a price­less win only to have his cel­e­bra­tions cut short by the off­side flag.

Not for the Saints striker but for Yoshida, who was deemed to have headed the ball in. No won­der Austin slammed the de­ci­sion as a ‘joke’.

That led to a fran­tic fi­nale that brought Watford their just re­ward in the 82nd minute. It needed two lucky ric­o­chets for the ball to ar­rive at Jose Hole­bas’ feet and then a huge de­flec­tion for the Greek mid­fielder’s blis­ter­ing ef­fort to beat McCarthy.

SOUTHAMP­TON: ■ PLEASED AS PUNCH: Jose Hole­bas cel­e­brates his equaliser STAR MAN:REF: Southamp­ton’s next game: Watford’s next game: ■DUMB­FOUNDED: Char­lie Austin can­not be­lieve his strike has been ruled out ■SWEET STRIKE: Hole­bas lev­els things up at St Mary’s

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