Tufan penalty earns Hull win to further dent Watford’s play-off hopes
Watford’s faint hopes of reaching the Sky Bet Championship play-offs suffered another jolt with a 1-0 defeat at Hull.
Ozan Tufan’s 25th-minute penalty against his former club condemned Chris Wilder’s side to a second consecutive defeat that now leaves them six points adrift of the top six.
Wilder can have no complaints as Watford lacked passion and energy, most notably in the first half, and rarely threatened Hull goalkeeper Karl Darlow.
And though Wilder’s men pressed relatively hard for an equaliser after the interval, it never looked like coming.
Mid-table Hull have little to play for, but they were resolute and strong from the outset and deserved to win.
They were, however, second best in the early stages of the game as Watford were the more controlled side.
But the hosts soon warmed to the task as the first half developed, with Jean Michael Seri a growing influence through the middle of the park.
Indeed, Seri was a major presence in the decisive goal when he found Tufan in a pocket of space just outside the Watford penalty area.
Tufan passed to Harry Vaughan, whose cute back-heel from the edge of the box teed up Regan Slater on the left.
Slater jinked inside the area and was upended by Ryan Andrews, with Tufan smashing home the resulting spot-kick into the bottom-left corner.
Watford’s response was uninspiring, but they were nearly gifted an equaliser four minutes later.
A hopeful, and arguably hopeless, ball from the back was not dealt with by centre-back Sean McLoughlin, who made an awful mess of what should have been a routine header to safety.
Joao Pedro was through on goal, but an onrushing Darlow and poor judgement from the Watford captain saw the ball sail over the crossbar.
Wilder will have been partially impressed by Watford’s response in the second half as they at least showed a modicum of spirit.
A sustained spell of pressure also led to what might have been a valid claim for a penalty after 63 minutes when Seri was alleged to have handled the ball off a dangerous cross.
Referee Oliver Langford instead waved play on, much to the frustration of Wilder and his players.
Visiting fans might have anticipated a stirring revival thereafter, but, if anything, Hull looked the greater threat on the counter-attack.
That was until the 84th minute when another aimless ball into the Hull penalty area was this time misjudged by Jacob Greaves.
Ismaila Sarr tried to flick the ball over Darlow, but the on-loan Newcastle goalkeeper brilliantly anticipated the danger by pawing the ball away for a corner.
That was as good as it got for Watford, who will have much to consider on the long journey back home.