Watford 0-0 Middlesbrough: Wasteful hornets held by Boro

Watford were left to rue a series of second half missed chances as they were held to a goalless draw with Middlesbrough at Vicarage Road.

Walter Mazzarri’s side have now gone six games without a win and have picked up just two points since their victory over Everton at the start of December.

They should have stopped the rot here, however, against a Boro side who offered little going forward and showed just why they are the lowest scorers in the division.

In the end Aitor Karanka will be more than happy with a point, especially with back-to-back home games against West Ham and West Brom up next.

The visitors more than rode their luck in the final few minutes against the Hornets, as substitute Tom Cleverley hit the post with 10 minutes to go.

Moments later captain Troy Deeney wasted an even better opportunity when he was sent through one-on-one with Victor Valdes - only for the Boro keeper to come out on top.

Change in formation for Boro

Karanka threw up a surprise with his team selection, as the Boro boss elected to deploy a 5-3-2 formation for the first time this season.

The Spaniard made four changes from the side which conquered Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup last weekend, with Victor Valdes, Fabio, Ben Gibson, and Adam Forshaw all returning.

Mazzarri also made alterations after his side’s 2-0 victory over Burton in the cup.

The hosts also lined up in a 5-3-2 formation, although they have played that way for most of the campaign.

Stefano Okaka returned from a hamstring injury and the Italian international was a constant thorn in Boro’s side all afternoon.

The visitors started on the front foot, maintaining possession for long spells and keeping Watford at arm’s length.

Cagey first half at Vicarage Road

The first chance fell to the Hornets, though, when the ball ricocheted off Boro defender Calum Chambers and fell perfectly for Étienne Capoue.

The French midfielder only had Valdes to beat, however the Boro keeper did well to spread himself and managed to avert the danger.

Boro’s change in formation allowed Karanka to deploy two upfront, as Alvaro Negredo and Christian Stuani led the line.

The pair nearly combined to conjure up the game’s first goal, when Negredo nodded down Grant Leadbitter’s cross and Stuani stabbed the ball home. However, the Uruguayan striker had strayed into an offside position.

After that it was Watford who began to take the game by the scruff of the neck, as Boro struggled to cope with the floated balls up to the towering figures of Okaka and Deeney.

Valdes was called into action again to deny Okaka on 26 minutes. Moments later, Chambers was forced to make a crucial clearance which would have presented Abdoulaye Doucoure with a tap-in.

Both sides went close in the first five minutes of the second half, as Okaka tested Valdes again before Fabio stung the palms of Heurelho Gomes at the other end.

In the 72nd minute there was a minute's applause for the former Watford and England manager Graham Taylor, who passed away at the age of 72 earlier this week.

Valdes repels Watford pressure

In the closing stages, there only looked like being one winner as Watford piled on the pressure.

Cleverley, who was making his first appearance for Watford since signing on loan, came off the bench and almost made an instant impact when he slid a shot against the post from Deeney’s flick-on.

The Watford captain could have won it himself when Boro defenders Chambers and Ben Gibson collided, allowing Deeney to go through on goal against Valdes.

Once again Boro were indebted to their valiant keeper. It was only because of him that they escaped with a point.

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