It was all going so well. An impressive, incisive team move had Watford one goal to the good within ten minutes, and they added a second just over half an hour later.
And then, in the closing stages of the first half, Everton bounced back, perhaps pouncing on the complacency brewed by their opponents' somewhat comfortable lead. Two goals, both from corners, had them level as the teams headed into the dressing rooms at Vicarage Road for their half-time debriefs.
The Toffees continued their ascendency after the break, but their worked looked in vain when Fabian Delph was sent off for a second bookable offence in the 70th minute. The visitors sat deep and cautious, but were ultimately gifted an opportunity to break away and score with one of the final touches of the game, Theo Walcott caressing the ball home to send the travelling support into raptures.
Clutching at straws it may be after such a damaging blow, but the one silver lining for Watford was the return of Danny Welbeck, who gained over 30 minutes from the bench having been sidelined for a lengthy period of time. Regardless, post-match, the result was the only thing on the forward's mind.
“It’s difficult to take the defeat considering the position we were in," Welbeck admitted. "There are lessons we’ve got to learn from now and see how we can come back from these disappointing moments. How you deal with these ups and downs will test your character and make you who you want to be.”
A harsh blow
Make no mistake, that Walcott goal could cause serious detriment to Watford's ambitions for the rest of this season. Even in spite of a recent upturn in form, their predicament remains precarious. Combine this with a similar defeat to Aston Villa in January, their last league game prior to this, and alarm bells ring.
It will doubtless have an effect on both the players and head coach Nigel Pearson, who began his reign so positively but now faces a degree of the adversity to which the Hornets have become so accustomed this season.
“The manager said a few words and was really down. We need to look at it, analyse it and see where we went wrong. We’ve got to learn from these mistakes and make sure they don’t happen again. You go through so many ups and downs in life you just want to try and keep them to a minimum. We’ll come back stronger.”
Return to first team action
Excitement brewed when Welbeck started against Tottenham Hotspur in October. Here is an England international with valuable experience at major tournaments, both European and global, for club and country.
However, the forward was withdrawn from the field after just four minutes with the hamstring tear which has kept him on the sidelines until now. It was disappointing for a player that promised so much to Watford — he could undoubtedly be a potent weapon for the club should he stay consistently fit.
“It’s difficult having been out through injury. It’s great to get back out on the pitch, it’s a good moment for me, but it’s a bittersweet day. I’m buzzing to be back out on the pitch and involved with the lads, but the result is not something you can be happy about.”
The 29-year old's eyes are set solely on ensuring the team benefit as much as possible from his return: “I’ve just wanted to be on the pitch doing what I can to help the boys and help the club get the results that we want. It’s difficult watching from the sidelines. I’m happy to be back involved and trying to make some impact for the team.”
Defeat to Everton leaves Watford 19th in the standings, two points from safety and with a host of crucial fixtures approaching — none more so than a trip to Brighton & Hove Albion, which will arguably be the most important encounter the Hornets have had to prepare for so far this season.
The pressure is on not only to get the points, but to ensure their relegation rivals don't.
“It’s a massive match next week, but we’ve got to play the game and not the occasion," insisted Welbeck. "It’s important we prepare well tactically, mentally and physically. We want to get points from every single game.”