Sam Clucas stunner seals another massive home win for Hull City
Hull City made it four consecutive wins at the KCOM Stadium to stay two points clear of the Premier League's relegation zone but the circumstances made this latest victory all the more special.
Despite being reduced to 10 men midway through the first half when Oumar Niasse was harshly shown a straight red card, the Tigers found the resolve to frustrate Watford and then strike on the counter attack. Lazar Markovic's opener was followed up by a sublime strike from Sam Clucas to continue Marco Silva's extraordinary home record. It is now 19 points from a possible 21 at the KCOM for City's head coach.
If it was not clear before, it is now. City have character in abundance on home soil. No matter the adversity thrown their way at the KCOM Stadium, they dust themselves down and come up smiling. To be reduced to 10 men after 25 minutes yet still beat a competent Watford side was arguably the result of City's Premier League season.
Clucas' spectacular goal will live long in the memory but credit was due for a defence that earned a first clean-sheet since Feb. 5. With Eldin Jakupovic pulling off a couple of fine saves, Watford could not find a way to capitalise on their numerical advantage.
Bobby Madley's decision to send off Niasse did not cost City a win but it might yet deprive them of their most prolific player in 2017. Although an appeal will be lodged against the straight red card, there are no guarantees Niasse will be able to duck a three-match suspension. If the ban stands, the striker will not be seen again until the final day of the season, missing the games with Southampton, Sunderland and Crystal Palace. Seeing Swansea ride their luck to beat Stoke 2-0 at the Liberty Stadium was the only other cloud in the sky on a bright day for City.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- A bold call to drop Tom Huddlestone was justified by the breathless performances of Clucas and Alfred N'Diaye in midfield. Silva also instilled belief in his side at the interval that an unlikely win was still very much on.
Player ratings (1-10, 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Eldin Jakupovic, 8 -- A save in each half, first from Sebastian Prodl and then Etienne Capoue, were crucial in keeping Watford at bay before City went on to capitalise at the other end. A much needed clean sheet.
DF Ahmed Elmohamady, 7 -- Dropped for last week's trip to Stoke but responded well on his recall. Gave City a good attacking outlet in the first half and then dropped deeper to keep Watford's threats to a minimum down his flank.
DF Harry Maguire, 7 -- Almost got off to a terrible start with a misdirected back pass but shrugged off those nerves to play a big part in City's unyielding defensive effort. Continues to be an influential figure in the survival push.
DF Andrea Ranocchia, 8 -- Against Walter Mazzarri, the coach who once made him captain of Inter Milan, the Italian defender stood up very well against Troy Deeney. Crisp awareness and always strong in the air.
DF Andy Robertson, 7 -- Successfully shackled the dangerous Nordin Amrabat and also staged the raid that brought City their opener. It was the left-back's break down the right flank that typified his team's fearless effort.
MF Lazar Markovic, 7 -- Bagged a second goal since arriving on loan from Liverpool and it was worth its weight in gold. A real menace to Watford in the second half, exploiting the spaces that were left as the visitors pushed on.
MF Alfred N'Diaye, 8 -- A towering figure in midfield, covering more ground than any other player. A surprise inclusion ahead of Huddlestone but that added mobility and bite made the Tigers a more physical opponent.
MF Sam Clucas, 8 -- The central midfielder is unlikely to have scored a better goal than the half-volley that sealed all three points. Broke up play efficiently and rarely gave up possession. Another big performance.
MF Evandro, 5 -- A return to the starting XI lasted just 45 minutes when he was the one taken off in favour of Abel Hernandez. The Brazilian could not have too many complaints after an error-strewn contribution.
MF Kamil Grosicki, 7 -- The Polish winger appeared anxious through the first half but he grew into the contest, sending in the cross that set up Markovic for the opener. That pace on the counter was vital.
FW Oumar Niasse, n/a -- Desperately unfortunate to be sent off for such a tame challenge in the centre circle. A day that began with him leading the line ended prematurely with his first red card in English football.
FW Abel Hernandez, 6 -- Thrown on at half-time to give City an outlet up front and duly did the running of two men.
MF Tom Huddlestone, n/a -- Unlucky to be dropped. Helped his team over the line in the closing 10 minutes.
DF Michael Dawson, n/a -- The club captain helped wind down the clock.