Cardiff boss Erol Bulut accused his players of not working hard enough in their 1-1 draw with Watford.

The Bluebirds manager watched his side fade markedly after taking the lead in the 26th minute through Mark McGuinness.

The centre-half’s far-post volley from a Joe Ralls corner suggested a comfortable afternoon might be in store for the hosts against a Hornets outfit that had lost their three previous Sky Bet Championship outings.

But while the equaliser from Watford striker Vakoun Bayo arrived after a howler by Cardiff goalkeeper Jak Alnwick, the hosts never did enough to win.

Bulut said: “The first 35 minutes was good, but I don’t know what happened afterwards. We totally changed.

“I don’t know why, whether it was pressure or they were stressed. In the end we have to be happy with one point.

“Perhaps after four wins in a row we thought we were great, but we have to work, and today we didn’t work as a group.

“I am satisfied with the start of the season, but not with today.”

It was a shocking mistake by Alnwick, which left the Cardiff City Stadium stunned.

There appeared no danger when McGuinness played a square pass with his team set to clear their defensive lines.

But Alnwick’s first touch was horrid, the ball bouncing off his boot into the path of Bayo who side-footed into an empty net.

Asked about Alnwick’s howler, Bulut said: “We played too many balls back to the goalkeeper which was not necessary.

“We created the chances for them. When we have the chance to play forward, we must do it. You can use the goalkeeper, but not too much.”

It was no more than Watford deserved, with boss Valerien Ismael insisting his side should have taken all three points.

They improved a lot in the second half, enjoying more possession and creating the better opportunities.

Ismael said: “We should have won, no doubt about that. When a team has lost three games and is low on confidence it is difficult.

“We didn’t trust our own quality. The mentality in the second half was very good and we did not concede any chances.

“We expected more points than we have but we will take it step by step. The goal we conceded was incredible, just too easy. But we kept fighting.”

Jak Alnwick’s second-half howler allowed Watford to claim a 1-1 draw at Cardiff in the Sky Bet Championship.

The Cardiff goalkeeper’s clumsy control of a harmless pass from centre-half Mark McGuinness gifted a 54th-minute equaliser to Hornets striker Vakoun Bayo.

The Bluebirds had taken the lead in the 26th minute through McGuinness, but never played with the energy they needed to bounce back from their midweek defeat at Middlesbrough.

Watford boss Valerien Ismael may feel his side deserved all three points but at least they stopped a run of three successive defeats.

Cardiff went into the game with injuries depriving them of significant firepower but that did not stop the hosts creating all the early chances.

Ike Ugbo, holding the forward line in the absence of others, came within inches of connecting with a rebound after Watford goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann palmed away a shot by midfielder Karlan Grant in the 17th minute.

Grant then found himself clean through at the midway point of the first half, only to blaze a careless attempt high over the crossbar.

The Hornets failed to heed the warnings, and in the 26th minute they fell behind to a goal that will have incensed manager Ismael.

A corner by Cardiff captain Joe Ralls was allowed to float to the far post where McGuinness converted a simple close-range volley.

Watford were not without threat up to the interval, but undid much of their good work in the final third with misdirected or overhit passes.

Striker Bayo dragged a clumsy shot wide when in space on the edge of the penalty area in the 33rd minute, but Watford saved their worst example of wastefulness until added time at the end of the half.

A back-pass by Cardiff defender Perry Ng was intercepted by Bayo, only for the Hornets man to lose control of the ball as he tried to round Alnwick.

There was a sense the equaliser might be coming, but nobody could have foreseen just how it would come in the 54th minute.

When a Watford attack broke down McGuinness played what looked a safe square ball to Alnwick, but the goalkeeper’s touch was hideous, the ball bouncing off him to Bayo who this time punished the error by side-footing home.

The leveller was reward for a marked Watford improvement which saw Ismael’s men take the ascendancy in midfield and offer far more menace going forward.

In the 78th minute another Cardiff error – this time a careless pass from Ryan Wintle – served up a glorious chance for Hornets substitute Tom Ince, who skied his shot into the stands.

Neither side could fashion a winner, and there was sense of frustration all round at full-time.

Sunderland boss Tony Mowbray has challenged his players to keep their impressive run going after a 2-0 win over Watford kept them fourth in the Championship.

Full-back Niall Huggins’ thunderous first goal of his professional career put the Black Cats on course for three points two minutes before half-time.

Abdoullah Ba’s back-post header in the 62nd minute effectively sealed the points before the Hornets had substitute Ryan Andrews sent off for a reckless tackle on Jack Clarke late on.

It was Sunderland’s sixth win in eight matches, leaving them six points off the top two ahead of Saturday’s meeting with neighbours Middlesbrough.

Mowbray said: “I’m delighted for Niall. He has had a tough time in the year or so I’ve been here with injury. Yet he’s had really high moments too.

“We did huff and puff for 45 minutes but we got the job done. I thought the centre-backs were amazing tonight. I’m pleased with them all, we have goals all over the pitch.

“We have to keep going. We kept a clean sheet and got three points.

“The moment normally comes from Jack Clarke or Patrick Roberts, and yet Niall comes up with an amazing goal.

“We preserved what we were doing. Sitting here now with 2-0 feels good. It was a dangerous game.

“I’m not sure Watford’s results warrant the talent they have. I am just pleased we have three points and move on to the next one.”

Niall Huggins’ brilliant first goal in professional football helped Sunderland to stay fourth in the Championship courtesy of a 2-0 win over Watford.

It was a goal to remember for the 22-year-old full-back, who moved from Leeds two years ago, after his thunderous effort flew in off the underside of the bar two minutes before half-time.

And this young Sunderland side went on to claim a sixth win from their last eight matches after Abdoullah Ba’s 62nd-minute header left Watford wondering when things will take a turn for the better.

The Hornets, who handed head coach Valerien Ismael a contract extension on Tuesday, have only won once since the opening weekend of the season and sit 21st.

Watford’s miserable night got worse with three minutes remaining when substitute Ryan Andrews was given a straight red card for a reckless tackle on Jack Clarke on halfway.

Huggins’ opener arrived out of the blue. Even though Sunderland controlled much of the possession for the first half an hour they had very little to show for it.

Patrick Roberts looked lively when he was on the ball but the only time the home side tested the goalkeeper was when Jobe Bellingham drove low into Daniel Bachmann’s arms.

Other than that Watford grew in confidence as the half wore on and had worked Anthony Patterson from distance too.

Tom Ince and Giorgi Chakvetadze, making his first start since moving on loan from Gent, both curled efforts into the arms of the Sunderland goalkeeper.

Just when it seemed Watford might gain an advantage a crucial two minutes arrived just before the break and ended with the home side leading.

Moments after referee Andy Davies allowed play to go on despite Sunderland captain Luke O’Nien appearing to consciously barge into Watford’s Francisco Sierralta at one end, there was a moment of brilliance at the other.

Sunderland worked their way through the lines before Huggins took over on the right. He worked his way inside, beating Chakvetadze and then Wesley Hoedt, before his rasping 18-yard drive flew in off the bar.

There were Watford complaints to the official as the two teams left the field and after the restart the visitors started the brighter without finding the net.

Sunderland created the best of the second-half chances. Dan Ballard headed over from Roberts’ back post free-kick on the hour.

Soon after that it was 2-0. When striker Mason Burstow clipped a cross to the back post, Bellingham headed back across the six-yard box where Ba was on hand to nod high into the net.

After that it became a routine night. Substitute Adil Aouchiche had an effort cleared off the line by Ryan Porteous after he ran clean through and there was no way back after Andrews saw red.

Middlesbrough manager Michael Carrick praised local boy Josh Coburn after the 20-year-old scored his side’s winning goal in the 3-2 victory over Watford at Vicarage Road.

Coburn, who almost moved away from the Riverside to Plymouth on loan during the transfer window, scored the winner as Boro made it back-to-back victories following a seven-game winless run to begin the Championship season.

Carrick said: “I’m delighted for Josh. It was a big goal for him. Being a local lad coming through, it’s great and what he’s dreamt of for a long time.

“His performance this week has been really good for what he’s given the team and how he’s stepped up. He’s improving all the time so it’s really encouraging.”

Riley McGree’s double put Boro 2-0 up after 12 minutes but they were pegged back to 2-2 before Coburn secured a second successive victory.

Carrick added: “It was a very good win. A bit of all sorts in there. We started well and then let them back into it out of nowhere.

“But we managed to find a way. Being 2-2 after going 2-0 up and still winning shows a lot of character and a lot of heart. I thought we dug in well after half-time. It’s not easy when you start the game so well and then lose the flow.

“It’s been a big week in terms of results. Winning games does give you extra zip, extra energy and a little bit of confidence.

“I did feel it was coming. We’ve probably played better in games and lost this season. It just shows that you’ve got top go through that spell and earn it really, to come out on top.”

One worrying note for Boro was an injury to midfielder Lewis O’Brien which Carrick admitted may be serious.

He said: “We are fearing the worst for Lewis. We’ll have to wait for scans on the bottom of his shin bone, but it doesn’t look good and he could be out for a bit of time.”

Watford manager Valerien Ismael blamed himself for his side’s defeat and for a tactical change that led to Middlesbrough’s early two-goal lead.

McGree took advantage of too much space in the home defence to side-foot home passes on both occasions.

Vakoun Bayo raced clear to reduce the Watford arrears before Wesley Hoedt equalised with an outrageous half-volley after 51 minutes.

Ismael said: “I’m not very happy with myself. Today is on me, the first half, because we tried to change the shape and tactically.

“It didn’t work out like I expected, especially when the opponents score goals quickly. Then the confidence goes low. I cannot blame the players.

“Out of possession was difficult today and we struggled to control the midfield due to my decision.

“We came back but if you start the game two down, it takes a lot of energy to come back into the game. I made the wrong call in the first half. It was my responsibility and I’m frustrated with myself.

“We are still seeking the flow you get when everything goes in the right direction. It’s a process we need to go through, but it’s clear that we are conceding too many goals at the minute.

“The good thing is that are creating a lot of chances and scoring. We have to find the right balance now.

“We are on a difficult run, but the good thing is that the next game is on Wednesday.”

Watford travel to Sunderland on Wednesday with Ismael admitting that he needs to turn his side’s confidence around.

He added: “We want to win games and when you don’t, it’s painful and frustrating. It’s always the same in the Championship. The games come quickly.

“When you win games, you’ve got momentum and you enjoy the next game. When you don’t, the confidence isn’t that high and the next game becomes difficult.

“But it’s only September so there’s still a long way to go, but I don’t have the feeling that we are powerless or that we have no idea.”

Middlesbrough recovered from letting an early two-goal lead slip to secure a rousing 3-2 victory at Watford and continue their climb up the Championship table.

After collecting just two points from their opening seven league games, Michael Carrick’s side have now managed successive victories.

Local boy Josh Coburn scored the 63rd-minute winner that halted an improbable comeback by Watford, who now sit just a point above their visitors having won just one of their last eight league fixtures.

Boro, who won their first league game of the campaign last weekend, raced into a 2-0 lead after only 12 minutes, courtesy of Riley McGree’s brace.

Their opening goal was one of stunning simplicity. Jonny Howson slid the ball in front of McGree, who had drifted between defenders. If that gap was large, so was the one left by Watford goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann at his near post into which McGree calmly steered his shot.

After Vakoun Bayo had steered a tame header wide at the other end, Boro extended their lead, again with the greatest of ease.

Matt Crooks moved into the Watford penalty area unchallenged and slid the ball square to McGree, who side-footed another shot past the motionless Bachmann.

Having been gifted the space in which to carve out opportunities in the Watford half, the visitors then reciprocated when Dael Fry failed to cut out a Ryan Porteous through ball and Bayo slid his shot under the advancing Seny Dieng to bring hope back to Vicarage Road.

Just as Watford had not learned their lesson, neither did Fry. The Middlesbrough central defender failed to cut out another forward pass, this time from Yaser Asprilla, and allowed Bayo to sprint clear again. This time, Dieng forced the Watford striker wide and watched on gratefully as Bayo skewed his shot wide.

The home side drew level in the 51st minute after Dieng had flung himself low down to his left to brilliantly parry away a downward Bayo header.

From the resulting corner, Imran Louza’s delivery found its way to the edge of the Boro area where Wesley Hoedt connected with an extraordinary half-volley.

Middlesbrough set about trying to retake the lead.

Isaiah Jones’ control let him down as he sprinted on to one Crooks pass, but Coburn was less profligate when Crooks split the Watford defence with another.

The 20-year-old, whose introduction into the Boro side by Carrick has coincided with their upturn in form, calmly stroked the ball past Bachmann.

The visitors held on this time but only just as Watford substitute Matheus Martins cut inside and curled a shot that clipped the crossbar three minutes into added time.

Daniel Farke praised the quality of forward Georginio Rutter after he played a part in two goals in the 3-0 Championship victory over Watford at Elland Road.

Second-half goals from Joel Piroe, Sam Byram and Jaidon Anthony sealed three points for Leeds as Rutter put in perhaps his best performance in a United shirt.

Piroe gave Leeds the lead midway through the second half as he volleyed home to finish off a fine move by Farke’s side.

Byram capped his return to the side as he headed in from a corner and Anthony’s late goal moved Leeds up to fifth in the table having seen off a Watford outfit who rarely threatened.

Farke said of Rutter: “I think we can be absolutely happy with him today, his work ethic. He is great in linking the play.

“He is still a relatively young lad, it’s important that we were concentrated on scoring the first goal.

“He had great assists, it was a top-class performance. He deserves all the praise today.”

Despite seeing his side score three goals, Farke claimed he was most pleased with keeping a clean sheet.

Farke explained: “It was an exciting game, especially the second half. That we were able to return to the dressing room with a clean sheet was pleasing.

“We created so many chances in the first half. In the second half we were able to turn our domination into goals.

“The focus was very pleasing for me and I am very pleased with the clean sheet.”

Leeds could not find a way past Watford goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann until the 67th minute when Piroe volleyed in at the far post from a Dan James cross after Rutter’s strength on halfway had seen him release the winger down the right.

Leeds made it 2-0 within four minutes as the unmarked Byram got on the end of James’ corner to power a header past Bachmann.

When Watford did get into the Leeds area half-time substitute Vakoun Bayo steered his shot off target which said a lot about the lack of quality shown by Valerien Ismael’s side.

Substitute Anthony sealed the win as he was released by Rutter on halfway before steering his shot past Bachmann with a minute remaining.

Leeds goalkeeper Illan Meslier was finally called into action in stoppage time when he tipped over a rising shot from Giorgi Chakvetadze.

Ismael admitted Leeds had been better on the day and deserved to take three points.

He said: “Congratulations to Leeds, I think they deserved the win. They had more desire.

“We knew when you come here you have to be strong. Second half we changed the shape and I think we were more stable but when we conceded the first goal we knew after that it would be difficult.”

Ismael admitted his players had failed the make the home side work as hard as he would have liked.

He said: “From our side when you come here we know we have to make it harder. We lost the ball too easy, we did not have the confidence we have normally.

“We have to learn, to make sure we compete at that level and show that quality. We wanted to play well but in the first half they put us under massive pressure.

“They were better today, it was as simple as that. They didn’t make mistakes, they were clinical in the second half.”

Second-half goals from Joel Piroe, Sam Byram and Jaidon Anthony earned Leeds a deserved 3-0 Championship win over Watford at Elland Road.

Piroe gave Leeds the lead midway through the second half as he volleyed home to finish off a fine move by Daniel Farke’s side.

Byram capped his return to the side as he headed in from a corner and Anthony’s late goal moved Leeds up to fifth in the table having seen off a Watford outfit who rarely threatened.

Leeds nearly took an early lead when a low shot from Ethan Ampadu was kept out by Daniel Bachmann after five minutes.

Georginio Rutter got on the end of Dan James’ clever ball into the box but could not steer his touch wide of Bachmann as Leeds continued their fine start to the game.

Leeds thought they had taken the lead 20 minutes in when Rutter controlled the ball on the edge of the area and beat Bachmann but the forward had been offside when he collected a pass from Piroe.

Leeds were again denied when Crysencio Summerville saw Bachmann dive to his right to save his low shot with nearly half an hour gone.

Rutter required lengthy treatment after being fouled by Francisco Sierralta 25 yards out but the home side failed to capitalise from the free-kick.

Summerville shot straight at Bachmann 10 minutes before the break as Watford continued to soak up pressure.

Piroe’s pass with the outside of his left foot sent James clear but when he collided with Jamal Lewis in the area referee Jeremy Simpson awarded a goal-kick.

Watford enjoyed a brief period in the Leeds half towards the end of a first period during which they had failed to produce an attempt on goal.

The lively Summerville was at the heart of most of Leeds’ attacking moves but when he got on the end of Rutter’s pass he found Bachmann was again equal to his low effort just before the hour.

Summerville set up Piroe but his shot from the edge of the area was well over the bar as Leeds were frustrated once again.

Leeds finally broke the deadlock after 66 minutes when Piroe volleyed in at the far post from a James cross after Rutter’s strength on halfway had seen him release the winger down the right.

Leeds made it 2-0 within four minutes as the unmarked Byram got on the end of James’ corner to power a header past Bachmann.

When Watford did get into the Leeds area half-time substitute Vakoun Bayo steered his shot off target which said a lot about the lack of quality shown by Valerien Ismael’s side.

Substitute Anthony sealed the win as he was released by Rutter on halfway before steering his shot past Bachmann with a minute remaining.

Watford head coach Valerien Ismael was unhappy with errors from his side in their 2-2 draw against West Brom.

The hosts took the lead and lost it again within the first 17 minutes before fighting back at a drenched Vicarage Road.

With the game declining as a spectacle due to the conditions, Ismael believed his side were too sloppy.

He said: “We made a mistake and we gave West Brom a chance to stay in the game.

“To come back into the game shows a great mentality. We do the right thing but if we want to improve we have to avoid mistakes – to be more ruthless.

“At the minute we take too many chances to score. Sometimes it works well, so this is what we take from the game.

“If you see their second goal, it’s incredible. It’s a process when you work with young players you have to be patient.”

Those braving the rain in Hertfordshire witnessed a pulsating opening 23 minutes.

Tom Ince netted his first goal for Watford after just three minutes but West Brom responded with a John Swift free-kick and a Jed Wallace strike to lead 14 minutes later.

But Watford replied when Matheus Martins picked the ball up, made his way to the edge of the area and struck sweetly past Alex Palmer.

The contest saw no further goals, although Daniel Bachmann had to turn away a Brandon Thomas-Asante drive after the break.

Alex Palmer was made to turn a header from Ismael Kone on to the crossbar and away to safety, but a point was enough for both sides.

West Brom head coach Carlos Corberan wanted his side to be firmer in their play.

He said: “We conceded an early goal, it was a poor start to the game. We played a ball we shouldn’t have done.

“In general, I had the feeling in the first half that we were too deep, we were not aggressive enough in pressing them.

“Today, I liked the reaction of the team after the first goal, we should have been more aggressive in defence.

“There was a lot of effort but it was not the most technical game. We will analyse, review and improve.”

Watford and West Brom played out a 2-2 draw with all four goals at a wet Vicarage Road coming in the first 23 minutes.

Tom Ince gave the hosts a third-minute lead but John Swift and Jed Wallace replied in the next 14 minutes for the Baggies.

Matheus Martins responded for the Hornets but neither side was able to find a winner in the Championship fixture.

Fresh from their win over Birmingham last Saturday, Watford made a sole change with Ismael Kone replacing Tom Dele-Bashiru while West Brom were unchanged from their goalless draw at Bristol City.

The hosts soon took the lead as a move involving five players eventually saw Imran Louza give the ball to Ince, who curled a fine effort into the top right hand corner – his first goal since arriving from Reading this summer.

Stunned by conceding so early, West Brom pressed forward and delivered a stinging reply of their own with two goals in three minutes.

Swift’s 14th-minute free-kick on the edge of the area left Daniel Bachmann stranded before captain Wallace turned home past the Watford goalkeeper after a low cross from Darnell Furlong.

Watford replied when Matheus Martins picked the ball up, made his way to the edge of the area, and struck sweetly past Alex Palmer.

Kone could have put the hosts ahead in the 35th minute after collecting a Martins pass, but his lofted effort went just over the bar.

With the Hertfordshire rain getting even harder after the interval, the defences were notably tighter – limiting the chances both teams were able to carve out.

Bachmann had to turn over a fierce drive from Brandon Thomas-Asante 10 minutes after the restart.

At the other end, Palmer was made to turn a header from Kone on to the crossbar and away to safety.

Both teams looked for the winning effort in a contest that remained finely poised after the first half flurry of goals.

Thomas-Asante was foiled by the onrushing Bachmann with 10 minutes to go after he was fed through by Jeremy Sarmiento.

With six minutes of added time announced, the hosts looked to repeat their previous game against Birmingham by netting the decisive strike late on.

However, the visitors held firm and left Hertfordshire with a hard-fought point.

Manager Valerien Ismael believes Watford’s dramatic late 2-0 home victory over 10-man Birmingham will give his side a huge lift.

The Hornets went into the game having won just one of their opening five matches and appeared set for more frustration before the visitors lost Lee Buchanan to a second yellow card in the 88th minute.

Watford took full advantage, scoring twice in added time through Mileta Rajovic and Ryan Andrews to give them a first win since the opening day of the season.

Ismael said: “I think that if we have a review of the first five games we should have more points but we made a lot of mistakes.

“Today was important for the mental side that we finally got the reward. We forced the red card and we forced the goals.

“Hopefully that will give the confidence to our players for the next game.”

Ismael was full of praise for substitute Yaser Asprilla, who drew the foul from Buchanan that led to the Birmingham full-back’s dismissal before teeing up Rajovic for the opening goal.

He added: “Everyone can see he has the quality to be a key player. He can be something special but sometimes we just missed the outcome.

“We work with him every week, we speak with him and say it is now time to step up otherwise it is just entertainment and finally he had a big impact on the game.

“And then he combined the both, the entertainment with the ability to make the difference.”

Rajovic had scored twice on his debut against Coventry before the break and found the target again with a powerful header.

Andrews, 19, slotted home five minutes later for his first senior goal.

The outcome meant Birmingham suffered a first league defeat of the season.

Blues manager John Eustace, a former Watford player, could not disguise his disappointment at the manner of his side’s defeat and was critical of referee Keith Stroud.

The match official issued seven yellow cards to the visitors, including the two that led to Buchanan’s departure.

Eustace said: “To come away with no points is really frustrating.

“I was disappointed with the inconsistency of the referee but it is what it is. No excuses, I still expect us to defend properly with 10 men, like we did with 11.

“They managed the game very well without getting punished.

“I was really pleased with the performance and I was very proud of the efforts of the group.

“We limited a very good squad of players to nothing. The way we defended, the way we carried out our game-plan was excellent.

“To go down to 10 men, with four or five minutes to go, was obviously very frustrating.

“But I am disappointed we conceded because I still felt we could defend the cross better.”

Watford scored twice in added time to bring 10-man Birmingham’s unbeaten league start to an end with a 2-0 victory at Vicarage Road.

The Blues looked nailed on for a point even though they had lost left-back Lee Buchanan to a second yellow two minutes from time.

That was for a foul on Yaser Asprilla and the sub took his revenge seconds into stoppage time when the Colombian crossed from the right and new boy Mileta Rajovic headed in to break the deadlock with Watford’s first goal in three home games.

There was worse to come for Birmingham as another sub, Ryan Andrews, blasted a second with 95 minutes and 28 seconds on the clock.

The visitors had started brightly, threatening inside the first minute when Oliver Burke’s pass from the right set up Fulham loanee Jay Stansfield for a low right-foot shot from outside the box only for Hornets goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann to save.

Watford responded with a break down the left and, with just four minutes on the clock, City right-back Cody Drameh was booked for flooring Matheus Martins.

The Brazilian’s free-kick was on its way into the net before Blues keeper John Ruddy stretched all of his 6ft 3in frame to stop the ball squeezing under the bar.

There was more early drama as Watford’s Scotland defender Ryan Porteous fired a cross-shot from the right of the box against the far post in the ninth minute.

The Blues heeded that warning to employ a high press to keep the home side at bay. It worked, with Watford struggling to put together fluent moves – even from deep inside their own half.

Just after the half-hour, Watford’s Tom Dele-Bashiru attempted to break the deadlock, surging through midfield before unleashing a shot that flew just over the bar.

Birmingham, managed by former Watford skipper John Eustace, were clearly determined to keep a clean sheet at all costs and two men were booked within three minutes of each other – Buchanan in the 35th minute for flooring Dele-Bashiru and then Krystian Bielik for a foul on Imran Louza.

The first half had been a hard slog for Watford – 70 per cent possession yielded just four shots, one on target.

Home fans were also concerned recently-signed striker Rajovic, a 6ft 3in target man, was getting very little service.

The Dane scored twice on his first start in Watford’s previous match, a 3-3 draw at Coventry.

Two minutes before the hour, Stansfield went close for City with a shot that Bachmann just about kept out with a flying one-handed save to his left.

The Birmingham booking count had climbed to five early in the second half as first Stansfield, for heaving Porteous to the ground, and then midfielder Ivan Sunjic went into ref Keith Stroud’s book.

Eustace also saw yellow but Birmingham sensed they could steal the points, Bachmann keeping them out with a double save from Scott Hogan nine minutes from the end.

Then the roof fell in on the Blues as Rajovic and Andrews struck dramatic late blows.

Watford manager Valerien Ismael heavily criticised referee David Webb after his side’s thrilling 3-3 draw against Coventry, describing him as the 12th man for the hosts.

The Sky Blues were awarded a controversial penalty after 20 minutes with Watford defender Ryan Porteous adjudged to have handled the ball.

Despite Matt Godden’s spot-kick being saved by Daniel Bachmann, Ismael did not hold back and felt his side were playing the game a man down.

“It’s a very good performance, especially when you play against 12 men with the referee,” he said.

“We had meetings with the referees before the season and they showed us exactly the same situation Ryan Porteous was in and they told us it won’t be a penalty.

“What is the rule? His arm is against his body so it can’t be a penalty. It’s very difficult to accept this but we fought well.

“The referee helped Coventry very strongly but we have a lot of positives, we scored three goals.”

Watford opened the scoring through Mileta Rajovic which was then cancelled out by a stunning free-kick from Milan van Ewijk.

A Matheus Martins goal and a second from Rajovic had Watford ahead twice more, but an own goal from Wesley Hoedt and a late strike from Godden secured a point for Coventry.

Despite not being able to hold on to multiple leads, the Watford boss remained positive.

“Compliments to the players, I think that’s a great reaction following the two games we lost,” he continued.

“We come to a very tough away game at Coventry and I think naturally we were strong. Until the second goal when we conceded on our own.

“But we came back into the game and showed great mentality. We scored a great goal and played great football and we wanted to have that bravery in our game.

“The attitude of the players was really good and we continue to move forward now and adjust the mistakes.”

Coventry manager Mark Robins recognised the mistakes that his side made but could not fault their bravery.

“There were too many decisions that we made that were wrong, but there were so many we made that were right,” he said.

“Defensively we got one or two things wrong. We became too open and ended up coming out when we shouldn’t have.

“Knowing that that’s the way they play, they try and suck you out to create space. They have got quality and they are rapid.

“If you want to sit in against them then fine, but you’re not going anywhere and they will pin you in.

“I thought we were good, I thought we were brave and went after the game all the time. We just got things wrong defensively.”

Last season both sides also shared the spoils in another thrilling encounter that finished 2-2, and Robins was excited by the threat Coventry posed this time.

“We created some brilliant chances, the football was scintillating and the crowd were magnificent and got behind us,” he continued.

“We’ve come back three times, but we’ve got to be a little bit more confident. Other than that we look at a real threat.

“Today has been a really difficult game but it’s the same as we had last year, we get a point.”

Coventry came from behind three times to draw 3-3 in a remarkable encounter with Watford.

Mileta Rajovic’s opener was brilliantly cancelled out by Milan van Ewijk to leave the score 1-1 at half-time.

Matheus Martins and a second from Rajovic had Watford ahead twice in the second half, but Wesley Hoedt’s own goal and Matt Godden’s late strike salvaged a point for the Sky Blues.

The game was end to end from the off with an entertaining start from both sides.

The opener nearly came after 20 minutes when Coventry were controversially awarded a penalty with Ryan Porteous harshly adjudged to have handled the ball. Watford were reprieved when Godden’s shot was saved by Daniel Bachmann.

The Hornets then made it 1-0 as Rajovic poked home Tom Ince’s cross from the right-hand side.

However, The Sky Blues hit back before the break with a sensational 30-yard free-kick from Van Ewijk into the bottom left corner.

Shortly after the restart, Watford regained the lead with Martins handed a clear run down the left-hand side before curling into the opposite corner.

After 63 minutes Coventry were gifted an own goal to equalise after a dreadful back pass from Hoedt ended up in the back of the net.

Another error from Watford almost put Coventry ahead, but Haji Wright ran into trouble.

More slack defending, this time from Coventry, saw Vakoun Bayo get onto the end of a back-pass and square for Rajovic to net his second.

The Sky Blues equalised in the 87th minute as Godden thumped home a cross from Wright to atone for his earlier miss from the spot.

The result leaves both clubs with just one victory apiece from their first five Championship games.

Valerien Ismael explained he dropped key midfielder Imran Louza for disciplinary reasons ahead of Watford’s 1-0 defeat at home to Blackburn.

The Morocco midfielder is understood to have been punished for poor time-keeping, arriving late for a training session.

Louza was introduced as a half-time substitute but it was from his error that Ryan Hedges went on to score the game’s only goal.

Ismael made it clear afterwards that stamping down on lax discipline was top of his agenda as Watford’s new manager.

“When we came we set rules with the players and everyone has to respect the rules, it’s as simple as that,” he said.

“Imran knows exactly why he was on the bench today. You have to understand as well I’m not happy to take some decisions but I have to take action when people don’t respect the rules.

“I want to play my best team in the league. It was an internal situation, now everything is clear so we move on. I don’t need to go into details, it is enough to say he was on the bench.”

Hedges won it for Rovers in the 72nd minute. Louza misplaced a pass that allowed Rovers substitute Sam Gallagher to send captain Lewis Travis sprinting goalwards.

Hornets defender Ryan Porteous stopped him with a fine tackle but Hedges seized on the loose ball and, having juggled it on the top of a boot to get it under control, lashed high past Daniel Bachmann from a tight angle on the right.

“I’m delighted with the result and the performance,” said Rovers manager Jon Dahl Tomasson.

“We knew that coming to Watford with those quality players they have it could be difficult to dominate the game on the ball. We showed great organisation and discipline and I think we defended really well.

“We had five or six good moments in the first half where the quality of our passing and decision-making was not good.

“I was disappointed that we were not leading two or three-nil by half-time because there were some key moments. We spoke about those moments and in the second half we scored from one of those moments and could have scored a couple more.”

Matheus Martins, Watford’s Brazilian wideman, was the game’s outstanding individual and came closest to ending a Hornets league goal drought.

First he forced Rovers goalkeeper Aynsley Pears into a parry before smacking the crossbar before half-time. Later, after Hedges had fired Rovers in front, he saw Pears tip a goal-bound effort on to a post.

The win lifted Rovers up to ninth and left the Hornets stuck in 15th, without a goal in Championship action since the 43rd minute of their opening game.

“We missed making the goal to have that opener and the confidence and relief we needed,” Ismael added.

“We shot on the crossbar, we shot on the post, had dangerous situations and in my opinion we should have had a penalty as well.

“We tried to do the right things so my feeling is as long as we have the feeling that we are going the right way we have to stay calm and keep working hard.

“This is the Championship and we know that in two or three months it can look completely different. It is difficult to take that with their only chance of the second half the opponent wins the game.”

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