Watford frustrated as Bournemouth hold on for draw
Odion Ighalo endured a frustrating afternoon as Watford's top scorer missed a number of chances in a goalless draw with Bournemouth.
Ighalo has found the net 15 times already this season but the Nigerian was unable to break the deadlock at Vicarage Road, with the best chance of the game seeing him head over from six yards in the second half.
The stalemate does little for either side's league ambitions as Watford remain ninth in the table while Bournemouth stay 15th, five points above the relegation zone.
England's assistant manager Ray Lewington was watching on from the stands at Vicarage Road, perhaps to check on Troy Deeney ahead of Euro 2016, but the Hornets captain, like his strike partner, struggled for his usual potency on his 250th appearance for the club.
Deeney and Ighalo have scored 22 of Watford's 29 league goals so far season but if Quique Sanchez Flores' side have any ambitions of carrying their excellent campaign into the European spots, they will need both to regain form fast. In their last 18 combined appearances, the duo now have only four goals between them.
Ighalo and Deeney both went close to breaking the deadlock early on as first Ighalo motored away from both Steve Cook and Harry Arter but his shot was saved, then Deeney skewed wide from Juan Carlos Paredes' cross.
Bournemouth suffered a blow when Junior Stanislas hobbled off clutching his thigh in the 23rd minute and he was replaced by Max Gradel, the Ivorian forward who joined the Cherries in the summer but has been out since August with a knee injury.
The visitors were struggling to convert possession into chances although Benik Afobe was unfortunate not to go through one-on-one after he was flagged offside, with replays suggesting he was level.
Composure in the final third was lacking at both ends as the second half began, with Josh King blazing Matt Ritchie's cross over the bar before Watford's Nordin Amrabat air-kicked a half-volley inside the box, much to the away fans' delight.
Bournemouth now looked the more likely to end the stalemate as Arter unleashed a fizzing drive on the hour, which drew an excellent save from Heurelho Gomes at full stretch.
Watford, however, held on and should have won it in the 67th minute when Amrabat dug out a cross from the byline but Ighalo, unchallenged, headed over from six yards.
The Hornets forward continued to pose a threat but his usually pin-point finishing also continued to desert him, as he sliced a right-footed shot high and wide with 14 minutes left.
It was the last time either side looked like stealing a winner as an underwhelming contest ended honours even.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
"Frustrating today but the bigger picture is #watfordfc are one win from 40 points with 11 games to go. That's right. 11 games to go" - Anthony Matthews (Ant_WatfordObs) of the Watford Observer considers the bigger picture.
Heurelho Gomes: 7 (out of 10)
Juan Carlos Paredes: 7
Miguel Britos: 6
Craig Cathcart: 6
Nathan Ake: 6
Valon Behrami: 5
Ben Watson: 7
Etienne Capoue: 5
Nordin Amrabat: 6
Troy Deeney: 6
Odion Ighalo: 6
Mario Suarez (on for Capoue, 57): 6
Almen Abdi (on for Amrabat, 83): 5
Artur Boruc: 6
Adam Smith: 7
Simon Francis: 6
Steve Cook: 7
Charlie Daniels: 7
Matt Ritchie: 6
Harry Arter: 7
Andrew Surman: 7
Junior Stanislas: 5
Josh King: 6
Benik Afobe: 5
Max Gradel (on for Stanislas, 23): 6
Glenn Murray (on for Ritchie, 85): 6
Dan Gosling (on for Afobe, 74): 5
Harry Arter: The Bournemouth midfielder was at the heart of everything good about the visitors' display and was unfortunate to see a driving long-range shot well saved by Heurelho Gomes in the second half.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Odion Ighalo has enjoyed a superb season for the Hornets but this was not one of his best afternoons. He should have scored the winner when presented with a free header late on but instead nodded over.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Neither boss will be particularly pleased with this result, particularly Eddie Howe, who knows Bournemouth need all the points they can muster before a nightmare run-in sets in. Watford rely too heavily on Ighalo and Troy Deeney for goals and Quique Sanchez Flores must somehow find a way of making his midfield more of an attacking threat.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
Both sides will go home lamenting a number of missed chances. This was three points for the taking had either team's forwards shown a little more composure when it mattered.
WHO'S UP NEXT
Manchester United v Watford (Premier League, Wednesday 2 March)
Bournemouth v Southampton (Premier League, Tuesday 1 March)