Joao Pedro scores first goal in English football for Watford in win over Luton

John Aizlewood
·2-min read
Joao Pedro celebrates his goal for Watford - Getty Images
Joao Pedro celebrates his goal for Watford - Getty Images

Watford 1 Luton 0

Much has happened since Ahmet Brkovic equalised Marlon King’s opener when these rivals separated by just under 20 miles and five M1 junctions last met 14 years ago.

As is their way, Watford have flitted between the top two divisions, but Luton Town swapped clashes with Watford for trips to Dartford as they tumbled out of the Football League itself.

Watford won Saturday’s curiously flaccid affair with Joao Pedro’s first goal in English football. James Collins missed Luton’s only two chances, but Watford’s goalkeeper Ben Foster did not make a save.

“I’m flabbergasted and astounded by our performance,” lamented Nathan Jones, the Luton manager. “I didn’t see it coming at all. We were flat and second to every ball. I could actually have taken being steamrollered by Watford’s Premier League squad and a budget that’s 10-times ours, but if we’d have been at it, we’d have got something from this game.”

Flat or not, Luton’s fall and rise has been little short of remarkable, while the irredentist hosts have still to concede a Championship goal. Their injury blizzard is beginning to clear. Ismaila Sarr started, as, for the first time in the league, did Manchester United loanee James Garner. Even Troy Deeney made a late cameo from the bench. All-action Garner was their missing midfield link, while in Sarr, they had a player who may well return to the Premier League before his current employers.

“We were the better team from beginning to end,” said Vladimir Ivic, the Watford head coach. “We created four or five chances, so we have to do better going forwards. We are still not playing to 100 per cent of our ability. I expect our performances to get better.”

The game was won and lost in one first half minute. First, Watford should have conceded, Christian Kabasele sloppily conceded possession to Luke Berry, who set Harry Cornick free. The cross was low and the hitherto isolated and forlorn James Collins, more alert than any defender, nipped in, only to shoot against the underside of the bar from inside the six yards box.

As if to show Luton how the world works at more elevated levels, Watford went upfield and scored. Ken Sema dispossessed Martin Cranie hurtling forwards and crossed low for the Brazilian Pedro, who on his 19th birthday, unleashed a shot which clipped Sonny Bradley and wrong-footed goalkeeper Simon Sluga on its way home.

Luton began to commit numbers forwards, but Watford began to fill the holes they left. Sluga saved well from Garner before Sema’s goalbound follow-up was charged down. When Luton did fashion a second clear chance after doughty foraging from substitute Jordan Clark, Collins skied it and Watford had their bragging rights. If only there had been a crowd to celebrate with them.