Loach blooper allows below-par Robins to maintain their fine run
IT WAS billed as the night City finally escaped the relegation zone – but they required a large slice of luck to do it.
Taking their lines from an altogether different script, fellow strugglers Watford threw everything they had at City in a brave bid to derail their revitalising five-match unbeaten run.
That they failed to do so, was due to the kind of goalkeeping error that will forever after be a candidate for the 'What happened next' slot in the popular BBC A Question of Sport TV series.
Trailing 2-1 to first-half strikes from Carl Dickinson and Craig Beattie, City pulled a goal back through Marvin Elliiott shortly before half-time and were indebted to an horrendous mistake by Hornets stopper Scott Loach.
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Looking anything but a one-time England prospect, he made a complete hash of trying to clear an Adrian Mariappa back pass to gift City a fortuitous goal and a precious point.
City may still be lodged in the bottom three, but they are now unbeaten in six games and growing in stature under new manager Derek McInnes.
They may not have been at their best against spoiling opponents who displayed determination aplenty, but the visitors demonstrated character to come back from 2-0 down, something they would not have done earlier in the season.
This was one of those occasions when the result was of far greater importance than the performance for both teams. Sparkling in victory over Millwall and Southampton in recent weeks, City appeared a touch jaded and somewhat tentative during the opening exchanges.
For their part, Watford made no attempt to disguise their intentions, launching a series of long balls in the direction of hulking centre forward Chris Iwelumo. If nothing else, their direct style and willingness to work hard to close down when out of possession served to knock City out of their stride.
There was none of the style, rhythm and fluency that characterised their victory over table-topping Saints on Saturday and it came as little surprise when the Hornets took the lead on 25 minutes.
Dickinson accepted a pass from Michael Kightly and adopted a bold shoot-on-sight policy to beat former Watford goalkeeper David James with a thunderbolt delivered from fully 25 yards out.
Although the former England goalkeeper got his hand to the ball, he was unable to keep it out.
Behind for the first time in five games, City urgently needed a response, instead of which they contrived to fall further behind, undone by another long-range shot.
This time, James remained rooted to the spot as a Mark Yeates effort sailed past him and cannoned off the underside of the bar, bouncing out nicely for Beattie to register his first goal since arriving from Swansea.
Stung into a response, City pulled a goal back two minutes later, Elliott rising high at the back post to beat Loach with a header from the edge of the six-yard box.
City drew level in bizarre circumstances two minutes into the second half.
Attempting the seemingly straightforward matter of controlling a back pass from Adrian Mariappa, the hapless Loach allowed the ball to roll under his boot and trickle over the line, inviting derision from City fans massed behind the goal.
Their two-goal lead wiped out in a matter of four minutes, Watford were now on the back foot as City, having played their get out of jail free card, sought to take control of the game.
But their progress was hindered by an injury to James, the veteran goalkeeper going to ground clutching his knee after gobbling up a downward header from Beattie.
He recovered after treatment, but was still moving gingerly when Kightly beat Colse Skuse and crossed to the far post for Beattie to head agonisingly wide from close range.
Neither side was prepared to sit back and accept a share of the spoils and Adomah went close with a half volley from outside the 18-yard box which flashed inches past the post, while Loach partially redeemed himself when diving low to his left to keep out Maynard's shot on the turn.
At the other end, the excellent Kightly curled a shot just over and Liam Fontaine had to be alert to block an effort from substitute Troy Deeney.