Watford manager Adrian Boothroyd is convinced his Hornets can secure automatic promotion despite going backwards in the Coca-Cola Championship. A 2-2 draw with visiting Derby at Vicarage Road meant Watford slipped from third to fourth in the table, with Leeds having won 2-1 at Crystal Palace to overtake them. But Boothroyd - who picked up the manager of the month award for February after having won four of five games - remains undaunted.
His optimism is despite Watford lying seven points adrift of an automatic promotion spot and with a trip to table-topping Reading their next fixture. Boothroyd said: "If we win our next nine matches between now and the end of the season then I think we'll do it, I believe we'll get an automatic promotion spot. "But there are a lot more twists and turns to be taken between now and the end of the season and all I'm doing now is focusing on the next game. "Playing Reading away is going to be a different proposition to playing Derby at home, because they came here, flooded midfield and played one up front. "They came for the draw but I've no problem with that - I've total respect for Derby and they came here to get what they needed."
Kevin Lisbie had given the Rams a first-half lead against the run of play before Marlon King levelled in stunning style ahead of the interval. But the Rams looked set for a second successive victory when, with just four minutes of regular time remaining, 17-year-old Giles Barnes bagged his first goal for the Pride Park club.
Referee Tony Leake, who had booked Derby goalkeeper Lee Camp for time-wasting in the second half, ordered six minutes of stoppage time to be played however. And midway through time added on, Al Bangura's piledriver ensured honours finished even. Derby manager Terry Westley, whose side now lie sixth-bottom and seven points clear of the relegation zone, said: "It could have been three points but their equaliser was a bit controversial because the ball hit his arm and then rebounded into his path for the shot. "If you're at home and everyone screams 'handball', maybe you get that decision. "The assistant referee was that side of the pitch and sometimes you get those decisions but it wasn't to be.
"However, if you had said to me before the game we would go to a team chasing automatic promotion, bearing in mind the players we have available, and get a draw we would have settled for that. "I'm not convinced we did it right in terms of seeing the game out with how long we took at set-pieces and picking ourselves up from injuries. "In the end the referee goes the other way and adds on six minutes - I've never had a game with six minutes added on."
Goals: Lisbie (18) 0-1; King (35) 1-1; Barnes (86) 1-2; Bangura (90) 2-2.
Watford (4-4-2): Foster; Doyley, Mackay, Carlisle, Stewart; Eagles (McNamee, 76), Mahon, Spring, Bouazza (Bangura, 45); Young, King. Substitutes not used: Chamberlain (gk), Chambers, DeMerit.
Derby County (4-4-2): Camp; Edworthy, Moore, Nyatanga, Wright; Smith, Idiakez, Barnes, Bolder; Holmes, Lisbie (Peschisolido, 67). Substitutes not used: Poole (gk), Kenna, Bisgaard, Thirlwell.
Referee: A Leake (Lancashire).
Booked: Watford Mackay, Bangura; Derby Camp.
Man of the match: Moore.
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