Watford 0 Aston Villa 1: Boothroyd still confident as Watford show spirit

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The Independent Football

Watford are still seeking their first Premiership victory since promotion and their estimable manager Aidy Boothroyd, it seems, could not be happier.

Having seen his men earn only their second point of the campaign with a second-half display that all but broke Villa's resistance through sheer willpower, Boothroyd maintained that his side were set for a successful return to the top flight - and due a change of luck. An opening day defeat through a penalty that should never have been, and the more recent last-minute defeat at Bolton have contributed to Boothroyd's sense that fortune has yet to favour his spirited and hard-working team. But he remains confident.

"I'm not changing anything," he said. "You judge us now, but the time for that is after 38 games. I know we will score goals. We have got the players who will do that." On this occasion the latter challenge proved too great for either side as Ben Foster and Thomas Sorensen excelled for hosts and visitors respectively.

Foster, on loan from Manchester United, had the most to do before half-time, notably when he raced off his line to block a shot from Stilian Petrov after the deft midfielder had been put clean through by Olof Mellberg in the 10th minute. A low drive just after the hour from the alarmingly fleet Gabriel Agbonlahor was also dealt with comfortably.

After the break it was Sorensen's turn to perform as he helped maintain his team's unbeaten record this season, and he excelled himself after 69 minutes with an instinctive save when Malky Mackay's powerful header from Ashley Young's corner appeared destined for the back of the net.

While Boothroyd marches on more in expectation than hope, his better experienced counterpart, Martin O'Neill, is maintaining a characteristic ambivalence about the early achievements of a side that, while it is still not playing coherently, displays all the tenacity that their manager once showed for Nottingham Forest and Northern Ireland.

"It's been really decent," O'Neill said. "But it's far too early to start talking about being successful. Villa have achieved some great things in the past - winning the League in 1981 and then the European Cup - and you don't shy away from that. It's something to try and go for. " Those faint prospects will become stronger if and when O'Neill either manages to get Juan Pablo Angel to take easy chances or find someone else who will.

Watford (4-4-2): Foster; Doyley (DeMerit, h-t), Shittu, Mackay, Stewart; Young, Mahon, Francis, Smith (Priskin, 78); King, Henderson (Bouazza, h-t). Substitutes not used: Lee (gk), Spring.

Aston Villa (4-3-3): Sorensen; Mellberg, Laursen, Ridgewell, Barry; Davis (Gardner, 84), Petrov, McCann; Agbonlahor, Angel, Moore (Baros, 72). Substitutes not used: Taylor (gk), Whittingham, Berger.

Referee: M Dean (Wirral).

Bookings: Watford Mackay.

Man of the match: Foster.

Attendance: 18,620

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