Watford 1 Ipswich Town 0: Francis strike leaves Ipswich to rue outrageous fortune

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The Independent Online

Watford had Damien Francis to thank for the late winner which downed 10-man Ipswich and allowed the Hornets to book a place in the FA Cup quarter-finals.

The former Norwich midfielder struck with just three minutes remaining on a day when the visitors were forced to play the entire second half a man down following the sending off of George O'Callaghan. The outcome was harsh on Ipswich, who had been the better side for much of the game and thought they had taken the lead in the second half only to see it disallowed. Although Ben Foster was a notable absentee in the Watford goal, the majority of Adrian Boothroyd's outfield selections were veterans of the Hornets' slog through the Premiership fixture list.

Ipswich, whose Championship form has been patchy under rookie manager Jim Magilton, had seen suspension rob them of top scorer Alan Lee and the dangerous Owen Garvan while experienced defensive duo Richard Naylor and Jason De Vos were injured. But they showed plenty of resilience, although they did have to survive a couple of early scares when Steve Kabba saw a drive deflected over and then almost pounced on Tommy Smith's header into the danger zone. Indeed, Ipswich then proceeded to dominate the rest of the first half. Sylvain Legwinski saw a 25-yarder smack back off the crossbar in the 17th minute with Foster's replacement, Richard Lee, beaten and Danny Haynes, up front on his own, cut in at impressive speed on the left before hitting a drive into the side-netting. Jaime Peters was next to have a go with a drive which was only just too high as the home side struggled to reply with anything meaningful at the other end.

Ipswich forced a succession of corners but suspicions that their temperament might be suspect emerged three minutes before the break when Dan Harding was booked for chopping down Smith. Worse was to follow for the visitors in stoppage time when referee Steve Bennett, following consultation with a linesman on the far side showed a straight red card to O'Callaghan, with the January signing from Cork who was making his first start for his new club, apparently caught kicking out at the Hornets' giant centre-back Danny Shittu. Watford almost capitalised on that advantage by taking the lead in the 48th minute but although Darius Henderson's header from a Smith corner had the beating of goalkeeper Lewis Price, defender Matt Richards was on the line - or just behind it - to head it away.

Peters saw a rising drive tipped over by Lee at the other end before Kabba fired Watford's next chance over. Ipswich were still looking dangerous and forced a corner to the excitement of the fans behind the goal. That turned to disappointment when a goal was denied them in the 56th minute. Harding smashed a 25-yarder on to the bar and it seemed as though Haynes had despatched the rebound with a header. Referee Bennett ruled it out however, presumably for offside, and Watford took the free-kick quickly to launch an attack while Haynes was still celebrating with Peters and the fans.

After Henderson had headed a good chance wide Watford replaced John Cavalli with Hameur Bouazza in the 66th minute. Legwinski curled a long-range shot just wide at the other end before Haynes was replaced by Billy Clarke for the final 17 minutes. Liam Trotter replaced Peters, who had taken a knock, before Shittu saw an over-head kick just clear the crossbar as the prospect of a Portman Road replay loomed ever nearer. Francis had the final word, however, by slotting home his side's clearest chance of the afternoon. Smith broke free down the right and sent in a cross which Henderson sensibly dummied in the knowledge that his colleague was arriving to meet it and the midfielder showed coolness to give Price no chance.

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