Watford 3 Fulham 3: Young's late strike rescues Watford

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The Independent Football

Adrian Boothroyd, the Watford manager, had talked about working on his players "Circadian rhythms" ­ the brainwaves that determine their sleeping patterns. Not that any would have slept last night after one of the most extraordinary matches the Premiership has seen, including an amazing own goal by Damien Francis.

Boothroyd believes his team have a liking for evening kick-offs ­ hence his interest in those rhythms ­ and are indeed unbeaten at night. But they somehow contrived to throw away a two-goal lead against a previously woeful Fulham, who scored three times inside 16 minutes. It was the stuff of nightmares ­ of relegation.

But, with seconds remaining, Ashley Young, the contest's outstanding performer, hooked in an equaliser. This time it was Fulham's Papa Bouba Diop who headed the ball to him. It meant a point apiece, although Boothroyd will know that Fulham at home represents one of the easier of fixtures, especially when they are suffering from injuries and illness.

The cold light of day will bring home some truths. "There were positives," Boothroyd said, although he admitted it wouldn't be before "tomorrow that I will be able to find them". His face ran the gamut of emotions. "Naïve", was the diplomatic verdict he came up with for his players.

But with just seven minutes left, Watford appeared to have the points that would have represented their first League victory of the season and would have allowed them to leapfrog four other clubs into 15th place. They were that close.

It was an advantage they deserved. Firstly, Marlon King struck his 100th career goal. He was picked out cleverly by Young, after running inside Franck Queudrue, steadied himself and slammed his shot beyond Antti Niemi. Then, just 13 seconds into the second half, Moritz Volz sloppily lost possession and the ball was whisked away by Gavin Mahon, who released Hameur Bouazza. The winger swept in an excellent low cross and Young, on the stretch, poked it home.

Fulham appeared dead and buried. But manager Chris Coleman threw on all three substitutes and reaped an immediate dividend as Wayne Routledge's deep cross was met by Heidar Helguson. As the ball fell it was volleyed in crisply by Brian McBride.

Watford, visibly, froze. There were still 20 minutes left. Twenty long minutes. Watford defended deeper and deeper. A simple punt by Niemi was flicked on by Diop. The ball appeared to be running out of play, but Tomasz Radzinski hooked it across the six-yard area for Helguson to head home. It added to Watford's pain that it was their former favourite who scored.

That pain intensified. Another scramble and goalkeeper Ben Foster was stranded. The ball cannoned back in, Helguson challenged with Francis, and maybe kicked him, but the midfielder swung a boot and the ball, again, was in the net.

"We gifted them three goals," Boothroyd said. Gift-wrapped more like and, although Coleman praised his players' courage and effort, he did so with the glint of a prisoner handed a set of keys to his cell door.

A Watford defeat would have been simply too unjust. They poured forward and Young struck. "We should never have been in that position," Boothroyd said. And, this morning, they should not be in the bottom three.

Goals: King (23) 1-0; Young (46) 2-0; McBride (71) 2-1; Helguson (83) 2-2; Francis og (87) 2-3; Young (89) 3-3.

Watford (4-4-2): Foster; DeMerit, Shittu, Mackay, Stewart; Smith (Spring, 76), Francis (Henderson, 87), Mahon, Bouazza; Young, King. Substitutes not used: Lee (gk), Doyley, Jarrett.

Fulham (4-1-3-2): Niemi; Rosenior, Knight, Pearce, Queudrue; Bocanegra (Routledge, 53); Volz (Radzinski, 62), Brown, Diop; Helguson, John (McBride, 59). Substitutes not used: Lastuvka (gk), Jensen.

Referee: M Riley (Yorkshire).

Booked: Watford Mahon; Fulham Helguson, Pearce, Radzinski

Man of the match: Young.

Attendance: 17,982.