The unfamiliar sound of West Ham United supporters booing their own player may have disrupted Watford’s momentum somewhat, as the Hammers’ controversial decision to play Kurt Zouma after the centre-back slapped and kicked his pet cat dominated the pre-match talk.
Roy Hodgson’s side did hold their own against the Champions League contenders and had chances of their own to take all three points back to Vicarage Road, but a deflected effort from Jarrod Bowen ultimately settled the contest in West Ham’s favour.
Despite the defeat, Watford’s progress on the defensive side of the game since Hodgson’s arrival has been evident, but that has done little to improve their rankings, with the Hornets occupying 19th spot in the table ahead of this tie – three points adrift of safety.
The 1-0 defeat at the London Stadium marked Watford’s third Premier League game on the bounce without a goal and their 10th without victory since that historic 4-1 thumping of Manchester United back in November, but Hodgson can certainly take the positives from his opening fortnight in the dugout.
However, the Hornets welcome Brighton to Vicarage Road having lost each of their last five at home in the Premier League – collecting a league-low seven points on their own soil and conceding a league-high 25 goals – and Brighton are nothing if not resilient on the road.
Very rarely have Brighton ended up on the wrong end of the scoreline in recent months – with Graham Potter’s side establishing a reputation as draw specialists – but the Seagulls were comfortably seen off in the FA Cup by Tottenham last week.
Harry Kane was on the scoresheet twice for the Lilywhites either side of Solly March’s own goal, and while Brighton briefly threatened a comeback through Yves Bissouma’s effort, Antonio Conte’s side were too strong on their own turf.
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With only a top-half Premier League finish now left to fight for in the final few months of the season, Brighton’s recent streak of 1-1 stalemates with Crystal Palace, Chelsea and Leicester City has been enough to see them hold ninth spot in the table, although Southampton and Aston Villa are bearing down on them.
The Seagulls travel to Vicarage Road having managed to avoid defeat in their last six Premier League matches, although a league-high 12 draws pinpoints where their problems lie, and it is now just one win in their last nine away from home in the top flight – with seven of them ending level.
Brighton did ease to a 2-0 victory over Watford at the Amex back in August, which marked a fifth clean sheet from seven games against the Hornets since their promotion to the big time in 2017, and Potter’s side ought to feel confident about their chances of another shut-out here