Gary Haines reports from The Valley
Charlton were stung by 10 Hornets on Tuesday night as shorthanded Watford claimed a notable win.
Ginafranco Zola’s multinational side clinched a 2-1 win at The Valley despite seeing striker Fernando Forestieri sent off on the stroke of half-time.
A terrific 70th-minute free-kick from Almen Abdi won them the points against the odds after Ricardo Fuller’s first Valley goal had cancelled out Tommie Hoban’s opener.
Forestieri collected a second booking for a blatant dive at the end of the opening period, but the 10 men dug in bravely after the restart.
And it was Switzerland international Abdi that would be the match winner with a superb curling free-kick as the visitors pounced clinically after soaking up incessant pressure in the second period.
The Hornets box was a hive of activity for most of the second 45, but a mixture of brave defending, wasteful finishing and a smattering of misfortune meant they kept the Red wave at bay and ended the Addicks’ mini-revival.
Watford drew first blood in an eventful opening period as Irish defender Hoban toasted his first Hornets goal in just his second appearance.
He rose to head home at a Forestieri corner just shy of the half hour mark and put the Hornets in front, but parity was quickly restored by Fuller.
The Jamaican, ill at the weekend, converted his second goal in as many starts in the 35th minute, finishing with aplomb after a magnificent through pass from Dale Stephens cut Watford wide open.
Things went from bad to worse for the Hornets on the stroke of half-time when Forestieri was given his marching orders.
The Argentina-born Italy U21 international’s initial misdemeanour was for blocking a free-kick illegally 16 minutes, and his second was for the much-maligned act of simulation.
He was already being booed after earning a cheap-looking free-kick off Michael Morrison when he went to ground very easily as Kerkar closed him down in the box.
The midfielder opted against dangling out a leg but Forestieri plunge to the tuft, a theatrical act that did not impress Dean who produced a second yellow card – and then a red.
There were vocal visiting protests at the break and, as expected the hosts were on top in the second period.
Wright-Phillips twice went close and Fuller drew a good stop from Manuel Almunia as Watford rode their luck.
But they took the lead with a beautifully-crafted second as Abdi curled in a superb free-kick from the left edge of the box 20 minutes from time.
The Addicks, who handed a late debut to Monday signing Rob Hulse, laid siege after that, but could not find a way through the Golden gates and Stephens’ last-gasp wayward drive summed up Charlton’s night.
In terms of team news Fuller returned to the Charlton fold for the visit of Watford.
With skipper Johnnie Jackson sidelined with a hamstring injury, the Jamaican striker made a full Valley debut as Chris Powell reverted to a 4-4-2 formation, making one change following Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Blackburn Rovers.
Michael Morrison took the captain’s armband for the evening while new signings Abdul Razak and Hulse were on the bench after their respective loan arrivals from Manchester City and Queens Park Rangers respectively.
Ben Hamer continued between the posts for the hosts with Lawrie Wilson and Chris Solly, again on the left, the full-backs and Morrison and Leon Cort in the middle.
Danny Hollands and Stephens were in central midfield as Danny Green and Salim Kerkar started out wide.
Wright-Phillips and Fuller were up top while midfielder Razak and striker Hulse started their SE7 life on the bench.
They were joined in reserve by David Button, Dorian Dervite, Cedric Evina, Bradley Pritchard and Jordan Cook.
Zola’s new-look Watford lined up in a 3-5-2 formation with Brazilian Neuton, one of six loanees in the starting XI joining Fitz Hall and Hoban at centre back.
Forestieri and Troy Deeney, who scored and was then sent off last time he came up against the Addicks in his Walsall days, were up front while in reserve the Hornets, boasted former Addicks striker Chris Iwelumo.
The long-serving Alf Bloomfield, a member of the club’s groundstaff for two decades before his retirement last week, was given the honour of leading the team out on a wet evening in SE7.
The first effort of the evening went Watford’s way as left wing-back Daniel Pudil hooked an effort into the side netting from a narrow angle.
Hamer got behind a Deeney drive and gathered at the second attempt while Forestieri was booked for encroaching at a Kerkar free-kick 16 minutes in.
The midfielder’s second attempt flicked off the wall and wide of the right post while the next noteworthy action saw Pudil crash the ball in from wide on the left – and Cort take the ball flush in the face.
To his credit, the big defender scarcely flinched but it was Watford’s fans who were cheering as they claimed a 29th-minute lead.
After forcing a corner on the right, a decision that Morrison didn’t agree with, Forestieri, flighted the ball in and Tommie Hoban rose to head home via a deflection, to send the golden-shirted away contingent into delirium.
Behind again, the Addicks were almost hit on the break soon after as Chelsea loanee Nathaniel Chalobah won the ball in midfield and powered down the middle.
He slipped the ball inside to Jonathan Hogg, who had galloped up to support, but crucially missed his touch when it really mattered.
The hosts cashed in on that let-off and were level six minutes later through Fuller.
It was Stephens who was the architect, wiping out the entire Watford rearguard with a sumptuous pass, and the finish from Fuller, clean through on goal, was composure personified.
Stephens’ free-kick, after Kerkar was cynically chopped down, was headed off target on the stretch by Hollands at the far post as the hosts sensed a second. And after hassling his man into a mistake on the left of the box, Kerkar checked inside before former Arsenal man Manuel Almunia made a smothering save at his feet.
Morrison was furious after being penalised for a challenge on Forestieri, a decision that also brought him a yellow card from Mike Dean whose indication was that it might have been for persistent fouling.
It looked a harsh call but retribution came as Almen Abdi fired the free-kick straight into the wall.
Forestieri then skewed a shot wide from the edge of the box but the striker would then be banished before the end of the half.
After the ball reached him in the box, he hit the deck theatrically as a challenge came in from Kerkar.
There was no leg near him as Forestieri fell to the turf and Dean swiftly dished out a second yellow card – and then a red.
He had time to just about open the dressing room door before the half-time whistle sounded while Watford were far from happy as the players trooped off with Zola ushering his players away from the referee,
It looked like Daniel Pudil was booked in the aftermath and it was all rather unsavoury at the end of the half.
Deeney was a bootlace away from connecting with a fine cross from the left from Pudil soon after the restart
At the other end a thrusting run from Wright-Phillips eight minutes in ended with a decent save from Almunia and Stephens picked the pocket of Hogg two minutes later before his lofted effort took a nick before flying just over.
After a rapid Watford raid faltered, Kerkar drew a foul from Neuton than earned the Brazilian a booking.
There was a scramble at the free-kick, from out on the right, but the ball would not sit right for Hollands and was eventually hacked clear.
Morrison got up well at a corner, but Wright-Phillips was then frustrated by an unfavourable bounce and the striker had a good chance on the hour,
Fuller dropped a shoulder and delivered a piercing pass through for the striker, who got behind Neuton but with the defender breathing down his neck, blasted over from the edge of the box.
Fuller’s fierce drive on 63 minutes was blocked by Almunia and a defender flung himself in the way of Stephens’ follow-up.
Green was booked after catching Pudil, and against the run of play the 10 men reclaimed the lead in the 70th minute.
There was ironic applause from the Hornets fans after they were awarded a free-kick left of centre, after Cort was penalised.
And there were loud cheers seconds later as Abdi curled home a brilliant free-kick, and celebrated with a knee-slide in front of his manager.
Deeney had far too much time to check back and get in a shot that was saved by Hamer before Joel Ekstrand came on for Neuton as the clock reached 75.
There was more danger for the hosts after Hamer gathered a hammered ball back from Hollands, and the Hornets were awarded an indirect free-kick just inside the box.
Deeney shot into the wall after the ball was rolled into his path, and the Addicks breathed again.
Next came a double change as Hulse debuted in place of Green and Pritchard came on for Hollands.
After Wilson got round the back, Hall dived to head behind as Pritchard set himself. Hulse was totally unmarked behind him, but was not found.
Abdi was booked for a foul on Wilson and Wright-Phillips drove a shot against his own man, Morrison, as the clock ticked into the final five minutes.
After great work from Kerkar, Pritchard couldn’t get a decisive second touch after a sublime first one.
A last-minute clip into the box from Stephens was headed on by Cort but Wright-Phillips couldn’t quite connect, and hope was served as five added minutes was announced.
Hulse, who had worked hard in his late cameo, stretched to head a Pritchard cross over in the second added minute.
And a glorious chance was spurned in the third as Solly’s cross was headed back by Cort but Stephens fired over the bar.
Almunia, who had shamefully wasted time in the closing stages, was finally booked deep into added time.
Even later in the game Cort headed a Wilson cross into the dangerzone but Hulse was shepherded away as the ball was cleared from under the bar.
There was a late appearance for Iwelumo for the visitors, who clung on in the closing stages to celebrate a terrific win.
Charlton: Hamer; Wilson, Solly, Cort, Morrison; Green (Hulse 79), Kerkar, Stephens, Hollands (Pritchard 79); Wright-Phillips, Fuller.
Subs (not used): Button, Dervite, Evina, Razak, Wagstaff.
Goal: Fuller 35
Booked: Morrison 42 (foul on Forestieri), Green 68 (foul on Pudil)
Watford: Almunia; Cassetti, Hoban, Neuton (Ekstrand 75), Hall, Pudil; Chalobah (Doyley 90), Hogg, Abdi, Deeney (Iwelumo 90), Forestieri.
Subs (not used): Bond, Yeates, Murray, Vydra.
Goals: Hoban 29, Abdi 70
Booked: Forestieri 16 (encroachment), Pudil 45 (dissent), Neuton 56 (foul on Kerkar), Abdi 83 (foul on Wilson), Almunia 90 (time-wasting)
Sent off: Forestieri 45 (simulation/second booking)
Referee: M Dean
Att: 15, 585 (1,359 Watford)