Gallery: Killer brace from Danny and Town are undone

A KILLER brace from the Championship’s leading scorer, Danny Graham, inflicted a third straight home defeat on sorry Ipswich Town at Portman Road.

A KILLER brace from the Championship’s leading scorer, Danny Graham, inflicted a third straight home defeat on sorry Ipswich Town at Portman Road.

An on-fire Graham certainly spoilt Kieron Dyer’s long-awaited home-coming. Dyer started the game on the bench, before appearing as a 53rd minute substitute.

But the Town old boy and current West Ham loanee could not inspire a second-half comeback. Instead, it was Graham who stole the headlines, with Don Cowie sweeping home a third in stoppage-time.

Paul Jewell’s men looked deflated and bereft of ideas on another disappointing home showing, following hot on the heels of the recent defeats by Portsmouth and Reading.

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They have impressed on their travels, with a win at Cardiff and a draw at Leeds, but have failed to rediscover that form in front of their own fans.

It took Watford, and man-of-the-moment Graham, just 95 seconds to break the deadlock, and so pave the way for a league double over Town.

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Cowie’s delivery, from a short-corner routine, enabled an unmarked Graham to head firmly goalwards. The combined efforts of keeper Marton Fulop and skipper Grant Leadbitter could not prevent the ball from drifting over the goal-line.

Leadbitter did eventually hack the ball away, only for Troy Denney to ram home the rebound, but the assistant referee had already raised his flag to signal that Graham’s initial header had crossed the line.

Not content with notching his 24th goal of the campaign, Graham chalked up No. 25 just after the hour mark.

Town will feel that they should have been awarded a free-kick, for Ross Jenkins’ foul on Jimmy Bullard, in the build-up to that goal, but it was still a wonderful display of finishing from Graham.

The ex-Carlisle striker latched onto John Eustace’s through ball and kept his cool to cut inside the box and steer a low shot beyond the reach of Fulop and into the far corner of the net.

There was still half-an-hour to play, but Town never looked like mounting a rally and Cowie added a third at the death.

Town will certainly need to improve on Saturday, when relegation-threatened Scunthorpe are the visitors. Otherwise, they could find themselves in a relegation battle themselves.

In addition to resting Dyer from the starting line-up, Town boss Jewell made one other change to the side that had secured a goalless draw at Leeds on Saturday.

Mark Kennedy returned after a two-match absence with a tweaked hamstring, to replace Darren O’Dea at left-back.

Jewell had spoken about the dangers posed by free-scoring Watford, especially leading marksman Graham, and yet his defence did not take heed.

Less than two minutes were on the clock when the Hornets rattled up their 65th league goal of the campaign, with Graham given the freedom of Portman Road to net for the fifth game running.

At least the shock of conceding so early in the game did sting Town into action, and Gareth McAuley nearly steered home from their first corner on four minutes. His close-range toe-poke was blocked by a defender.

Referee Grant Hegley will not forget last night in a hurry. He waved away strong appeals for a Town penalty in the fifth minute, when McAuley’s header appeared to hit Adrian Mariappa’s hand inside the box, before hobbling off the pitch just two minutes later with a pulled calf muscle.

Not surprisingly, sympathy was in short supply from home fans as Mr Hegley was helped off the pitch, to be replaced by fourth official David Rock.

Jimmy Bullard was not shy to eye up the target from long-range free-kicks. His first effort, on 12 minutes, whistled only a foot over the bar from a distance of 25 yards.

Bullard was up to his tricks again just three minutes later, after being upended by Hornets skipper John Eustace, who was booked for the challenge. This time Bullard’s 30-yarder crashed into the defensive wall.

It was not quite one-way traffic, but the home side continued to create the better chances before the half-hour mark.

And they were denied an equaliser by the width of a post in the 22nd minute. McAuley’s excellent header, from Bullard’s free-kick, thudded off the inside of the far upright with Connor Wickham unable to force home the rebound.

Watford soaked up the pressure and should have doubled their lead in the 32nd minute. Caught cold by a quick break, Town were on their heels as Graham charged into the penalty area and rounded Leadbitter to square across the face of goal.

Will Buckley looked certain to score, lurking unmarked at the far post, but his first touch let him down and he merely hooked his close-range shot into the side-netting, with an empty goal beckoning.

Eight minutes into the second-half and Jewell, desperate to ignite a spark in his lack-lustre team, introduced Dyer for his long-awaited return to Portman Road.

Town briefly responded. Tamas Priskin robbed Mariappa in the Hornets box and drilled over a cross-cum-shot that Wickham was within a whisker of bundling home from close-in.

But they were then stopped dead in their tracks by Graham’s second of the night on 61 minutes.

It was a very low-key final half-hour, with Town rarely looking like scoring, and Cowie rubbed salt into the wounds by drilling home the third in injury-time.

The final whistle was greeted with a chorus of boos from the Portman Road faithful. It was indeed a deeply depressing night.

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