Bournemouth revived their Championship play-off hopes with a battling win against promotion rivals Watford in a match overshadowed by an ugly clash between the teams at the death that led to two red cards – including one for Jack Wilshere.
Arnaut Danjuma struck the match-winning goal in an action-packed second period, but with seconds left Hornets striker Joao Pedro was dismissed before a brawl broke out and Cherries substitute Wilshere also saw red in nasty scenes.
Former Arsenal and West Ham man Wilshere was involved in a late scuffle with Watford’s Tom Cleverley after Hornets star Pedro was dismissed for a late challenge on Jefferson Lerma. Referee Tony Harrington gave the former England international a second yellow card just 20 minutes after Wilshere had entered the Vitality Stadium pitch.
Jack Wilshere was sent off late on in Bournemouth’s 1-0 victory over Watford on Saturday
Wilshere (third left) was involved in a late scuffle in injury time with Watford’s Tom Cleverley
Cherries boss Jonathan Woodgate (middle) had to come in and break up both sets of players
A first win since Jonathan Woodgate was appointed permanently means the Cherries rise to fifth in the table, while Watford miss out on the chance to break into the automatic promotion places ahead of the rest of the weekend’s action.
Watford came into the match with just one defeat in their last 10 games under new boss Xisco Munoz, a run that left them on the precipice of the top two.
In contrast, Woodgate won three of his five games as caretaker boss but suffered defeat against Cardiff in midweek in his first match since being appointed full-time.
The visitors started well against a team also seeking an immediate return to the Premier League after relegation last term.
Kiko Femenia forced Cherries stopper Asmir Begovic claw his cross away from under the bar before Adam Masina sent a header just wide of the post.
Watford enjoyed more possession, but both teams found themselves scrapping for territory in midfield with neither side able to produce a moment of quality to open the game up.
Arnaut Danjuma’s goal was enough for Bournemouth to beat their promotion rivals
Woodgate was hoping to fire his Bournemouth side into the top six after falling out also week
The match started in scrappy fashion but the visiting Hornets enjoyed more of the possession
Bournemouth (4-3-3): Begovic; Smith, Carter-Vickers, S Cook, Kelly; L Cook, Pearson (sub Billing 86), Lerma; Stanislas (sub Wilshere 75) Solanke (sub Long 80), Danjuma
Subs not used: Travers, Mepham, Riquelma, Rico, Kilkenny, Anthony
Goal: Danjuma 61
Booked: Begovic, Cook, Wilshere
Red card: Wilshere
Watford (4-3-3): Bachmann; Femenia, Cathcart, Sierralta, Masina (sub Lazaar 76); Cleverley, Hughes, Chalobah (sub Gosling 76), Sarr, Joao Pedro, Sema (sub Perica 84)
Subs not used: Elliot, Ngakia, Troost-Ekong, Wilmot, Zinckernagel, Gray
Booked: Masina, Hughes, Chalobah, Sarr, Joao Pedro
Red Card: Joao Pedro
Referee: Tony Harrington
The first shot on target finally came after 35 minutes following a beautiful interchange in midfield that opened space on the left for Lloyd Kelly to sting the palms of Daniel Bachmann with a rasping drive.
The Hornets hit back swiftly, but Will Hughes and Masina both fired over the bar in the final minutes of the half.
Despite slipping out of the play-off places after defeat to the Bluebirds, the Cherries produced a battling display full of running but with star performer David Brooks out injured they looked short of ideas in the final third, particularly from Danjuma.
With six goals and three assists to his name, the Dutch international has been a potent creative force for the Cherries as they aim to bounce straight back to the Premier League, but he was notably subdued through the opening half.
He was also, notably, the only Cherries player to take the knee before the game, just days after club captain Steve Cook confirmed his team would stop making the gesture.
However, the game burst into life early in the second half with the winger taking centre stage.
Firstly, Danjuma wriggled free in the box but saw his effort hacked away by Francisco Sierrelta and minutes later forced Bachmann into a brilliant low stop from the same position on the left.
Immediately Watford charged up the other end, carving out a gilt-edged chance for Tom Cleverley that Begovic parried brilliantly.
An off-the-ball clash between Nathaniel Chalobah and Lerma saw the Englishman lucky to only be booked for what appeared to be a swinging arm that hit his opponent.
From the subsequent free-kick, Steve Cook’s delivery dropped inside the box for Danjuma to control and smash home from a tight angle.
Danjuma then opened the scoring for Bournemouth, finishing well despite a tight angle
Ismaila Sarr (right) went close for the visitors at the end but there was no equaliser for Watford
Ismaila Sarr then picked up the ball on the right as Watford looked for a quick reply but, with better options inside the box, flashed his effort wide of the post.
The winger then very almost snuck in to poke a loose ball past Begovic after the Serbian had fumbled an easy catch.
As the clocked ticked down, Watford became increasingly frantic in their search for a leveller. The Cherries defence held firm to repel one goal line scramble, while Begovic proved equal to efforts from Pedro and substitute Stipe Perica.
Tempers blew up with both sets of players involved in a late scuffle after Joao Pedro’s red card
Substitute Wilshere was then dismissed just 20 minutes after coming onto the pitch
The main controversy was yet to come, with young Watford striker Pedro yellow carded in the last minute before committing another foul and being given his marching orders by Tony Harrington.
Both teams reacted with fury to the incident and Wilshere, only on in the 74th minute and already booked for time-wasting, was dismissed for his role in the brawl that saw all the players and several backroom staff clash.
With that, Bournemouth held on to end Watford’s four-game winning run and reignite their own ambitions of an instant return to the top flight.