Like all teams in this opening stanza of the restart, most of the matches will be spent mostly refinding their feet. There’s something a bit unedifying about it all, like rocking up to someone’s party while they are getting ready, which was basically how the first 90 minutes played out here at Vicarage Road.
So if you arrived fashionably late for the final five minutes of this engagement, then you had a whale of a time. For it was only then that things really got going: Ben Chilwell gave Leicester City the lead and, three minutes later, Craig Dawson’s acrobatic finish found an equaliser to ensure both sides began the Premier League restart with a draw.
It is a point that means more to Leicester – now six clear of fourth-placed Chelsea – than it does to Watford, who could find themselves in the bottom three by the end of the weekend. But it was in keeping with a match that consisted mostly of figuring out how this all works after months away from this rough and tumble.
From what we have seen so far, the onus is on those who get set first to make an impression. But while it was Leicester City who seemed to settle in, Watford posed the greater threat in the opening 45 minutes. It was noteworthy, too, that the brace of chances that fell to Abdoulaye Doucoure came after the drinks break midway through opening half.
Up to that point, it was very much all on the Foxes, who lacked their usual slickness but were enjoying the greater quality and quantity of the ball. Jamie Vardy was at the centre of it all, one away from 100 Premier League goals since his couple in a 4-0 win over Aston Villa, Leicester’s last outing before lockdown.
He was involved in four of Leicester’s first five attempts on goal, though robbed of what might have been his clearest sight of goal by an essential tackle from Craig Dawson when the striker was about to guide in Chilwell’s cross into the near post.
Yet, after an hour of play, the only three shots on target had come from those in yellow. The first came 10 minutes before half time: Troy Deeney making a typical nuisance of himself to disrupt Leicester’s back four as they sought to play it among themselves and getting the ball into Doucoure who had to shoot first time but should have aim anywhere but straight at Kasper Schmeichel’s feet.
The second – without question the best – saw Ismaila Sarr let loose beyond the Leicester backline by a fine pass from Etienne Capoue. Alas, the clear sighting was obscured by a sprawling Schmeichel.
It would take until 75 minutes for the visitors to register their first shot on target, albeit within the same passage of play that saw Marc Albrighton strike a powerful effort off the inside of the near post and along Ben Foster’s goal line. The rebound fell Leicester’s way, eventually allowing for James Maddison to force Foster into a save, tipping a left-footed drive beyond the far post.
Again, this upturn for the visitors seemed to fall in line with the drinks break coming at the wrong time for the side on top. Leicester spent most of the next 10 minutes penning Watford in, who could not rediscover their early momentum from a standing start.
And as yellow and black legs began to tire amid the waves of blue, the breakthrough arrived at the dregs of the match through open space and time to spare.
Chilwell’s touch was not ideal for the cross, narrowing down the angle to work with, m but it did take him into the box. Once there, his inch-perfect shot clipped the same post Albrighton had earlier, but nestled into the net for what was supposed to be the winning goal.
But with two minutes of the additional five to go, a corner into the Leicester box was headed about until Dawson, with his back to goal, had enough room to arch his body and twist a volley firm enough to ensure Schmeichel’s strong left-wrist was no match for it. It was the defender’s first goal for Watford. One which, for the time being, keeps their destiny in their hands with a tricky run-in that includes games against Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City.
On balance, a fair result, honours even and, perhaps more importantly, competitive miles in the legs for what challenges are still to come.