Watford continue to flirt with the Championship play-offs. A 4-0 victory against Blackpool at Vicarage Road leaves the Hornets seven points off sixth place.
The optimists will believe it’s possible but Beppe Sannino’s side will come up against stronger tests than that offered by the Seasiders.
A stylish, incisive and emphatic first half display was enough for Watford to squash the Tangerines’ hopes of ending an unwanted winless run that now stands at 17 matches.
Mathias Ranegie headed the Hornets in front and Troy Deeney doubled the lead thanks to a deflected strike. Ranegie then coolly slotted home his second to put Sannino’s men in full control at the break.
The Hornets navigated their way through the second period with little fuss. A sumptuous finish from Deeney added to their advantage and rounded off an impressive performance.
Perhaps reaching the play-offs isn’t wishful thinking. On this afternoon’s evidence Watford have more than enough quality to secure the points they need.
Sannino said prior to the visit of Blackpool that everyone, himself included, must learn from the mistakes made during the 2-0 defeat at Bolton Wanderers seven days earlier. His side certainly did that.
The head coach made three changes to his team. Lloyd Doyley returned to the Watford defence in place of the suspended Joel Ekstrand. Daniel Pudil replaced Alexander Merkel and Ranegie started up front with Chu-Young Park, and new signing Lucas Neill, named amongst the substitutes.
The Hornets made a bright start. Deeney, who was searching for his 50th goal for the club, had an early strike saved by Matt Gilks before scuffing an effort wide.
Deeney came closer moments later. He received a pass, pulled away from two defenders and had a clear sight of goal. He aimed his shot towards Gilks’ far corner but the ball rolled agonisingly wide.
Watford’s control of the game deserved a goal and, in the 15th minute, they were rewarded. Ikechi Anya won a corner and Daniel Tozser delivered a fine cross.
Ranegie was left unmarked six yards out and the striker powerfully headed past Gilks to put the Hornets ahead.
Blackpool, who haven’t recorded a Championship victory since November, looked bereft of confidence. Their sole effort on goal in the first half came from Ricardo Fuller but the striker’s shot was wayward and cleared the bar.
The Hornets had been able to move the ball freely across the pitch and they struck a second goal ten minutes before the break.
Toszer fizzed a pass into Daniel Pudil. He laid the ball to Deeney and, despite the striker’s shot taking a deflection, the ball hit the net and he had his 50th Watford goal.
The Hornets then added a third. Ranegie won possession from Gary MacKenzie, exchanged passes with Cristian Battocchio and then coolly slid the ball past Gilks.
The Hornets left the pitch to a standing ovation from the home supporters. Blackpool’s fans were less than impressed with their side.
The visitors made two changes at the break with Chris Basham replacing Faris Haroun and Neal Bishop coming on for the ineffective Andy Keogh.
Barry Ferguson’s side marginally improved in the second period and Fuller forced Manual Almunia into a near-post stop before the striker headed a corner wide.
Watford’s intensity had dropped but they still created chances to add to their lead. A Ranegie header deflected off a defender and looped onto the roof of Gilks’ net and the goalkeeper then denied Deeney.
The Hornets continued to coast through the second half but a moment of quality saw a fourth goal added.
Battocchio drove at the visiting defence and slipped the ball to Deeney. The striker turned and curled a shot into the top corner. It was a wonderful finish.
Sannino’s side eased down in the final ten minutes and retained possession as they waited for the final whistle.
It was a comfortable win for Watford. Harder tests await but Sannino’s men should take plenty of confidence from the performance and result.
Watford: Almunia; Angella (Belkalem 78), Cassetti, Doyley; Anya, Tozser, Murray (Merkel 81), Battocchio, Pudil (Faraoni 74); Deeney, Ranegie.
Watford substitutes: Bond, Hoban, Neill, Park.
Blackpool: Gilks; Foley, Broadfoot, MacKenzie, Halliday; Angel, Perkins, Dobbie (Goodwillie 74), Haroun (Basham 45); Keogh (Bishop 45), Fuller.
Blackpool substitutes: Cathcart, Osbourne, Grandin, Chopra.