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Watford up to fourth in Championship after Nottingham Forest victory
Watford’s promotion bandwagon has gathered further momentum after yet another two goals from Matej Vydra helped them complete the home-and-away league double over Nottingham Forest with a 3-0 win at the City Ground to move up to fourth in the Championship and within a point of second place.
The Hornets were in command of the game by the interval after Troy Deeney had set up Vydra for his 17th of the season before the Hornets’ top scorer returned the compliment for his attacking partner to net his 12th of the campaign with another straightforward finish.
The visitors though, were not secure at the back in the first half and were fortunate to go into the break with a clean sheet.
Manuel Almunia had a let off after dropping a cross and Danny Collins’ shot was blocked, the Forest defender then headed narrowly wide before Dexter Blackstock inexplicably fired wide from inside the six-yard box.
That was as close as the hosts were to get to getting back into the game and 18 minutes from time Watford made certain of their third straight league away win when Vydra continued his oustanding scoring run with his 10th goal in five successive Championship starts after being set up by Almen Abdi.
That goal was also significant because it meant the Hornets matched their scoring tally from the whole of last season and they now head to Bristol City on Tuesday knowing another three points will take them into the automatic promotion places.
Gianfranco Zola made just the one change from the side which defeated Huddersfield Town 4-0 last week, with Daniel Pudil returning at the expense of Craig Forsyth, who dropped out of the match-day 18. Jonathan Hogg was involved again after his hamstring injury but had to settle for a place on the bench.
Forest boss Alex McLeish also made one alteration from his team’s last outing, the 1-1 derby daw at Derby County, but appeared set to deploy a three-pronged attack as Blackstock replaced Radoslaw Majewski to partner Simon Cox and Billy Sharp up front.
The hosts, who started with Cox operating behind Blackstock and Sharp, had most of the ball in what were relatively low key early exchanges.
Forest won the first corner of the afternoon in the sixth minute and after Lansbury’s delivery from the right had been cleared, the Hornets had their first opportunity to counter attack but Nathaniel Chalobah was unable to pick out the run of Vydra with his through ball.
A tacky, bobbly pitch made it tricky for both sides to try and get their passing game going as the 15-minute mark passed without an attempt on either goal.
But it was the Hornets who were to have the first effort in the 17th minute when Vydra found Pudil tight to the left touchline and he lifted the ball into Deeney. He turned Elliott Ward superbly to open up a clear shooting opportunity but struck his right-footed half-volley across Karl Darlow and wide of the far post.
Within two minutes though, the visitors were in front with their 30th away goal of the campaign.
Chalobah latched on to a loose ball outside the right angle of the penalty area, he slipped Deeney in down the channel and the forward pulled it back for strike partner Vydra to net his 17th of the campaign from close range and make it 1-0.
The hosts, perhaps unsurprisingly, had most of the possession in the next few minutes as they sought to get back on terms, while Lloyd Doyley received the game’s first yellow card for a foul, but by the 29th minute the Hornets could easily have doubled their lead.
First Abdi was released in the area and it took a superb diving one-handed save from Darlow to push his right-footed shot around the post. Then, after the resultant corner from the left had been flicked on, Nyron Nosworthy fired a cross-cum-shot in from the opposite area that fizzed back across goal, the ball was not cleared and Joel Ekstrand was presented with a great opening, only to see his shot cleared off the line by Sharp.
McLeish’s men were handed a potential route back into the game in the 31st minute when they were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the area. But after Lansbury’s set-piece had rebounded off the wall, Simon Gillett could only fire his follow up wide.
Ekstrand, who had stayed up following a corner, headed a Marco Cassetti cross over before the match swung further in Watford’s favour in the 34th minute – but only after the scores could so easily have been levelled.
Almunia was rather fortunate when he dropped a high cross from the left that Collins’ close-range effort was blocked but the Hornets immediately broke, with Cristian Battocchio doing very well to keep the ball in on the left and finding Chalobah, who released Vydra with a floated pass over the top. He could have gone on alone but instead squared for Deeney to fire into the unguarded net and make it 2-0 with his 12th of the campaign.
Forest weren’t too far away from reducing the arrears two minutes later when, after Chalobah had seen yellow for pulling back Sharp, the resultant free-kick was headed narrowly wide of Almunia’s right-hand post by Collins.
Cox fired wide of the other upright from 20 yards after the ball had been laid back to him by Sharp in the 43rd minute before Pudil’s whipped-in delivery from the left wad deflected just too high of Vydra and away for the Hornets’ third corner of the half.
That came to nothing but Forest really should have pulled one back in first-half injury-time when Chris Cohen’s ball in from the left was flicked on and reached Blackstock in the six-yard box. The finish looked to be straightforward enough but he inexplicably sent a left-footed effort wide of the target.
McLeish made a change at the start of the second period, bringing on Andy Reid for Gillett, but it was their opponents who had the first effort as Deeney’s angled strike from outside the area was comfortably dealt with by Darlow.
Soon after, Cox embarked on a surging run that took him into the area before his clipped ball to the far post was casually chested down and wide of the far post by Cassetti. A header from the resultant corner also had to be cleared from close to the goal line by Nosworthy, although he rather got in the way of Almunia, who had it covered.
Watford though, came close to a somewhat fortuitous third when Battocchio’s driven cross from the right cleared Darlow and rebounded to safety off the face of the crossbar.
Cox received the hosts’ first booking in the 51st minute for fouling Vydra from behind and then, from a later set piece, the Czech international curled a 20-yard effort towards the left side of the area narrowly wide of the keeper’s near post.
Chalobah forced Darlow into a save after being set up by Abdi, who had been found by Deeney’s deep ball from the right. But the Hornets could have made the game safe when Vydra rode a tackle in midfield and broke forward, waiting for Deeney to make a run before sliding him in but the former Walsall player was unable to keep his first-time strike beneath the bar.
Cohen was unable to extend Almunia with a header and Blackstock hit a difficult volley over before McLeish made his second change on 61 minutes, with Cox making way for Majewski.
Almunia had to be alert to punch away an awkward bouncing far post half-volley from Sharp as Forest had the better of the exchanges at this stage, without creating anything clear-cut.
The Hornets’ first change came in the 69th minute when a limping Cassetti was replaced by Fitz Hall but three minutes later another away victory was wrapped up by the visitors’ finisher supreme.
After the Hornets had won the ball back in midfield, Abdi took one touch to control before lifting it through to Vydra, who cleverly diverted the ball with his outstretched right foot past the onrushing Darlow to net his fifth successive brace in as many league starts and 18 for the season to make it 3-0.
Henderson came on for his Forest debut in place of Blackstock and then Hogg returned to the fray, with Battocchio making way.
The Forest substitute had a couple of efforts after coming on, testing Almunia with a left-footed shot from outside the area before heading over, and then Mark Yeates came on for Chalobah and almost immediately received a yellow card for a foul on Greg Halford.
Almunia was forced into a sharp stop to keep out a Sharp effort as the game entered four minutes of injury time but the Hornets duly recorded their first away clean sheet of the campaign and also kept back-to-back shut-outs for the first time this season.
Nottingham Forest: Darlow; Jara, Ward, Collins, Halford; Lansbury, Gillett (Reid 46), Cohen; Cox (Majewski 61); Sharp, Blackstock (Henderson 76). Not used: Harding, McGugan, Greeing and Evtimov.
Watford: Almunia; Doyley, Nosworthy, Ekstrand; Cassetti (Hall 69), Abdi, Chalobah (Yeates 85), Battocchio (Hogg 78), Pudil; Deeney, Vydra. Not used: Eustace, Bond, Geijo and Forestieri.
Bookings: Doyley for a foul (27); Chalobah for a foul (36); Cox for a foul (51); Yeates for a foul (86).
Attendance: 20,732 (1,754 away).
Referee: Andy Haines.