Watford’s ten-game wait for a win is over and Beppe Sannino has his first victory as head coach after Millwall were impressively beaten 4-0 at Vicarage Road.
It had been more than two months since the Hornets last scored at home but that wait finally ended in the tenth minute when Troy Deeney scored from the penalty spot after being fouled by Dan Shittu, who was sent off as a result.
Fernando Forestieri made it 2-0 before the break when he finished from close range after being set up Ikechi Anya and it was the winger who scored the third within three minutes of the restart with a fine finish from the edge of the penalty area.
Watford were four goals to the good on the hour after a second penalty was converted, this time by Lewis McGugan, following a handball. The margin of the Hornets’ first home victory in six could easily have been even more emphatic as they also had a goal ruled out for offside and hit the woodwork on three other occasions.
Sannino made two changes from the side which drew 1-1 at Ipswich Town last time out for his first home game at the Hornets helm.
Anya replaced Daniel Pudil, who was not in the match-day 18, while Forestieri came in for Diego Fabbrini, who dropped to the bench.
Millwall had a disappointing 2-0 reverse at home to Middlesbrough in their previous outing and boss Steve Lomas made five changes to that starting line-up in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Alan Dunne, Paul Robinson, Scott McDonald and Scott Malone dropped to the bench while Liam Feeney was left out and their places were taken by Justin Hoyte, Vicarage Road old boy Dan Shittu, Shane Lowry, Guy Moussi and Nadjim Abdou. Another former Watford player, Jack Smith, was among the replacements.
The hosts started positively and looked to be progressive by varying their angles of attack and moving the ball wide. Their first sight of an opening came in the seventh minute when Forestieri released Marco Cassetti on the right, he played a deep cross to the back post where Deeney headed down but Shittu managed to clear the ball as Sean Murray closed in at pace.
But in the tenth minute Watford’s 392-minute wait for a goal finally came to an end after the Lions had been reduced to ten men.
The incident arose after a fine Lewis McGugan through ball put Deeney through on goal and as the striker prepared to pull the trigger, he was clearly tripped from behind by Shittu. Referee Andy D’Urso had no option but to send the Millwall skipper off as it was a clear goal-scoring opportunity and after Shittu had been applauded off the pitch by all sides of Vicarage Road, Deeney confidently stepped up and sent David Forde the wrong way from the penalty spot to celebrate his 150th Hornets appearance with his 11th goal of the season.
Lomas shuffled his troops following the sending off, bringing on Robinson for Moussi, but in the 13th minute the visitors very nearly equalised.
After Manuel Almunia had punched the first corner of the match away and behind, Martyn Woolford swung over the resultant set piece from the right and Steve Morison was able to get in a free header which Anya did well to clear off the line.
But the Hornets should have been awarded a second penalty in the 20th minute and, if it had been given, their opponents would surely have been reduced to nine men.
This time it was Forestieri who was the creator as he slipped Deeney through on goal, the forward again got free only to be clearly held back by Robinson but this time D’Urso decided a foul had not been committed.
However, Watford did double their lead in the 28th minute when a good diagonal ball from Murray picked out the run of Anya on the left and his first-time lay-off across the six-yard box found Forestieri, who took a touch before prodding the ball past Forde.
And 2-0 could have easily become 3-0 inside three minutes when McGugan swung over a free-kick from the right and Cassetti found space at the near post but he couldn’t direct his header beneath the crossbar.
Watford’s next reasonable opening came six minutes before the break when Forestieri laid the ball inside to McGugan, whose strike from around 20 yards was deflected behind off Deeney.
Forestieri was booked in the last minute of normal time at the end of the first half for a foul on Liam Trotter as the Hornets went into the break comfortably in control.
And the home side’s grip on the contest was tightened still further within three minutes of the restart when they scored a superb third.
George Thorne started things off with a fine cross-field ball out to the left where Anya initially shaped to go outside two men before coming back inside and accelerating towards the edge of the area before hitting a great right-footed strike that beat Forde inside his near post.
With their confidence now flowing, the Hornets were a fraction away from scoring at least an equally impressive fourth two minutes later when a fine move ended with Forestieri letting fly right-footed from outside the area and his shot left Forde standing as it crashed back out off his right-hand post.
Millwall thought they had pulled one back in the 53rd minute when Morison headed home after Mark Beevers had headed a free-kick back across goal following a free-kick but it was ruled out for offside.
Lomas made two changes, bringing on Richard Chaplow and Smith for Jermaine Easter and Liam Trotter either side of another terrific strike, this time from McGugan, that also hit the woodwork.
But Watford did net a fourth on the hour mark after being awarded their second penalty of the afternoon.
D’Urso initially turned down the appeals when the Hornets appealed vociferously for handball against Robinson following a Murray cross but the assistant continued to flag and the referee changed his mind. This time McGugan assumed the responsibility from 12 yards and he confidently dispatched the ball into the bottom corner to get on the scoresheet.
After Chaplow had been booked for a foul on Anya, Forde held onto Forestieri’s resultant 25-yard free-kick at the second attempt before a good performance from Thorne came to an end when he was replaced by Iriney.
Joel Ekstrand then saw yellow for a foul on Chaplow before Forestieri had a goal ruled out for offside in the 74th minute when he converted a Murray cross from the right.
McGugan made way for Cristian Battocchio in the 77th minute but not before he had almost netted a fifth when he danced around two opponents before hitting a left-footed strike from the left side of the area that cannoned off the bar with Forde beaten again.
Shane Lowry was booked for a foul on Casetti but still Watford pressed with Iriney having a shot blocked before Forestieri curled an effort wide of the near post.
Hector Bellerin replaced Anya with five minutes remaining before Justin Hoyte almost scored an impressive consolation with a dipping strike from 25 yards which Almunia had to tip over. But back came the home side with Forestieri hitting an overhead kick at Forde as the Hornets rounded off Christmas perfectly for their fans.
Watford: Almunia; Doyley, Angella, Ekstrand; Cassetti, Murray, Thorne (Iriney 69), McGugan (Battocchio 77), Anya (Bellerin 85); Forestieri, Deeney. Not used: Bond, Fabbrini, C Smith, Nosworthy.
Millwall: Forde; Hoyte, Shittu, Beevers, Lowry; Moussi (Robinson 13), Abdou; Easter (Chaplow 55), Trotter (J Smith 57), Woolford; Morrison. Not used: Bywater, Dunne, Malone, McDonald.
Bookings: Shittu sent off for denying a clear goal-scoring opportunity (9); Forestieri for a foul on Trotter (45); Chaplow for a foul on Anya (67); Ekstrand for a foul on Chaplow (70); Lowry for a foul on Cassetti (79).
Attendance: 15,471 (963 away).
Referee: Andy D’Urso.