New signing Matej Vydra marked his first game in the yellow of Watford with two goals as a young Watford side beat Gillingham 3-0 tonight.
Vydra has been with the Watford squad for the whole of pre-season but has not been training for much of that time due to, what Gianfranco Zola described as, an unbalanced muscle.
The on-loan Udinese forward scored two goals in a matter of four minutes and could have had a first-half hat-trick before Connor Smith added his side’s third before the break.
Zola had said those who played the full 90 minutes against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday would not start tonight and that has indeed proved to be the case.
The Hornets had lined up in a fluid system which at times looked like a 3-4-1-2 which then became 3-4-2-1 when Vydra dropped deep, which happened on several occasions.
Lee Hodson and Craig Forsyth were wing backs, Ross Jenkins and Smith were in the centre of the park, with Piero Mingoia finding space in-between the midfield and striker Chris Iwelumo.
Watford were passing the ball around well and the changing of positions was causing Gillingham problems at times.
It was a little patchy but there were a number of players who will have impressed Zola in the first half; Thompson at the back was assured, Smith and Jenkins impressed and Mingoia continued his good pre-season form.
The level of performance dropped considerably in the second half but they were able to hang on to their three-goal advantage despite a mini flurry from the home side at the death.
The Hornets were first to go close when Mingoia’s in-swinging cross was headed back towards his own goal by Connor Essam and Tom Forecast had to parry away.
Charlie Lee had a volley saved by Jonathan Bond and Charlie Allen fired well over early on for Gillingham but Watford were the side on top in the first half.
Vydra grabbed his first of the night 11 minutes into the contest when a lovely passing move resulted in Forsyth picking out the forward to head the ball between Forecast’s legs.
The lead was doubled four minutes later when Vydra went in for a 50-50 challenge with Tom Flanagan and the ball rebounded off the loanee and over the back-tracking keeper.
Forsyth struggled for much of last season but he was a good outlet on the left in the first half and he should have had another assist when he picked out Hodson at the far post, four yards from goal, but the Northern Ireland international smashed the ball against the outside of the post.
Mingoia had a long-range effort saved and Vydra was inches away from a hat-trick with a 20-yard drive in quick succession and the Hornets did score their third when a counter-attack saw Mingoia release Smith and, with Watford four-on-two, he coolly slotted past the keeper.
Watford left-sided centre half Aaron Tumwa struggled at times and when he was beaten by Allen, Burton forced a decent stop out of Bond low to the keeper’s left.
Burton had another effort from distance but Watford were worthy of their three-goal lead at half-time.
There was a slower tempo to the second-half but Vydra did well to pick out Iwelumo with a quick free-kick and and Forecast had to deny the striker twice; first from the header and then low down from the follow-up.
Watford were not passing the ball around as well in the second half and it was a poor spectacle for long periods.
Thompson needed to twice make last-ditch challenges to deny Gillingham; blocking Allen and then Strevens. From the resulting corner, Kedwell headed wide.
Watford were fortunate to end the game with a clean-sheet as Forsyth smashed a clearance into Chris Whelpdale and Kedwell was in one-on-one. He beat Bond in Watford’s goal but hit the outside of the post.
Watford had struggled to create in the second half but Matty Whichelow, who on the whole had failed to make an impact after coming on, nearly beat Forecast at his near post from 18 yards.
Gillingham had another decent attempt in injury time but there wasn’t to be any more goals in the second half.
Gillingham: Forecast (Hawkes 88), Evans (Fish 59), Martin, Flanagan, Essam (Strevens HT), Davies, Allen (Miller 87), Montrose, Brown (Whelpdale HT) Burton (Kedwell HT), Lee (Payne 43 - Dack 58)
Watford: Bond; Bennett, Thompson, Tumwa; Hodson, Jenkins, Smith (Hamilton-Forbes HT), Forsyth; Mingoia (Anya 55); Iwelumo (Massey 77), Vydra (Whichelow 55).
Subs: Stack, Doyley, Murray, Buaben.
Referee: Gavin Ward.