A WEEK of upheaval at Vicarage Road ended on a positive note for the Hornets this afternoon after they produced a classic smash and grab performance at the Madejski Stadium.

Dan Shittu's first league goal of the season and Marlon King's first since returning from injury was enough to hand the Hornets their second Premiership away win of the campaign and ensure life without the Russos, the axed directors, began with a victory.

Shittu and King may have been the heroes for their second-half strikers but the three points owed much to the performance of Ben Foster, who kept European chasing Reading at bay almost single-handedly during a one-sided first hour.

Boothroyd made four changes to the side that went down 1-0 at Sheffield United last weekend. The major surprise saw captain Gavin Mahon dropped to the bench while there was no place in the 16 for Hameur Bouazza. The winger, who is in the running for the Watford Observer Player of the Year Award, has returned to Paris to be with his sick father With Jay DeMerit rested and Clarke Carlisle suspended, Cedric Avinel, the 20-year-old French defender, was handed his first-team debut, partnering Shittu at the heart of the defence. Tommy Smith returned after missing the last two matches through injury, Douglas Rinaldi shook off the ankle knock that forced him to miss the match at Bramall Lane while Darius Henderson, lining up against his former club, was given the nod to partner King, captain for the day, in attack.

Already without Gareth Williams, Damien Francis, Jordan Stewart and James Chambers, Watford suffered another injury blow after just ten minutes. Rinaldi left the field with a blooded nose and was replaced by Mahon.

Soon after, Foster was called to make his first save of a busy afternoon for the on loan keeper. After Avinel had been booked for a late challenge on Lita, Greg Halford swung over a free-kick from the left, forcing Foster to back pedal and palm the ball away for a corner.

Lita proved a real handful for Avinel, the French rookie, in the first half, to such an extent that Boothroyd was forced to move the more muscular Doyley inside towards the end of the half and push Avinel out to right back.

Foster was forced to rush off his line on 18 minutes and save at the feet of Lita after he had left the Hornets' defence for dead following a defence-splitting pass from the industrious Steve Sidwell. Lita, the former Bristol City man, then had strong claims for a penalty turned down on 20 minutes when he appeared to be man-handled to the floor by Avinel.

Although he spearheaded the attack superbly, Lita was not the only player causing Watford problems. Nicky Shorey saw a free-kick deflected over the bar while Halford charged forward from right back, skipped past Al Bangura and Mahon before Foster came to the rescue once more.

Just past the half hour, Dave Kitson glanced a header on to the top of the crossbar while Foster timed his dive at the feet of the rampaging Lita to perfection on 41 minutes. It was virtually all one-way traffic.

The closest Watford came to threatening Marcus Hahnemann's goal was when Michael Dubbery took a Bangura cross off the head of Henderson on 15 minutes.

Following a tough baptism to the Premiership, Avinel was replaced at half-time by Adrian Mariappa as Boothroyd moved to prevent his side being carved open so easily.

The change did not appear to have made too much difference when Lita rolled Doyley inside the opening three minutes of the second half and forced Foster to dive low to his left to turn away a low right-footed drive.

Watford finally took time out from defending to force Hahnemann to make his first save of the afternoon on 51 minutes. A long throw from Mahon was flicked into the path of Smith whose goalbound left-footed strike crashed into the chest of Henderson. The rebound fell kindly for Williamson whose first-time effort bounced into the ground and straight at the Reading number one.

Foster was by far the busier of the two keepers and he was called into action again on 59 minutes, saving low from Duberry after Lita had caused havoc in the box once more.

It looked only a matter of time before Reading would score but, incredibly, it was Watford who took the lead completely against the run of the play on the hour mark. A free-kick routine on the right between Williamson and Smith saw the former Rotherham man swing the ball across the face of goal. The Reading defence rushed out looking for offside but Shittu timed his run to perfection, ghosting in from the far past to tuck the ball past Hahnemann.

Reading looked to have performed the same trick as the visitors on 75 minutes. As the Watford defence pushed up looking for the flag of the assistant referee, Seol Ki-Hyeon found himself unmarked at the far post from a Halford centre. The Korean steadied himself, pulled the trigger but saw his effort brilliantly smothered by the outstanding Foster.

While Foster had the kind of afternoon that showed why many consider him to be England's number one, Hahnemann will want to forget this match in a hurry. The American made a complete hash of a left-footed cross from Smith on 84 minutes, allowing King the simplest of headers to claim his first goal since returning from injury.

It was a sweet moment for King, who has missed most of the season through injury, and he ran straight to the touchline to celebrate his goal with the medical staff, the men who have been with him every step of the way on the road to recovery.

Reading: Hahnemann; Halford, Dubbery, Ingimarsson, Shorey; Ki-Hyeon, Sidwell, Harper, Hunt; Lita, Kitson. Subs: Oster for Hunt, 76. Gunnarsson for Harper, 78; Doyle for Kitson, 81;,Bikey, Federici not used.

Watford: Foster; Doyley, Avinel, Shittu, Powell; Williamson, Rinaldi, Bangura, Smith; Henderson, King. Subs: Mahon for Rinaldi, 10. Mariappa for Avinel, 45; Hoskins for Henderson, 81; Priskin and Lee not used.

Booked: Avinel (10), Bangura (58) Ref: Dermot Gallagher.

Att: 23,294.