FOR the second time in four days Darius Henderson fired Watford to the top of the Championship table with a brace.

The in-form striker, chosen ahead of Marlon King, took his tally to four in two games, and five for the season, as Watford moved above Bristol City in the table with a gritty 2-1 win at Ninian Park.

Henderson, who was joined for the last half-an-hour by King, bundled Watford in front after 17 minutes and repeated the trick on 78 minutes after Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's sublime strike just past the hour mark had levelled things up for the home side.

All the pre-match build-up had centered upon who Aidy Boothroyd and Dave Jones, the Cardiff boss, would select in attack.

Boothroyd sprung the biggest surprise, showing the courage to relegate King, his star striker who was out of sorts against Southampton, to the bench. Henderson was paired with Nathan Ellington in a new-look front pairing.

Jobi McAnuff was also named among the substitutes after being replaced by Adam Johnson while Adrian Mariappa was named as a makeshift replacement for the injured Lee Williamson.

Cardiff unveiled a new strike pairing of their own in Robbie Fowler and Hasselbaink, and it was Hasselbaink who enjoyed the first strike on goal. The Dutch international cleverly lost Gavin Mahon from a throw-in but failed to trouble Mart Poom with a snapshot from long range.

The Estonian number one was called into serious action ten minutes later when Paul Parry turned Lloyd Doyley inside out before unleashing a piledriver that Poom palmed away to safety.

Watford were very much on the back foot in the opening 15 minutes but stunned the home side by taking the lead with their first attempt on goal.

A free-kick from Johnson was flapped at by Ross Turnbull, his fellow Boro team-mate on loan at Ninian Park. The ball was returned goalwards by Jay DeMerit, blocked by Tony Calpadi but bundled home by Henderson, who ended up in the back of the net along with the ball.

Operating on the right flank after an early switch with Tommy Smith, Johnson was posing a real danger to the home side and it was another sparkling piece of play from the England Under-21 ace that should really have brought Watford their second goal.

He teased and tormented his marker before sending over a left-footed cross that Smith could only head over from six yards out. Johnson's cultured left foot was also responsible for Watford's only other chance of the half - Henderson just failing to connect properly with a driven corner from the on-loan star.

Cardiff spent much of the half in Watford territory but they could not really find a way past Watford's impressive centre-half pairing of DeMerit and Dan Shittu. The only time they really troubled Poom came on 37 minutes when Mahon, after a hospital pass from Henderson, inadvertently put Hasselbaink in the clear.

The seasoned striker rounded Poom but the Watford number one scrambled back brilliantly to deflect Hasselbaink's left-footed effort round for a corner.

Hasselbaink posed far more of a threat than the anonymous Fowler and he finally found his range on 61 minutes - just two minutes after Boothroyd had replaced Ellington with King.

Collecting the ball 25 yards from goal, Hasselbaink was given too much space by Shittu to curl the ball past the despairing dive of Poom in much the same way Nathan Dyer had done on Sunday, although from a much more central position.

Either side of the Dutchman's exquisite strike - his first for his new club - Henderson slammed an effort straight at Turnbull and then saw a header pushed round the post by the Cardiff keeper.

Watford were guilty of sitting too deep and were grateful to a fine reaction save from Poom to deny Trevor Sinclair on 74 minutes.

Boothroyd spent much of the second half urging his troops forward and the message finally got through to his players in the last quarter of the match.

And it was from their best spell of pressure of the second-half that they scored their second on 78 minutes. And it was Henderson, the man of the moment, who was in the right place at the right time yet again.

A corner from Johnson on the right was only half-cleared and returned into the danger area via Doyley and then Mahon with a deft flick. Henderson beat the offside trip, controlled the ball and then toe-poked it past Turnbull to send the visting fans behind the goal into ecstacy.

It was enough to hand the Hornets their fifth win in six games.

Cardiff: Turnbull; Gunter, McNaughton, Johnson, Capaldi; Parry, McPhail , Sinclair; Fowler, Hasselbaink. Subs: Thompson for Gunter, 82; Whittingham for Fowler, 84. Ledley, Blake and Oakes not used.

Watford: Poom; Doyley, DeMerit, Shittu, Stewart; Smith, Mahon , Mariappa, Johnson; Henderson, King. Subs: King for Ellington, 59; O'Toole for Mariappa, 73; McAnuff for Johnson, 79. Priskin and Lee not used.

Bookings: Hasselbaink (56).

Ref: Lee Probert.

Att: 13,169.