Watford climbed to third in the Championship table with a frantic 3-1 win over Blackburn Rovers at Vicarage Road.

In a high-octane clash between the two promotion hopefuls, Joao Pedro continued to impress, opening the scoring after just 12 minutes before Tom Cleverley doubled the advantage soon after.

Ben Brereton pulled one back for Rovers before half-time, but Darragh Lenihan’s own goal shortly after the break dampened their spirits as the Hornets scored three for the first time since their victory over Liverpool back in February. Ben Foster denied Adam Armstrong from the penalty spot midway through the second-half.

Head coach Vladimir Ivic made three changes to the side that beat Derby County last Friday, with Jeremy Ngakia dropping to the bench along with William Troost-Ekong and Domingos Quina. Ismaila Sarr, James Garner and Craig Cathcart took their places. Elsewhere, Etienne Capoue made a long-awaited return to the matchday squad, starting on the bench alongside Stipe Perica, who was available again following a suspension for the red card he picked up at Newport County.

It was Rovers who looked the sharper of the two sides in the early exchanges, spreading the ball around outside the Watford area and drawing a number of free-kicks in advantageous positions that they were ultimately unable to turn into goalscoring opportunities.

Their early supremacy was perhaps to be expected, as they went into the game as the league’s top scorers and it was one of their strikers who was first to draw a save from either of the goalkeepers, with Armstrong’s strike from the edge of the area thwarted by Ben Foster before Kiko Femenia mopped up the loose possession.

The Hornets then went one better at the other end and opened the scoring with a fluid move that culminated with Pedro netting his third of the season. Garner slipped a neat through ball into Femenia on the right, and his pass picked out the Brazilian on the penalty spot to tuck into the bottom corner.

That advantage was doubled just four minutes later with Garner involved once again. The Manchester United loanee floated a well-measured pass over the top for Sarr, who took the ball under his spell with some clever juggling before unleashing a shot on goal. Thomas Kaminski kept out the initial effort, but Cleverley was on hand to nod home the rebound under little pressure.

Watford Observer:

With the Hornets taking the game to Blackburn and pushing further forward than they have in previous fixtures this season, it was always likely that gaps would emerge at the back and that allowed Rovers to switch the flow of the game back in their favour.

They might have considered themselves unfortunate not to have gained a numerical advantage when Christian Kabasele hauled down Armstrong with the striker bearing down on goal,  but referee Andy Woolmer only issued a yellow card when most watching were expecting a red.

From the resulting free-kick, Lewis Holtby found the head of Lenihan but a wonderful reaction save from Foster preserved the two goal lead, before the keeper denied Daniel Ayala in similarly dramatic fashion just moments later from a corner.

Given the quality of those two saves, Foster might have felt a little embarrassed by the effort that did finally get the better of him. Brereton’s strike from range caught the shot-stopper out at his near post, bringing Rovers back into the match.

Pedro then had the opportunity to restore daylight for the Hornets shortly after when Nathaniel Chalobah clipped a ball forward for Sarr to run onto. He laid a chance on a plate for the 19-year-old who was waiting at the back post, only to turn it wide.

Blackburn also wasted a great opportunity to score before half-time with Corry Evans’s strike cannoning into the path of Armstrong off the feet of Ben Wilmot, only for the striker to lash over from inside the penalty area.

Following the restart, Watford focused their attentions on attacking down the left and it was a plan that bore fruit within three minutes.

First Ken Sema looked to have given Sarr the perfect chance to score with a low cross that the Senegalese international failed to control. However, Rovers did not take heed and when a second Sema cross swerved into the area, Lenihan panicked in the six-yard-box and turned the ball past Kaminski to once again put Ivic’s men two goals ahead.

Watford Observer:

Lenihan and Armstrong forced some more important saves from Foster during a brief period of dominance for the visitors, with Kabasele also pitching in with an heroic block, before Pedro squandered another gift of a chance at the other end, this time with Sarr rolling the ball into the feet of the Brazilian, who failed to make a solid connection.

With 20 minutes remaining Blackburn looked to have found another route back into the game when Cathcart felled Holtby in the box, but Foster leapt acrobatically to his left to deny Armstrong and prevent a nervy end to the game.

Watford should have had a fourth following another slick attacking move that saw Garner and Pedro combine before the former slipped the ball into the path of Sarr, but Kaminski produced an impressive stop from all-but point blank range.

Garner was also unable to find the net, as he almost got the goal that his efforts would have merited from a swashbuckling counter-attack. The midfielder’s half-volley bounced just wide of the goal, but it mattered little as the Hornets went on to claim their fourth win of the season.