It wasn’t pretty and made for increasingly uncomfortable viewing for those Watford fans watching on Hive Live but the Hornets are three more points closer to promotion after beating Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 at Vicarage Road.

The game was ultimately decided by an early own goal but the Hornets struggled to find the fluency and attacking swagger that had been a feature of recent performances in their superb run, particularly after the break. What they demonstrated though, were the other qualities that any side that wants to be successful needs.

They were organised, resolute and largely defended well when necessary to the extent Daniel Bachmann was only really extended once and the hosts only survived one other serious let off.

As has been so often the case this season, Watford were in the driving seat from early on when Tom Lees could only turn a cross from Ismaila Sarr into his own net.

They were unable to turn the screw after that though, particularly during a second half when relatively little of the game was played in the final attacking third of the pitch.

But they were able to do enough to stretch their advantage to nine points over Swansea City ahead of their evening kick-off at Birmingham City after recording a sixth straight league win for the first time since January 2011.

Xiscco Munoz made two changes from the sider that beat Birmingham City 3-0 last time out, but they were both positive with Sarr and Philip Zinckernagel fit to return. Dan Gosling and Ken Sema, having played in a friendly for Sweden on Wednesday, dropped to a bench that also featured Christian Kabasele following his injury lay-off.

The Owls gained a much-needed 2-1 victory at Barnsley in their fight for Championship survival in their last game before the international break and they made just the one change, with Sam Hutchinson coming in for Liam Palmer.

However, they had to do without manager Darren Moore after a positive test for Covid-19, meaning his assistant Jamie Smith took charge of the team.

Watford looked to get on the front foot from the outset and Kiko Femenia was played into a good crossing position before Julian Borner, the left-sided part of Wednesday’s back three, picked up an early yellow card after going through Sarr.

There were more nervy moments in the Owls backline when Lees sliced a Sarr cross and sent it looping towards his own net but a grateful Joe Wildsmith was able to pluck the ball out of the air.

It didn’t take much longer for the Hornets to get their noses in front though, with yet another early goal.

Watford Observer:

Adam Masina was the instigator with a superb ball to Sarr, he played in a fine cross and the stretching Lees could only turn the ball into his own net in the six-yard box with Isaac Success readying himself for a tap-in at the far post.

The goal was initially flagged for offside but after a quick conversation with his assistant referee Chris Kavanagh pointed to the centre spot and the hosts were in front.

Wednesday responded positively to the setback, with Joey Pelupessy hitting a shot wide from inside the D after a corner had been half cleared.

Watford were playing within themselves but midway through the half they were almost in again.

Nathaniel Chalobah was clearly fouled in the centre circle but Kavanagh played a good advantage as the ball was swept out to Pedro on the left. He advanced before the ball was laid inside to Success in the 18-yard box, but he wanted the extra touch instead of pulling the trigger and the visitors were able to deal with the danger.

Watford Observer:

Bachmann had been relatively quiet in recent games, but soon after he had to make a smothering save at the feet of Josh Windass on the left edge of the six-yard box after the Owls forward had been slipped in by a fine Barry Bannan pass.

Francisco Sierralta picked up the Hornets’ first booking on the half-hour for bringing down Jordan Rhodes when the Wednesday forward would otherwise have got away on the right. The resultant free-kick was swung into the box, William Troost-Ekong won the aerial dual but the ball dropped to Hutchinson who stabbed a first-time effort over the top.

The action soon switched to the other end where Success dragged a first-time effort wide of the far post after a Sarr cross had deflected nicely into his path.

Success was then tripped on the edge of the 18-yard box, giving the Hornets a free-kick in a good position, but Masina was only able to curl his effort into the wall.

Another very good set-piece opportunity presented itself in the 37th minute when Osaze Urhoghide saw yellow after chopping down Zinckernagel on the edge of the box. The Dane took the free-kick himself and got it up and over the wall but Wildsmith was able to comfortably take the catch.

Reach than joined his teammate in the book after tugging back Sarr, meaning both of Wednesday’s left-sided defenders were on a yellow card.

Watford’s next half-chance came from a corner on the right when Will Hughes played it into the near post where Chalobah had got clear, but he was well wide of the target with a first-time effort.

The home side were looking to finish the first half strongly though, and in injury time a long diagonal pass forward from Troost-Ekong was helped on by Success into the path of Pedro to strike a left-footed cross shot beyond Wildsmith and narrowly wide of the far post.

The visitors had the first attempt of the second half when Callum Paterson juggled the ball before trying a dipping volley from 25 yards which Bachmann was able to watch clear his goal.

Wednesday had another opening when Windass was picked out on the right side of the area but he was just unable to pick out Rhodes with his ball inside.

Soon after though, Pedro was played in on the left-side of the area, he dumped a defender on his backside as he checked back onto his right foot before striking a low shot which Wildsmith saved with his legs at the near post.

Munoz made the first changes on the hour when Zinckernagel and Success were replaced by Gosling and Andre Gray.

Watford Observer:

Gosling’s first involvement was to concede a free-kick inside the D but the Hornets’ wall did its job when Bannan took the set piece, immediately after changing one of his boots.

Hughes was booked for pulling back Windass in the 65th minute, with the Hornets still not hitting their stride in the second half. And they were to survive a big let off moments later when a ball in from the left glanced off the head of Masina, under pressure from Windass, and fell ideally for Rhodes at the far post, but he struck a very good opening over the top.

Watford were dealt a blow with 20 minutes left when Pedro was shoved in the back right in front of the dugout, but was soon being helped down the tunnel with what looked to be an injury to his right ankle. His place was taken by Sema.

The Owls made their first change with 13 minutes remaining as Palmer replaced Pelupessy, but soon after their opponents were not far away from getting a second goal.

Having lost possession and gone to ground in a challenge, Sarr did very well to get away from his man as he regained his feet before accelerating towards the area, but he was unable to pick out Gray with his cutback.

After Andre Green had replaced Paterson, Carlos Sanchez came on for Chalobah as the hosts sought to see out the closing stages. Liam Shaw then came on for the injured Lees.

Opportunities had been in short supply for the Hornets after the break, but another half-chance did arrive with four minutes left when a Hughes corner was headed clear to the edge of the area where Sarr struck a first-time effort not too far wide.

Watford remained resolute though, and shortly before 5pm were three more points closer to their target of promotion back to the Premier League.

Watford Observer:

Watford: Bachmann; Femenia, Troost-Ekong, Sierralta, Masina; Chalobah (Sanchez 84), Hughes, Zinckernagel (Gosling 60); Sarr, Success (Gray 60), Pedro (Sema 71). Subs not used: Foster, Ngakia, Lazaar, Kabasele, Hungbo.

Sheffield Wednesday: Wildsmith; Urhoghide, Lees (Shaw 84), Borner; Paterson (Green 82), Pelupessy (Palmer 77), Bannan, Hutchinson; Reach; Rhodes, Windass. Subs not used: Jackson, Harris, Penney, Brown, Hunt, Kachunga.

Bookings: Borner for a foul on Sarr (3); Sierralta for a foul on Rhodes (30); Urhoghide for a foul on Zinckernagel (37); Reach for a foul on Sarr (40); Hughes for a foul on Windass (65); Wildsmith for dissent (78).

Referee: Chris Kavanagh.