Watford ultimately paid the price for a poor opening as Nottingham Forest made it six straight league victories with a 1-0 win at the City Ground this afternoon.

The game was not even 50 seconds old when Chris Cohen and Robert Earnshaw combined to tee up Marcus Tudgay for what turned out to be the winner as the hosts extended their unbeaten league run at home to a staggering 34th game.

The Hornets gave as good as they got after that though, with Lee Camp making three good saves to thwart Danny Graham, twice, and Lloyd Doyley. But the visitors also had good cause to feel aggrieved at referee Graham Scott after he turned down two strong penalty appeals after the break for Luke Chambers and Chris Gunter challenges on Will Buckley in quick succession, the first of which looked cast iron.

Malky Mackay made two changes from Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace. Marvin Sordell was fit to return and replaced Andreas Weimann, while Danny Drinkwater made his first start in place of another loanee, Andros Townsend.

The match couldn’t have got off to a worse start for the Hornets as they fell behind after just 48 seconds.

Cohen battled away down the left and he managed to work the ball into Earnshaw. Although the forward had his back to goal, nobody picked up the run of strike partner Tudgay and, once the ball was laid off to him, the former Sheffield Wednesday man was able to strike a right-footed effort across Scott Loach and into the far corner to make it 1-0.

Watford looked to respond quickly and they almost equalised in the sixth minute when Graham raced onto a ball in the area, but Camp was very smartly off his line to save.

Boosted by this opportunity, the visitors continued to take the game to Forest with, first, Buckley flashing a great ball from the left across the six-yard box that no team-mate was able to get a touch on, before Graham sent Sordell momentarily away on the right side of the box, but the striker chose to check back on his left foot and the opportunity was lost.

However, the hosts created another opening in the 15th minute when Paul Anderson struck a superb inswinging left-footed cross from the right flank and Wes Morgan went full length to try and connect at the far post, but the ball was just too far ahead of him.

Adrian Mariappa then had to make a great challenge to prevent Earnshaw from getting a shot away following Anderson’s pull-back, this time from the left after swapping sides with Cohen.

But after weathering that mini storm, the Hornets twice went close to equalising from the same passage of play.

John Eustace started things in his own half, finding McGinn, who in turn played the ball to Drinkwater as play developed down the Watford right. The Watford loanee then fed Graham wide on the flank and his superb right-footed cross fizzed across the six-yard box, with Sordell inches away from connecting. Buckley though, retrieved the ball on the left of the area and laid it back to Doyley who, from the edge of the 18-yard box, let fly with a right-footed strike that Camp did well to push over.

Not to be outdone though, Loach had to be at his best moments later, diving full length to his right to push away an excellent left-footed effort by Cohen from distance before Drinkwater was the first player to be booked for a lunge on Morgan.

Eustace was soon joining him on a yellow card for tugging back Paul McKenna on the edge of the area and this led to a big let off for the visitors, with Earnshaw lifting the resultant free-kick over the wall and wide of Loach’s left-hand post.

The hosts asked most of the questions for a period after that, but three minutes before the break the Hornets had a sight of an opening when Sordell rode a couple of challenges to work some space on the right before laying the ball into Graham on the edge of the six-yard box. Marked and with his back to goal, the visitors’ top scorer was unable to get a shot away, but he did set up McGinn, whose left-footed effort was cleared.

Watford went into the second period with a job to do, but history almost repeated itself within a minute of the restart.

The danger looked to have been dealt with when Eustace intercepted a ball into the area from the right, but the skipper miscontrolled and it sat up perfectly for Earnshaw, who, with the goal at his mercy from the right side of the six-yard box, somehow proceeded to hit across the target and wide of the far post.

The visitors’ response to that let off was good though, with Graham muscling his way through on the edge of the area before forcing Camp into a smart stop with a right-footed effort from 15 yards.

The Hornets boss decided to make his first change shortly after, bringing on Matt Whichelow for Drinkwater after 52 minutes, before some rather fortuitous defending by Morgan prevented a McGinn pass from the right of the area running for Graham.

Radoslaw Majewski twice forced the visiting defence to block shots away for corners before the midfielder was rightly booked for diving in the area.

That was clear-cut, as was what happened to Buckley soon after when he was clearly tripped by Chambers in the 18-yard area, but the referee was not interested. That was the same outcome moments later when the Watford winger again went down under Gunter’s challenge in the area and to compound the visitors’ annoyance, they then had a goal ruled out for pushing from the resultant corner after Eustace had headed home.

The hosts made their first change after 63 minutes, with Nathan Tyson coming on for Anderson, before Sordell made way for Weimann three minutes later.

It was the hosts who had the next chance in the 72nd minute when Chambers met a corner from the left with a flashing near post header that went wide before Loach had to make a good save to keep out an angled effort from Tyson, as Doyley was left injured on the floor.

That was to be the left-back last involvement and he was replaced by Dale Bennett, while Lewis McGugan and Dele Adebola came on for Majeswki and Earnshaw respectively.

Watford pushed on as the closing stages beckoned and got the ball into the box on numerous occasions, but they were unable to fashion another clear opportunity, despite five minutes of added time.

Nottingham Forest: Camp; Gunter, Morgan, Chambers, Konchesky; Anderson (Tyson 63), McKenna, Majewski (McGugan 78), Cohen; Earnshaw (Adebola 78), Tudgay. Not used: McCleary, McGoldrick, Smith and Lynch.

Watford: Loach; Hodson, Mariappa, Taylor, Doyley (Bennett 78); Eustace; McGinn, Drinkwater (Whichelow 52), Buckley; Sordell (Weimann 66), Graham. Not used: Deeney, Gilmartin, Jenkins and Townsend.

Bookings: Drinkwater for a foul on Morgan after 28 mins; Eustace for a foul on McKenna after 30 mins; Majewski for diving after 58 mins; Konchesky for a foul on Whichelow after 75 mins; Tudgay for a foul on Eustace after 89 mins.

Attendance: 23,393.

Referee: Graham Scott.