Date: 18th April 2015 at 8:11pm
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Watford beat Birmingham City 1-0 on a nervy afternoon at Vicarage Road to move to the top of the Championship after Bournemouth dropped points at home to Sheffield Wednesday. Matej Vydra hit the bar for Watford in a tense but goalless first half before Craig Cathcart broke the deadlock after 56 minutes with a spectacular volley from Ikechi Anya’s cross. The Hornets then held on to ensure they move a step closer to Premiership football next season.

Slavisa Jokanovic made four changes to the side that won 3-1 at Nottingham Forest on Wednesday. Tommie Hoban came in for the injured Matthew Connolly whilst Juan Carlos Paredes replaced Marco Motta. Miguel Layun replaced Ikechi Anya as Watford switched to a back four and Matej Vydra came in for Odion Ighalo.

Former Watford favourite Paul Robinson had to settle for a place on the bench as another former Hornet Rob Kiernan continued in defence.

Watford started the game well and fashioned the first chance of the afternoon after just two minutes when Troy Deeney and Matej Vydra linked up well with Vydra’s shot being defelcted behind for a corner.

Birmingham, with nothing to play for, looked adventurous in their play and nine minutes in created an opening when Clayton Donaldson found Andrew Shinnie in the box but Craig Cathcart took the ball off his foot just as he tried to shoot.

The Blues had the next chance of the game as well when they won a free kick in a wide position and David Cotterill’s probing delivery saw Juan Carlos Paredes clear the ball from in front of two advancing Birmingham players.

After 20 minutes Watford created and missed a glorious opportunity to take the lead. A good forward move saw Adlene Guedioura find Deeney in the box. His low shot was brilliantly saved by Darren Randolph before Vydra’s follow up effort was defelcted onto the bar by a defender.

Moments later Deeney picked up the ball again and played Vydra in but his low effort went wide from a tight angle.

Watford continued to press and came close when Guedioura shot straight at Randolph with a low effort from 25-yards.

The Hornets did look shaky at the back on occasion and a mix up between Cathcart and Gabriele Angella nearly allowed Donaldson to get in behind the Watford defence.

Watford came agonisingly close to taking the lead again after half an hour through Almen Abdi. Vydra found space in front of the Birmingham defence and found Abdi in the box who turned and saw his shot deflected just wide of the post.

Moments later Watford were nearly in again when Guedioura’s through ball found Deeney behind the Birmingham defence but Randolph was off his line quickly to smother the ball.

Half Time: Watford 0-0 Birmingham City
Second Half

It was the visitors who started the second half brightly and created the first opportunity when Angella got caught under the ball and Donaldson robbed him and fired goalwards but saw hit shot beaten away by Heurelho Gomes.

After 54 minutes Slavisa Jokanovic made a double substitution and it paid off immediately as one of those substitutes Ikechi Anya set up the opening goal after 56 minutes.

After a corner was cleared the ball was returned to Anya on the left wing. He drove goalwards and clipped in a delightful cross that Cathcart despatched into the net with a spectacular bicycle kick past Randolph.

Watford came close to doubling their lead three minutes later when they won a free kick out wide. Abdi’s delivery was met by Angella before the goalkeeper but he headed the ball over the bar.

On the hour the hosts created another chance to add the second goal their performance deserved. Guedioura broke away down the right wing and his deep cross was met by Anya on the volley on the edge of the box but his goalbound shot was blocked away by a defender near the line.

Midway through the second half Deeney had the next Watford opportunity when he turned a defender 25-yards out and fired an effort goalwards but it was deflected behind by a defender.

As the second half wore on Birmingham rarely threatened the Watford lead. They caused a moment of danger when Cotterill found space out wide and crossed deep into the Watford box but it evaded all the Birmingham attackers.

One final chance fell Birmingham’s way when a wide free kick found Rob Kiernan in the box but he could find any power of precision with his header and it drifted harmlessly wide.

Full Time: Watford 1-0 Birmingham City

Gomes, Paredes, Cathcart, Angella, Hoban, Watson, Layun (Anya), Guedioura, Abdi (Tozser), Vydra (Ighalo), Deeney

Subs Not Used: Bond (GK), Motta, Munari, Forestieri

Birmingham City Randolph, Caddis, Morrison, Kiernan, Grounds, Gleeson, Tesche (Davis), Cotterill, Shinnie (Thomas), Gray (Novak), Donaldson

Subs Not Used: Doyle (GK), Robinson, Spector, Arthur

Att: 19,241 (1,591 Birmingham)

Ref: Mr Mark Haywood