HUGE sighs all round at the Vic` today, Watford finally safe from the lingering threat of relegation to League One, a comfortable, comfortable 3-0 win over Reading enough to secure the Hornet`s Championship status for another season.
Watford made two changes from Tuesday`s draw at Queens Park Rangers; Heidar Helguson returned up top to partner Danny Graham whilst Dale Bennett was dropped meaning Lee Hodson came in, Aidy Mariappa partnering Martin Taylor at centre-halve.
Reading scarcely created a first-half chance, Watford were quicker and better in every department, working hard to win the ball back and retaining it better than the scrappy Royals, carving out one really good chance for Heidar Helguson who drove a left-footed effort against the stanchion. Another shot was cleared off the line at the far post for the Hornet`s from a placed effort from the left.
Watford did survive one first-half scare however, as Shane Long was flicked on into the penalty area, Martin Taylor grappled the Dubliner to the ground, somehow avoiding being penalised however.
On thirty minutes Watford took the lead, Danny Graham flicking a fine header of Adam Federici in the Reading goal from a long throw on.
Just two minutes into the second half, Watford doubled their lead to virtually secure all three points.
Following a cross from the right, Heidar Helguson showed his predatory instinct, swiveling in the penalty area to thrash home on his left foot from around twelve yards.
And, in the 55th minute Watford confirmed their Championship place for next season for good, Danny Graham grabbing his second of the afternoon, twelfth of the season having collected a loose ball from Matt Mills, found himself at the perfect angle to curl past Aussie stopper Federici to send the Rookery into raptures.
It could have been four for Graham as he missed two late chances – one rule offside; but both very similar chances, the ball lifted into the former Middlesbrough man very volleying over the bar when one-on-one from close range.
Centre-halve Martin Taylor also came close as his close-range hooked volley was cleared on the line at the far post by a Reading player.
So. Job done. In spite of the trying incredibly trying on and off field circumstances, Malky`s young charges stay to fight another season in the ‘N.Power` Championship. A hard Summer of wheeling-dealing and holding onto our more saleable assets lies ahead.
Watford: Loach, Doyley, Martin Taylor, Mariappa, Harley, Hodson (Bennett, 72 ) , Eustace, Lansbury,Cowie, Graham, Helguson (Sordell, 72 )
ubs not used: Lee,Hoskins,McGinn,Bryan,Mingoia,
Reading: Federici, Mills, Griffin, Bertrand, Khizanishvili, McAnuff, Tabb ( Rasiak, 52 ) , Howard, Kebe (Robson-Kanu, 69 ) , Sigurdsson, Long ( Church, 61 )
ubs not used: Hamer, Pearce, Karacan, Gunnarsson,
Bookings: Eustace , Graham , Martin Taylor (Watford) Griffin , Khizanishvili (Reading)
Scott Loach – 6
Had nothing to do virtually all afternoon.
Lee Hodson – 7
Defensively sound and impressive going forward to boot.
Aidy Mariappa – 7
Centre-halve is Mariappa’s best position for me. He was brought up through the Academy there and his best performances this season especially have been there. It helps him massively that he has a dominating partner in Taylor a la Jay DeMerit.
Martin Taylor – 6
Lucky not to concede a first-half penalty, and equally unlucky not to score at the same end in the second half.
Lloyd Doyley – 6
Kept pace with Jimmy Kebe on the whole and barely let McAnuff have a sniff after he switched sides following a lack of change out of Hodson.
Don Cowie – 7
One or two questionable decisions in terms of his passing and decision-making, but thoroughly decent again following Plymouth performance. Got up and down the line well and made second goal with a tantalising cross.
John Eustace – 8 (c)
A real skippers peformance from Eustace who fully deserved his recent ‘players player’ award. Though the usual couple of dodgy passes in ten were evident he held it all together in midfield with his usual dogged display. We must give him a new deal!
Henri Lansbury – 7
Several clever balls of note.
Jon Harley -7
Motored forward frequently and offered his usual defensive solidity.
Danny Graham – 8
Two really well taken goals and if it wasn’t for Eustace another MOTM display from Golden Graham. Worked his socks off.
Heidar Helguson – 6
Good goal from the Icelander, proving his legs are there for something other than spring!