Gravelaine gives Watford relief

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Graham Taylor will wake this morning not knowing if the slight relief in his aching back is the result of cosseting - or a Frenchman called Xavier Gravelaine.

Graham Taylor will wake this morning not knowing if the slight relief in his aching back is the result of cosseting - or a Frenchman called Xavier Gravelaine.

Yesterday, at Vicarage Road, Watford won for the first time since mid-September when they overcame a Southampton side that looked dangerously like an outfit doomed once again to fight a relegation battle.

For Taylor this was a welcome return to Vicarage Road after missing the last home game, a 3-1 defeat by Everton, because of a virus. As usual he watched from the stand and there were times when he was clearly not impressed, most noticeably with Michel Ngongé, the unhappy looking Republic of Congo international.

It was, though, Gravelaine who salvaged yesterday's early relegation derby with a performance that was both cool in front of goal - he scored twice - and earnest in a match in which endeavour dominated. Gravelaine scored twice.

Before yesterday's match Taylor's Watford looked certain to finish the season as sinking companions with Sheffield Wednesday, but there were glimpse of promise yesterday during a thrilling game.

After an inspiring start from Southampton's loyal Matthew Le Tissier, who for 10 minutes looked majestic, it was Watford who started to take control. Their opener came after 17 minutes when David Perpetuini, a home-produced trainee from Hitchin, scored his first goal in only his second Premiership start.

The second goal was classy. Ngongé slipped the ball to Micah Hyde, who placed a perfect cross at Gravelaine's feet. The former Paris St-Germain striker left Dean Richards sprawling before scoring. The match was 32 minutes old and Watford had their best lead in the Premiership this season.

Le Tissier limped off after 43 minutes to be replaced by the former England winger Stuart Ripley, and his departure looked a good sign for the Hornets. However, Southampton started the second half much the same as they had the first and took control. After 61 minutes, Louis Boa Morte hit their first after Kevin Davies had done the work. The game re-started and 69 seconds later it was 2-2 and suddenly Watford's hopes of avoiding First Division football looked dim once again. Davies scored with another fine finish after Boa Morte and the Welsh veteran, Mark Hughes, had combined well.

Taylor was on his feet and screaming, his back clearly hurting him, but he did not have long to wait for relief. After 67 minutes, Gravelaine struck again from close range. For the first time in the Premiership, Watford had scored three and they had rediscovered how to win. To stay up they will have to repeat the trick often.

Goals: Perpetuini (17) 1-0; Gravelaine (32) 2-0; Boa Morte (63) 2-1; Davies (63) 2-2; Gravelaine (67) 3-2.

Watford (4-4-2): Chamberlain; Page, Palmer, Cox, Robinson; Gudmundsson (Gibbs, 84), Hyde, Perpetuini, Johnson; Ngongé (Foley, 67), Gravelaine (Smith, 78). Substitutes not used: Day (gk), Miller.

Southampton (4-4-2): Jones; Benali, Richards, Lundekvam, Dodd; Le Tissier (Ripley, 43; Kachloul, 82), Tessem, Soltvedt, Boa Morte; Hughes (Beattie, 76), Davies. Substitutes not used: Moss (gk), Bridge.

Referee: M Riley (Leeds).

Booked: Watford: Perpetuini, Gravelaine, Robinson, Smith, Hyde. Southampton: Davies, Hughes, Richards.

Man of the match: Gravelaine.

Attendance: 18,459.