Football: Confident Watford take a grip on proceedings

Watford 2 Wycombe Wanderers 1
Watford's chairman, Elton John, made his first appearance of the season at Vicarage Road yesterday and was greeted with warm applause. The performance of his beloved Hornets will have lifted his spirits, if only for a moment.

For a game between the first and third-placed teams in the Second Division, this was a surprisingly one-sided contest. The leaders Watford took an early hold of the game that they never looked like giving up.

The home side's confident start brought an almost immediate reward. On six minutes the enterprising Peter Kennedy crossed from the left towards Ronny Rosenthal, who made partial contact with his left foot, and Micah Hyde was on hand to side-foot the ball past goalkeeper Martin Taylor. The home side were desperately unfortunate not to extend their lead on 31 minutes, when a strong run by Kennedy created a chance for Hyde to again display his goal-scoring instincts. His shot beat Taylor but cannoned off the bar.

The woodwork came to Wycombe's aid again five minutes later. This time the unlucky player was Jason Lee, his effort hitting the underside of the bar and bouncing down on the line.

Only remarkable defending from Steve Brown prevented Gifton Noel-Williams from extending Watford's lead early in the second half. Noel-Williams, put through by Rosenthal, shot directly at Taylor but looked to have scored with the rebound, only for Brown to athletically head the shot on to the crossbar.

Watford's football richly deserved a goal and when it finally came, in the 61st minute, it was a beauty. Rosenthal carefully laid the ball back to Lee on the edge of the area and the once maligned striker drove the ball left-footed into the top right-hand corner. Lee may well have cut a comic figure in the Premiership but at this level he is a very serious proposition.

A 2-0 lead nearly became 3-0 when the defender Tommy Mooney headed a Kennedy corner on to the bar, and Watford appeared to be coasting towards a comfortable three points.

However, a goal conjured out of nothing brought the visitors right back into the contest. On 69 minutes superb work by Mark Stallard gave Paul Read an unmissable opportunity to score in front of the Wycombe fans, and the game became a contest for the first time.

Read then struck the goal's frame on 82 minutes, but with that went Wycombe's hopes of an improbable comeback.

Goals: Hyde (6) 1-0; Lee (61) 2-0; Read (69) 2-1.

Watford (3-4-3): Chamberlain; Melvang (Gibbs, 58), Kennedy, Page; Palmer, Mooney, Noel-Williams, Hyde; Lee, Johnson, Rosenthal (Easton, 85). Substitute not used: Andrews.

Wycombe Wanderers (5-3-2): Taylor; Cavanagh, Beeton, Mohan, McCarthy, Forsyth (Simpson, 3); Cornforth, Read, Stallard; McGavin, Brown (Harkin, 78). Substitutes not used: Carroll.

Referee: P Rejer (Tipton). Booking: Wycombe: Cornforth.

Man of the match: Kennedy. Attendance: 12,100.