Football: Watford take stock after breaking Banks

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Watford 2

Hyde 24

Mooney 53

Bolton Wanderers 0

Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 13,001

UNDER THE anxious and attentive gaze of their superstar benefactor, Watford took another significant step towards the hitherto unlikely prize of a place in the Premiership next season. A goal in each half was enough to see off Bolton, who began the day one place above their hosts in the First Division. Now the Lancastrians can see their own promotion hopes fading fast.

Having issued the battle cry earlier in the week the Watford chairman, Elton John, was rewarded with a two-thirds full Vicarage Road as Watford went in search of a third win on the trot to keep up their belated push for a play-off place and a second successive promotion.

Bolton, by contrast, have been struggling of late and knew that defeat yesterday would move their opponents to within one point of them on the edge of the play-off zone. Recent form was all too apparent in a storming opening gambit by Graham Taylor's team and Bolton had several reasons to thank their goalkeeper Steve Banks, signed by Colin Todd from Blackpool on transfer deadline day.

In the very first minute Banks raced off his line to clear as Nick Wright burst through, then in the third Watford won a penalty after Paul Warhurst's foul on Allan Smart. Tommy Mooney stepped up to take it but Banks was not yet ready to be beaten and he turned the kick aside.

An even better save thwarted Mooney once more after the Watford striker seemed to have produced the perfect downward header from Darren Bazeley's cross and it was followed almost immediately by a slightly more comfortable save from another Mooney header.

Bolton looked shell-shocked, but gradually Claus Jensen and Ricardo Gardner began to threaten on the break, keeping the Watford defenders on their toes. Robert Page, in particular, prevented Bolton taking an unexpected lead with a well-timed tackle on Jensen, who had stolen in between two defenders.

Banks was back in the thick of the action again with a fingertip save from Wright, but in the 24th minute he was finally beaten when Micah Hyde unleashed an instinctive drive from 20 yards that flew past the keeper's flailing right hand into the top corner of the net.

Bob Taylor might have equalised before the break but shot into the side netting after weaving his way past Page, and within eight minutes of the restart Bolton found themselves two down. A beautifully weighted cross by Bazeley eluded Andy Todd and Mooney made amends for his penalty miss with a thumping header.

Bolton tried to respond but first Eidur Gudjohnson and then Taylor found Alec Chamberlain in the Watford goal blocking their way, while Watford threatened to increase their lead at the other end. One almighty scramble ended with the ball bouncing to safety off Banks' post following Wright's cross. But while Bolton remained a threat to the end it was left to Watford to close the gap.