A first start for Carlton Cole and a first thrashing administered by West Ham in the Championship. A coincidence? Almost certainly not, considering how influential he was - on the ball, in the air and with his movement.
Then again, for all the debate about who should be leading West Ham's line up front, it was two goal-shy defenders who sent them on their way to victory. James Tomkins scored his first since April 2009 then – even more unusually – Joey O'Brien produced a solo effort to net for the first time since January 2005. Those two first-half goals deflated a dangerous-looking Watford side, before Cole killed them off and Scott Parker rounded off the rout.
It is short-sighted to trot out stats about West Ham having shaken off their away woes – considering the difference in standard of opposition – but at least they had the rare feeling of back-to-back away wins. Manager Sam Allardyce said: "The quality of all four goals was something to be admired. It's how we defended as well. I wouldn't have thought the players can get much better than they were tonight."
Cole had got the nod ahead of Frédéric Piquionne. Interestingly, Allardyce brought Piquionne on for Cole almost as soon as the England striker had scored. Cole insists he is staying at the club though. John Carew – not fit enough yet – is eyeing his place, too.
Cole won the free-kick that led to West Ham's opener. Matt Taylor struck it well, but it was pushed out by Watford goalkeeper Scott Loach. Taylor took the corner and Tomkins scored with a firm, back-post header.
Watford battled on, in an open and fast-paced start, with Marvin Sordell forcing an excellent finger-tip save from Robert Green – a pivotal moment. Discussing Green's future, Allardyce said: "It's obviously a very delicate situation as we're in the Championship and there's only a certain length we can go."
Shortly before half-time, O'Brien dashed down the right, cut inside and across the box, then eventually squeezed a low shot into the far corner. With West Ham looking increasingly comfortable, Herita Ilunga cut the ball back from the left for Cole to tap home in the 70th minute. Parker fired in the fourth late on with a curling shot from Julien Faubert's pass.
The Watford manager Sean Dyche said: "For parts of the game, we played very well. The reality is that they've got one player who earns our total wage bill."
Watford (4-4-2): Loach; Doyley, Mariappa, Taylor, Dickinson; Yeates (Deeney, 74), Eustace, Jenkins, Forsyth; Sordell, Iwelumo (Massey, 56). Substitutes not used Gilmartin (gk), Bennett, Mirfin.
West Ham United (4-5-1): Green; O'Brien, Tomkins (Faye, 67), Reid, Ilunga; Collison (Faubert, 75), Nolan, Parker, Noble, Taylor; Cole (Piquionne, 74). Substitutes not used Boffin (gk), Barrera.
Referee D Whitestone (Northamptonshire).