Coventry are Browned off

Watford 3 Coventry 0
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The Independent Football

When Watford took Wayne Brown on loan from Ipswich at the end of January it was for his defensive skills, but the centre back produced excellence of another sort altogether at the sharp end of his team, heading two first half goals which continued Watford's belated revival of fortunes and at the same time put a dent in Coventry's play-off aspirations.

Though Ipswich manager, George Burley, has a 24-hour recall option on Brown and insists he is not for sale under any circumstances, the defender spends a lot of time at other clubs. On the strength of this showing, he would be an asset to Watford and plenty of other sides.

Watford came into this game full of confidence, having collected four points from two away fixtures. Even so, yesterday's victory was only their fourth since the turn of the year and manager Gianluca Vialli's ambitions for this season are certainly on hold. "Realistically, it is probably a bit too late, which I regret, but it is nice to see we are now performing as a unit and the results are coming," he said.

The resignation he has hinted at from will be far from his thoughts after this heartening win, even though, as Coventry manager Roland Nilsson pointed out, "Watford played well but we gave the points away today."

The slide started as early as the fourth minute with Brown's first goal. Lee Cook's inswinging corner was not decisively cleared and Cook scampered back and put over another centre for Brown, stationed at the far post, to head across Magnus Hedman and in to the far wall of the netting. "After that we were always trying to catch up," said Nilsson.

The excellence of both goalkeepers indicated that there would be no further goals, with Alec Chamberlain brilliantly tipping over David Thompson's viciously dipping volley from 25 yards and doing even better soon afterwards to claw away a fine free-kick by the Moroccan, Youssef Safri. The ball appeared already over the line as Chamberlain reached it, and Brown completed the clearance as Coventry gaped in disbelief.

Then it was Hedman's turn to show his brilliance in dealing with a Marcus Gayle header and an Allan Nielsen volley, but in first half injury time Watford struck again. Once more it was the crossing skills of Cook which made the chance. His free-kick was knocked back across the face of goal by Neil Cox and Brown headed in.

Brown spoiled his fine afternoon with an embarrassingly late tackle on Jay Bothroyd five minutes into the second half, which brought the game's only booking. Bothroyd made way five minutes later for Lee Mills. As Coventry pushed for the goal which would have kept them in it, Mills got over a centre which Watford captain Filippo Galli miskicked to Lee Hughes. But the £5m man struck an upright from close in.

Those fading hopes of recovery were extinguished after 72 minutes with Watford's third. Gayle has been under fire from Vialli for a lack of goals, but there was nothing wrong with the way his head dispatched a Smith centre for his sixth of the season. There was just time for a 17-year-old academy prospect, Anthony McNamee to delight the crowd with his speed and skill. Things seem to be looking up for Luca.