Watford 0 West Bromwich 3: Phillips takes sting out of Hornets

West Bromwich outmuscle then outplay the League's early pacesetters as Boothroyd's men run out of ideas
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The Independent Online

Watford lost their unbeaten home record with disconcerting ease if you are a fan of the Hornets, but they have not lost their position at the head of the Championship and if they react how they did the last time they lost, another 10-game unbeaten streak is heading their way. If they do not, then they could easily be replaced as leaders, sooner than they might like, by West Bromwich.

"I've got no complaints," said Aidy Boothroyd and, if he is nothing else, the Watford manager can be impressively honest. It is his way of motivating his team. Rather than cloak his players in undeserved compliments when they lose, he is ready to admit when his team are outplayed. It happened at Leicester in August and it happened here at Vicarage Road.

In winning, the Baggies cut the gap between themselves and Watford to a much more manageable six points and once the first goal went in that always looked likely to be the case. The way they matched the Hornets' abrasive style was not pretty initially but proved decisive as the hosts had no Plan B. By contrast, Albion do have an alternative style, which is more pleasing on the eye, and once they had the lead, they were able to dictate play from midfield.

"It was a very fair scoreline," said Boothroyd, who saw a five-game winning run come to an inglorious end while his lead over second-placed Bristol City is now five points. He added: "We made errors and we didn't stick to the game-plan. We weren't any good in defence or up front and there wasn't much in the middle either."

Boothroyd had complained last week about the accusations – unfair in his eyes – that his side's approach was "caveman-like" in style. Harsh or not, West Bromwich had taken note because they had obviously come prepared for some woolly mammoth hunting of their own.

Within the first quarter of an hour, Jay DeMerit, one of Watford's central defenders had been taken off on a stretcher, admittedly in what looked like more of a case of bad luck than bad will on Albion's part after a tackle.

Then came further proof that the visitors knew the way to get at Watford, at the beginning at least, was through them rather than skirting around them, as Jonathan Greening was booked for an ugly challenge on Adam Johnson.

Boothroyd, furthermore, did not want to blame losing DeMerit for the poor showing. Possibly a more valid excuse was the fact he had just picked up the Manager of the Month award for October. He followed a long tradition in losing his next game.

As well as having a better approach, the visitors also had the best finisher on their side. Kevin Phillips has enjoyed a decade of goal scoring and it showed when he was involved in both his side's opening strikes.

Twice in two minutes, the Baggies struck. After 33 minutes, Phillips got away from the attentions of Danny Shittu and although Richard Lee blocked his shot, it only went to Ishmael Miller, and the striker on loan from Manchester City finished it off. Lifted by that, Tony Mowbray's men went straight back at their hosts. Zoltan Gera saw his shot cannon off the crossbar and from the rebound Phillips got the last touch on a shot that crept under Lee.

Although Watford did have one good chance in the first half, when Henderson's header was saved on the line by Dean Kiely, Albion ended all doubt with their third goal, after 49 minutes, as Greening picked out Martin Albrechtsen and the Dane headed past Lee.

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