Aidy Boothroyd's team had just suffered a fifth defeat in their last seven home matches in the Championship, but the Watford manager refused to be downcast. "The fact that we're second to top and have this abysmal home form is a big blessing," he said after Saturday's reverse at Vicarage Road. "I just thank God for our away form."
Indeed, Boothroyd took this performance as evidence that his team have not developed a psychological problem about playing in front of their own fans. Watford attacked with verve throughout, only to be hit regularly on the break. Boothroyd's assessment that the three first-half goals conceded were down to "schoolboy errors" did not do justice to Queen's Park Rangers' slick passing and movement, but there was little to fault about Watford's attacking.
Boothroyd has money to spend in the transfer window but will resist any temptation to make sweeping changes. "As Arsne Wenger says, sometimes you can have 100m to spend and it doesn't make a difference," he said. "I have to be very measured in my thinking for January because we obviously do need some additions to the squad, but I don't think you should throw the baby out with the bathwater.
"I always believe that results follow performances and we need to keep playing like we did in the first half, which is back to what Watford are all about. We put them on the back foot but conceded three very stupid goals. That's disappointing. If we can eradicate that, we'll win a lot more than we lose at home," Boothroyd insisted.
With just two points from the last seven home matches, Watford's form is in stark contrast to Rangers'. Luigi De Canio's men would have been on a six-game unbeaten run had they not conceded an injury-time goal at Plymouth on Boxing Day and this result took them out of the relegation zone.
For long periods here Rangers were at full stretch, but De Canio's deployment of a three-man central defence was a masterstroke and when his team broke forward their fluid passing and running created frequent scoring opportunities. Martin Rowlands, who scored twice and made the other two, epitomised their enterprising play.
Two of the first-half goals were from set pieces a penalty after Jordan Stewart had brought down Dexter Blackstock and a Damion Stewart near-post header from a corner but Rowlands' second finished off a lovely move through the middle of the Watford defence. Damien Francis bundled home from close range to give Watford some hope early in the second half, but Akos Buzsaky restored Rangers' lead from another Rowlands pass and Dan Shittu's goal came too late to affect the outcome.
"I think the team is playing better and better," De Canio said afterwards. "Today we took our chances, which meant the losses of concentration we sometimes have didn't cost us."
Bob Malcolm, who is on loan to QPR until tomorrow, was selected despite having been suspended by his club, Derby County, after being charged last week by police with a drink-driving offence. "Derby have suspended Bob from when he returns," De Canio said. "We haven't condemned Bob. We asked him to explain himself and his explanation satisfied us."
Goals: Rowlands (pen, 13) 0-1; Stewart (29) 0-2; Rowlands (40) 0-3; Francis (52) 1-3; Buzsaky (80) 1-4; Shittu (84) 2-4.
Watford (4-4-2): Lee; Doyley (O'Toole, 79), DeMerit, Jackson (Shittu, 46), J Stewart; Smith, Williamson, Francis, McAnuff; Henderson, Ellington (King, 68). Substitutes not used: Mariappa, L Ainsworth.
Queen's Park Rangers (3-5-2): Camp; Malcolm, Stewart, Rehman; G Ainsworth (Vine, 64), Bolder, Rowlands, Balanta (Buzsaky, 73), Barker; Nygaard (Walton, 90), Blackstock. Substitutes not used: Cole (gk), Moore.
Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).
Booked: Watford Doyley, Smith; QPR Nygaard, Barker.
Man of the match: Rowlands.
Attendance: 18,698.Reuse content