Watford 3 Southampton 0: Henderson's height advantage casts a shadow over difficult debut for Burley

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The Independent Football

The first two minutes of the second half just about summed up Southampton's luck at the moment. Two goals down at the interval, the Saints' new manager, George Burley, in his first match in charge, attempted to stiffen up his defence by bringing on Tomasz Hajto, yet within 90 seconds of the re-start, the unlucky Pole had deflected Anthony McNamee's free-kick past his own goalkeeper, Paul Smith, for Watford's third goal.

It cannot have been the way Burley envisaged starting his career with the South Coast club. It is not the former Ipswich and Hearts manager's fault that the Saints have lost their first-choice defence to injury or have only won three games of their last 19 in the Championship, but his ambition of leading the club back to the Premiership may have to wait. As he admitted later: "We were behind Watford as a unit. The squad is not good enough at the moment."

Furthermore, Burley, having just started to work with him, may have to face up to losing the club's brightest talent, Theo Walcott, although the Southampton manager said he expected the teenage striker to remain with the club during next month's transfer window.

Not that Southampton's trials and tribulations were of any concern to Watford. They had troubles of their own as their recent form had yielded no wins in their previous five games. Despite that, the manager, Adrian Boothroyd, has signed a new four-and-half-year deal and the club are still hanging on to the distant shirt-tails of second-placed Sheffield United. He said: "We think we can catch United. We will focus on what we are doing and continue to surprise people."

They were helped in that regard as the Saints arrived with their first-choice goalkeeper Antti Niemi ill but on the bench and a central defence that ceded the high ground to Darius Henderson.

After 28 minutes the tall centre-forward scored with a header from Paul Devlin's cross, and the Hornets then doubled their lead five minutes before the break when Henderson nudged the ball down from McNamee's free-kick and Clarke Carlisle came through to bundle the ball home.

The scoreline reflected the fact that Southampton, who hit the bar through Nathan Dyer after an hour, are on their third manager of the month, Dave Bassett having taken over temporarily after Harry Redknapp's departure. As for the fate of Dennis Wise, who assisted Bassett, he told Burley on Saturday that he would be leaving the club. "You have to respect his decision," added Burley but after this defeat it does not get any easier. His next opponents? Sheffield United.

Goals: Henderson (28) 1-0; Carlisle (40) 2-0; Hajto og (47) 3-0.

Watford: Foster; Doyley, Carlisle, Mackay, Chambers; Devlin (Grant, 60), Spring, Mahon, McNamee; Henderson (Bangura, 60), King. Substitutes not used: Chamberlain (gk), Stewart, DeMerit.

Southampton: Smith; Baird, Mills, Delap, Crainie; Dyer, Oakley (Hajto, h-t), Prutton, Quashie; Ormerod (Fuller, 72), Walcott. Substitutes not used: Niemi (gk), McCann, Belmadi.

Referee: R Beeby (Northamptonshire).

Booked: None.

Man of the match: Henderson.

Attendance: 16,972.