ROTHERHAM UNITED will be anxiously looking over their shoulders at the foot of the Championship table following their second defeat in the matter of days at the hands of promotion chasing Watford.
Odion Ighalo’s opener gave Steve Evans’ men a mountain to climb at the interval before Troy Deeney and Ighalo, with his second of the evening, condemned the Millers to defeat in Hertfordshire.
Following their disappointing defeat at the hands of Wolves at the weekend, Millers’ chief Steve Evans made four changes to his starting line-up for the trip to Vicarage Road.
Skipper Craig Morgan returned to the heart of the Rotherham defence at the expense of Kirk Broadfoot, who dropped to the bench while Crystal Palace loanee Jack Hunt returned to the right back slot as Frazer Richardson made way.
Playmaker Ben Pringle was picked in the Millers’ engine room as Adam Hammill had to settle for a substitutes’ berth while Derby loanee Conor Sammon was entrusted to partner Matt Derbyshire upfront with Danny Ward among the substitutes.
The visitors settled quickly into the contest and Rob Milsom and Derbyshire combined smartly which saw the latter fizz an inviting centre which narrowly evaded the attentions of the advancing Sammon.
In their first foray of note, Watford took advantage of a lucky ricochet and Ighalo turned Kari Arnason just inside the box before playing an inviting centre which was inches away from Deeney with the goal gaping before Zeki Fryers’ clearance saw Daniel Tozser fire a snap shot which was blocked by a retreating defender.
Minutes later, Almen Abdi advanced with menace from halfway before giving Tozser, a glimpse of goal but he blazed his left-footed effort over the bar.
However, Watford took the game by the scruff of the net as they broke the deadlock on 18 minutes in a moment Icelandic international Arnason will want to forget.
With the Millers in charge of possession, Arnason lost his footing as the ball was played back to him and as last man, Ighalo pounced on the loose ball and he kept his nerve to round the advancing Collin before sliding the ball into the unguarded net.
The visitors responded bravely to the setback and Derbyshire dragged a shot across the face of goal before the Millers’ had Adam Collin to thank for keeping them in the game as he kept Abdi’s stinging drive out before he foiled Deeney’s point-blank effort in the next phase of play as the visitors’ failed to clear their lines decisively.
From the resultant corner, Tozser curled an inviting centre which saw Joel Ekstrand execute a deft flick which almost sneaked in at the near post but Collin was well-stationed to parry the ball to safety before a retreating defender hacked the ball clear.
Just past the half hour mark, the Millers squandered an opportunity to level matters when Gabriele Angella’s mistake saw Derbyshire race clear on goal but from an acute angle, Heurelho Gomes smothered his goalbound effort.
Moments later, Derbyshire was in the thick of the action as he made something out of nothing to fire an effort from the edge of the box which was deflected behind before Arnason almost made amends for his earlier mistake when his timely run saw him meet Pringle’s delicious corner but his point-blank header was straight down the throat of Gomes.
With half time approaching, Deeney’s delicate ball over the top gave Ighalo an opportunity to shrug off the attentions of his marker but he blasted his effort over the
Half-time:- Watford 1 Rotherham United 0
Following the interval, Fryers’ clearance almost fell invitingly for Ighalo but Arnason was on-hand to snuff out the danger before Arnason became the first to see yellow for tripping Tozser in full flight in the next phase of play.
The home side made the Millers’ pay with the resultant free-kick when Tozser fired a rasping left-footed effort which stung the palms of Collin and the ball fell invitingly into the path of Ekstrand, who calmly stroked the ball across the face of goal where Deeney was on-hand to stroke the ball home.
The home side were sniffing blood and they soon added a third when the ball was worked to Miguel Layun on the edge of the box, who swung a left-footed effort which was only half-saved by Collin and Ighalo was in the perfect position to pounce and calmly slide the ball into the heart of the visitors’ goal.
The Millers gradually regained their composure and Derbyshire failed to execute a delicate lob after Gomes’ mistake left the goal temporarily unguarded before Collin was well-placed to gather Abdi’s fierce effort from distance at the other end.
Minutes later, Hunt’s threaded pass saw Sammon deftly flick the path of the marauding Paul Green, whose cross-cum-shot was smartly cleared by a retreating home defender before sub Adam Hammill almost made an instant impact from the bench when his dipping effort had Gomes’ nervously scurrying across goal as it whistled narrowly wide.
The Millers’ frustration was summed up when Smallwood became the next to incur the wrath of the referee for cynically upending Abdi on the edge of the box, which earned him a caution, and Tozser almost rubbed salt into the wounds from the resultant free-kick with a curling effort which shaved the upright.
To their credit, the Millers never threw in the towel and Hammill’s mazy run saw him drill a shot which had Gomes at full stretch before Derbyshire’s volley from Arnason’s pinpoint cross was deflected narrowly wide of the target in their next attack.
With time running out, sub Jonson Clarke-Harris drilled a low effort which Gomes’ smothered at his near post before Green ghosted into the box following Fryers’ tantalising centre but his glancing header failed to trouble the home target.
Full-time:- Watford 3 Rotherham United 0
Teams:- Watford- Gomes, Angella, Ekstrand, Layun (Munari 67), Tozser, Deeney (Forestieri 84), Cathcart, Abdi, Watson, Ighalo (Vydra 74), Hoban. Unused:- Bond, Paredes, Pudil, Anya.
Rotherham- Collin, Arnason, Green, Milsom (Ward 65), Pringle, Morgan, Sammon (Hammill 74), Derbyshire (Clarke-Harris 88), Fryers, Hunt, Smallwood. Unused:- Loach, Broadfoot, Bowery, Richardson.
Attendance:- 13,468 (301).