Rotherham United had an evening to forget as Watford took advantage of a fast start to run out comfortable victors at Vicarage Road.
In a poor opening, which was sadly too reminiscent of their early woes at Coventry City, just three days earlier, Paul Warne’s side found themselves with a mountain to climb, as early as the quarter hour – with Christian Kabasele and Troy Deeney striking for the hosts.
The Millers stuck gamely to the task, in the second period, but the result was never seriously in doubt, as Watford cantered to victory.
Warne made three changes to his starting line-up for the visit to Hertfordshire but kept faith with the 3-5-2 formation.
Left-back Joe Mattock was missing after damaging his ankle ligaments at St Andrew’s, so Warne asked Ben Wiles to ply his trade in an unfamiliar left wing-back role. Experienced defender Billy Jones was on the opposite flank with Wes Harding operating as one of the three centre-halves.
Playmaker Dan Barlaser was recalled to the Millers midfield while Kyle Vassell was given a rare start in a forward role alongside Michael Smith.
Warne’s side were playing in front of fans for the first time, since early March, with Watford able to accommodate two thousand supporters, in accordance with government’s guidelines.
The home fans were soon on their feet when Troy Deeney’s knockdown fell invitingly for Stipe Perica, who forced Jamal Blackman into an early save.
However, Watford continued to press and they broke the deadlock on four minutes when Ken Sema’s corner was deftly flicked by Deeney into the danger area and Kabasele got on the wrong side of the Rotherham defence to turn the ball home, giving Blackman no chance.
The Millers were looking to clear their heads and Matt Crooks had a shot blocked on the edge of the box before Ben Foster was forced to hack clear as Smith looked to latch onto Wes Harding’s through ball.
However, the home side were looking dangerous with every attack and there was a certain inevitability when they doubled their advantage on the quarter hour.
The Millers made a hash of clearing the danger and Kiko Feminia cut inside Jones before whipping a cross which caused havoc in the Rotherham box and Deeney was on-hand, at the far post, to slide home from close range.
There were further worrying signs for Warne’s side when Sema’s timely pass presented Tom Cleverley with the chance to fire over from the edge of the box, before the former Manchester United midfielder blazed over again, minutes later, following an incisive run and shot.
Watford were enjoying large swathes of possession and Jeremy Ngakia was the next to threaten the visitors’ goal with a cross-cum-shot, which Blackman had to smother at his near post before Kabasele rose highest to meet Femenia’s free-kick, but, fortunately, for the Millers, he could not direct his header goalwards.
The home side came close to a third goal, near half-time, when Nathaniel Chalobah drilled wide with a low effort following good build up work by Sema and Deeney before the Watford skipper was inches away from notching his second when he got on the wrong side of Jones, just yards out, but the ball narrowly evaded his path.
In the last act of the half, the Millers were indebted to Michael Ihiekwe for a last-ditch intervention to prevent Pevica from slotting home Ismaila Saar’s cross.
Half-time- Watford 2 Rotherham United 0
With the words of Warne ringing in their ears, Rotherham responded positively at the start of the second half and Vassell capitalised on some defensive hesitation by Ngakia, to fire goalwards with his trustee left-foot, but Foster was his equal with a superb parried save.
Barlaser swung up the resultant corner into the Watford box and Smith rose majestically, but, bizarrely, he headed away from goal before the same player failed to make the most of a rare Rotherham overload when his shot was blocked on the edge of the box, despite Vassell and Crooks being in support.
The Millers were making a better fist of it in the second half and Angus MacDonald headed wide from Barlaser’s free kick, before Jones became the first to see yellow for a clumsy foul on Sarr and Cleverley fired the resultant free-kick into the Millers wall.
The Millers were looking for a foothold in the game and Crooks had a half-chance when he blazed over from a promising position before Ihiekwe was cautioned for a hefty challenge on Pevica.
Watford were a shadow of their first-half exploits, but Rotherham were lacking the cutting edge to capitalise when Smith, firstly with a weak header and then a tame finish, failed to make the most of an opening.
Time was running out for the visitors and Crooks ballooned an effort over, from sub Matt Olosunde’s pull-back when he really should have done better.
Watford almost added gloss to the scoreline, near the end, when Crooks was robbed of possession and Saar pounced to put Pevica in the clear, but the Croat forward screwed his shot wide.
Full-time- Watford 2 Rotherham United 0
Rotherham United 0
Teams: Watford- Foster, Ngakia, Kabasele, Troost-Ekong, Femenia (Wilmot 90), Sarr (Quina 90), Cleverley (Hughes 68), Chalobah, Sema (Garner 85), Perica, Deeney (Joao Pedro 69). Unused- Bachmann, Navarro, Phillips.
Rotherham- Blackman, Jones (Jozefzoon 70), Vassell (Clarke 79), Wiles, Lindsay (Olosunde 46), Harding, Ihiekwe, A MacDonald, Smith (Ladapo 79), Crooks, Barlaser (Miller 79). Unused- Johansson, Thompson, Wood, Hirst.
Referee- G Ward