There were times when it may not have looked pretty, but Watford will feel that even when they were only one goal ahead, this win is one that was rarely in doubt, as they continued to show their growing promotion credentials since the turn of the year.
Twice Blackburn pegged them back from a two-goal advantage to reduce the visitors lead to one, and on both occasions, the Hornets showed their promotion credentials by controlling the game expertly at that point to retain their advantage and prevent Rovers from getting back into this one, as their rapidly fading play-off hopes suffered yet another damaging blow.
Both sides would start the game brightly, with plenty attacking intent on show, although neither goalkeeper would be overly tested during the opening exchanges.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Ismaila Sarr looked a big threat right from the off for the visitors, with his pace down the Watford right allowing them in behind on a number of occasions early on, although none of his crosses were able to find their intended target.
Up the other end, Lewis Travis fired an effort straight at Watford ‘keeper Daniel Bachmann from the edge of the area, before Will Hughes did well to block Adam Armstrong’s effort from inside the box after some good work down the right from Ryan Nyambe, who was fit to start despite his hamstring scare at the weekend.
That there were not more speculative efforts from either side was somewhat surprising, given the torrential rain would surely have made handling hard for either ‘keeper.
In the end though, that luck was not something Watford would need to take the lead midway through the first half. Moments after Blackburn goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski had done well at full stretch to deny Sarr following an excellent through ball by Hughes, Rovers’ defensive frailties would again be exposed, with much more damaging results.
As the hosts defence stood still, a ball over the top found Joao Pedro just inside the Blackburn area, and with Kaminski in no-man’s land inside his own box, the 19-year-old produced an exquisite lob over the helpless ‘keeper which dropped perfectly under the crossbar and into the back of the net.
Rovers went close to equalising immediately as Armstrong flashed one just past the post from 20 yards, while Kaminski again denied Sarr, this time with his feet, from a tight angle after Lewis Travis had been robbed of possession in midfield for the hosts.
Eventually though, Watford would get a second that their play increasingly deserved. Breaking down the right, Kiko Femenia sent a pinpoint into the six-yard box, where Manchester City loanee Taylor Harwood-Bellis was unable to clear his lines, and although Kaminski saved an initial effort from Pedro, Sarr was on hand to tap home the rebound with seven minutes remaining in the first half.
But, just as it looked like the hosts would go into the break well in control, Rovers gave themselves something to aim for as they found the net in the first half for the first time in nine attempts, as Liverpool loanee Harvey Elliott thumped in his fifth goal of the season from a tight angle after the ball had broken kindly to him inside the Watford area.
Indeed, the hosts would start the half with a fair amount of intent, and when Joe Rothwell twisted his way into the Watford area, it looked as though they would be level within minutes of the restart, but his ball across the face of goal somehow evaded everyone in a Rovers shirt and Watford were able to clear their lines.
Almost straight from that however, the hosts were fortunate not to once again be two behind, as a delicious cross from the outstanding Sarr found Ken Sema at the back post, but with the goal seemingly gaping, Rovers were somehow able to get the ball blocked behind for a corner that came to nothing.
Never the less, you sensed the hosts were growing in confidence as they pushed for an equaliser, and Bachmann did well to hold a volleyed effort from substitute Stewart Downing at his near post.
But having ridden out that spell from the hosts with relative ease, Watford then swiftly reestablished their two-goal advantage just before the hour mark, slicing through the host’s defence before the ball worked its way to Sema, who did not miss this time, firing across the face of goal and into the bottom corner.
Even at 3-1 this wasn’t a game that settled, and Blackburn were almost given the chance to get back into the game immediately after Watford’s third, as Armstrong pounced on a loose pass midway inside the Watford half, before driving into the penalty area, where Bachmann was able to beat away his effort at the near post.
But despite that, it was Watford who were starting to dominate, and they could have been out of sight were it not for Jarrad Branthwaite clearing off the line after Kaminski had spilled a corner.
Yet for all Watford’s dominance in possession and the work Rovers’ defence were having to do to keep them at bay, the Hornets would find their advantage reduced to one for the second time in the game, with less than ten minutes remaining.
After Rovers were able to win a corner from a prolonged spell of possession that appeared to be going nowhere, the resultant set-piece was flung over to the far post by Downing, where fellow substitute Ben Brereton was on hand to volley home from close range and give the hosts fresh hope.
Try as they might though, Rovers were unable to go close to the equaliser they needed, as Watford rode out the final few minutes to remain level on points with second-placed Brentford with a fourth straight win, that leaves their hosts left to reflect on a fifth defeat in a row that has surely put paid to any final flickers of hope for a play-off place this season for Tony Mowbray’s side.