Watford kept up the pressure on their promotion-chasing rivals in the Championship on Friday evening, as they ran out 2-1 winners over Derby County at Vicarage Road.
Two quick-fire goals from Joao Pedro and Will Hughes saw Xisco Munoz’s side move up to third in the second-tier standings, whilst Derby remain 17th after the defeat, with a William Troost-Eking own-goal seeing them push for a late equaliser, but to no avail.
Both teams came into the game in good form, having both won their last two matches. Watford saw off Preston North End in midweek, whilst Derby picked up three points against struggling Wycombe Wanderers at Adams Park.
A relatively quiet opening ten minutes saw both sides try and carve out an opening, with Ismaila Sarr looking lively for the hosts, whilst Jason Knight caused the Hornets some trouble with his pace in a counter-attacking move that failed to materialise.
Watford took the lead after 19 minutes, as an impressive turn of pace by winger Ismaila Sarr saw him pull the ball back to Joao Pedro, and the Hornets forward diverted the ball past David Marshall in the Derby goal.
Xisco Munoz’s side wasted no time in doubling that lead, as Will Hughes capitalised on Derby failing to clear their lines from a corner, as he fired clinically home to make it 2-0, just two minutes after their opener on the night.
Watford’s midfield trio of Tom Cleverley, Nathaniel Chalobah and Will Hughes continued to dictate the tempo of the game, both on and off-the-ball, with their high pressing causing Derby real problems when in possession.
The Rams’ first chance of the game came from a corner, as Colin Kazim-Richards headed home from a Nathan Byrne cross, but the referee ruled the goal out for a foul on Watford goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann.
They then had an opportunity to halve their deficit on the night, as Patrick Roberts’ well-weighted pass over the top of the Watford defence found Martyn Waghorn, but the 31-year-old could only divert the ball over the bar on the volley, as Wayne Rooney’s side went into the break two goals down at Vicarage Road.
The second-half started as quiet as the first, with Joao Pedro’s tame volley from a well-placed pass from Will Hughes being the only notable chance in the first 15 minutes of the second-half.
Colin Kazim-Richards then had a half-chance just after the hour mark, as he fired an effort from the edge of the penalty area wide of Daniel Bachmann’s goal to see Watford preserve their two-goal lead.
Derby found a way back into the game with 13 minutes remaining though, as Watford defender William Troost-Ekong turned the ball into his own net, after a cross from Derby’s Nathan Byrne.
Wayne Rooney’s side couldn’t find the equaliser that they were pushing for though, which means that the teams around them will have the chance to edge them closer to the relegation zone on Saturday.
Watford are set to return to action on Wednesday evening, when they take on play-off chasing Blackburn Rovers, in what could potentially be a tricky test for Munoz’s side at Ewood Park.
Whilst Derby take on relegation-threatened rivals Huddersfield Town on Tuesday, where they’ll be eager to get back to winning ways after this narrow defeat.