Watford 2 Middlesbrough 0

Last updated : 04 November 2006 By Footymad Previewer
It took 11 matches to arrive but Watford at last translated a good performance into three points as they saw off the woefully limp challenge of a Middlesbrough side in for a long and hard winter on this evidence.

Hameur Bouazza's shot, credited as a Jonathan Woodgate own goal, and Ashley Young's fourth strike of the campaign sealed a first Premiership win for the Hornets since Graham Taylor's class of 1999/2000 signed off their one-season top-flight adventure with a 1-0 win over Coventry City.

Saturday's margin of victory may have been two, but it could have been more as Aidy Boothroyd's men out-thought, out-worked and out-performed Boro in all departments. In short, Watford won because they wanted it more, but the triumph was soured by the news that star striker Marlon King has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury.

The home side took a grip on proceedings from the opening stages and rarely looked like relinquishing their stranglehold during what must have been one of the most one-sided first 45 minutes seen in the Premiership this season. Boro did have more of the game after the break, but they rarely looked like ending their winless run away from the Riverside this term.

After Dan Shittu and Bouazza had the first attempts of the game, Watford made the early breakthrough courtesy of a slice of fortune that has eluded them all season. The opportunity arose from a long Gavin Mahon throw that was headed clear to the edge of the area where Bouazza met the ball with a first-time, right-footed shot that looked to be heading narrowly wide until it clipped Woodgate's leg, diverting the ball inside Mark Schwarzer's near post.

Boosted by the confidence of that goal, the Hornets continued to pile on the pressure with their abject opponents only occasionally able to get out of their own half for any length of time.

The lively Tommy Smith and Jordan Stewart both had efforts before the Hornets came so close to doubling their lead when Darius Henderson met a Young corner with a fine header, only to see it somehow cleared off the line after 30 minutes.

Yakubu produced Boro's only noteworthy first-half chance with a shot that was deflected behind just before the interval, but there was a niggling doubt that Watford might pay the price for not converting their clear superiority into a second goal after the break because Gareth Southgate's men simply couldn't be as poor again.

Boro did improve in the second-half, although not by much and once the Hornets had scored their second it was effectively game over.

Prior to that, Watford keeper Richard Lee, in for the injured Ben Foster, was forced into his first meaningful save to keep out Stewart Downing's angled drive, but the home side should have made it 2-0 through Young from inside the six-yard box, but he shinned Bouazza's shot-come-cross over the top. However, the England Under-21 international made no mistake with his next attempt.

In truth though, the opportunity was presented on a plate by George Boateng's woeful back-header, but there was still work for Young to do from the edge of the area. But the winger-come-striker brought the ball under control in an instant, held off the challenge of Robert Huth and drilled a low cross-shot past Schwarzer to give the Hornets clear daylight.

It could have got worse for Boro as, with five minutes remaining, an uncharacteristic mistake from Woodgate let in Henderson, but the England centre-half was bailed out by a good blocking save from his keeper.