Doncaster Rovers fell a second successive defeat in today’s Championship clash against Watford at Vicarage Road. Rovers had had midfielder Herold Goulon sent off just after the half-hour mark.
Watford: Loach, Hodson, Mariappa, Nosworthy, Dickinson, Yeates, Buaben, Hogg, Kightly, Deeney, Sordell. Subs: Bond, Eustace, Iwelumo, Doyley, Garner.
Doncaster Rovers: Woods (G), Chimbonda, Beye, Hird, Ilunga, Coppinger, Goulon, Barnes, Gillett, Sharp, Diouf. Subs: Maxted, O’Connor, Friend, Hayter, Bennett.
Referee: Darren Drysdale (Lincs).
Rovers lacked skipper Brian Stock, who picked up a fifth booking at Turf Moor on Boxing Day.
His place in midfield was taken by Herold Goulon, who started on the bench in the Burnley game.
Rovers also showed a change in their back four - Pascal Chimbonda being preferred to James O’Connor at right-back after a lay off with a hamstring injury.
Youth team player Jonathan Maxted replaced Goulon on the bench.
Watford, who drew 1-1 with high-flying Cardiff on Boxing Day, named an unchanged starting line-up.
Both Michael Kightly and Nyron Nosworthy were playing their last game on-loan for the Hornets.
Rovers were looking to end what had been a disappointing year on a high note.
But they don’t boast the best of away records against the Hornets and their only league win at Vicarage Road was back in the 1959-60 season.
Watford were looking to extend their unbeaten run to eight games.
They were the first to threaten with leading scorer Sordell testing Woods with a low shot from the edge of the six-yard box inside the first 40 seconds.
Coppinger, who had dropped back deep, halted a dangerous-looking run by Kightly.
It had been all Watford in the opening minutes.
Diouf, who was leading the side for the second time in Stock’s absence, won Rovers a free-kick just inside their own half.
The striker got a slight touch to a Ilunga’s long throw-in but keeper Loach made an easy save.
Rovers were relieved to see a right-wing cross by Yeates run across goal to safety.
Ilunga helped make amends for a poor throw-in, which went straight to Watford striker Deeney, with a ball-winning challenge from Sordell on the edge of the box from the resulting pressure.
Watford, who were playing some good football, continued to make the run-in and Nosworthy went close to giving them a 14th minute lead with a powerful header from a corner which hit the top of the crossbar.
Diouf was jeered by home fans behind the Watford goal when his cross meant for Sharp at the far post sailed over the bar.
Ilunga again failed to pick out a team-mate with a throw-in, giving Watford the chance to turn defence into attack.
Kightly unleashed a fierce 25-yarder but Woods had it covered all the way.
Rovers made a change on 24 minutes when O’Connor, who could have considered himself unlucky to be dropped to the bench, replaced the injured Chimbonda.
Little had been seen of Rovers as an attacking force in the first half hour and keeper Loach had been a virtual spectator to date.
Ilunga beat Deeney in an aerial battle to clear the danger from a left-wing cross into the box.
Rovers midfielder Goulon was booked for a 36 minute foul on right-back Hodson.
The pace of the game had dropped off markedly in the last few minutes.
Rovers made a rare attacking sortie on 35 minutes but Loach remained untroubled.
Nosworthy used his height advantage to head clear from O’Connor’s cross into the box.
Rovers leading scorer Sharp, who had seen little of the action, saw his dipping angled shot land on the top of the goal in the 42nd minute.
Play quickly switched to the other end where Watford’s leading scorer SORDELL held off a challenge by Barnes to beat Woods from the edge of the box to make it 1-0.
Coppinger set up a challenge for Sharp in stoppage time but his angled shot from the edge of the six-yard box ran across goal for goal-kick.
Half-time: Watford 1 Doncaster Rovers 0
Rovers made the early run-in after the break and the hard-working Coppinger and Barnes had combined well down the right, only to see the ball cleared before it could reach Goulon who was well-placed in front of goal.
Rovers drew level on 47 minutes when SHARP met Diouf’s left-wing cross in front of goal and headed home to claim his tenth goal of the season.
It was just the start that Rovers boss Dean Saunders must have been hoping for during the interval break.
Barnes shot well wide from a 55th minute 20-yard free-kick.
Diouf then had a 25-yarder blocked by a defender.
Coppinger continued to look lively but his cross meant for Sharp was headed clear by Watford skipper Mariappa.
O’Connor did well to put Kightly off when challenging for Sordell’s right-wing cross at the far post.
Rovers were reduced to 10 men on 63 minutes when Goulon picked up a second booking following a foul on Kightly.
Diouf was booked seconds later for disputing a corner.
Watford regained the lead on 67 minutes - SORDELL heading past Woods from Yeates’ right-wing cross.The complexion of the game had changed in just a couple of minutes and Rovers now looked to have it all to do to avoid a third successive away defeat this month.
There was a let off for Rovers on 68 minutes when the unmarked Deeney headed wide from the edge of the six-yard box after latching on to Yeates’ pinpoint right-wing cross.
It had been all Watford, who had been decidedly second best earlier in the half, since their second goal.
Sordell shot straight at Woods on the turn, level with the penalty spot, on 70 minutes.
Hird, who was having another good game at the heart of the Rovers defence, halted Sordell’s run on goal just outside the box.
Watford substitute EUSTACE made it 3-1 with his first touch of the ball on 84 minutes - he drilled the ball past Woods in fine style from the edge of the area to kill off any lingering hopes Rovers may have had of salvaging a result.
Rovers, who had brought on Bennett for Gillett on 84 minutes, replaced Diouf with Hayter two minutes later.
KIGHTLY hammered the final nail in the Rovers coffin in stoppage time when he made it 4-1.