Alex McLeish’s Nottingham Forest side were outclassed by Watford at the City Ground on Saturday as their four-match unbeaten home league run came to an abrupt end with a 3-0 defeat.
Czech Republic frontman Matej Vydra scored twice against the Reds in the reverse fixture last month and was on hand to hit another brace for the Hornets, either side of a goal from the free-scoring forward’s strike partner Troy Deeney.
Gianfranco Zola’s men looked the better of the two sides throughout in a match that the Reds struggled to get any real foothold in, despite some glimpses of goal in an improved second-half.
As the game began, the Hornets knew a win would ensure their first double over the Reds for 12 years and the nerves seemed to show in a pedestrian opening 15 minutes for both sets of players.
It was the visitors who crafted the first chance on goal when Granada loanee Daniel Pudil’s ball forward was latched on to by Deeney who had lost marker Danny Collins. However, the former Walsall man fizzed his effort wide.
But moments later the Hornets did get their goal when an attempted clearance from Collins fell to Deeney – the striker squared the ball to Vydra, and the talented 20-year-old slotted home the opener.
Forest appeared to be anxious in possession after the goal and struggled to string any worthy passing combinations together. Reds’ shot-stopper Karl Darlow made a fine save – diving down low to prevent Swiss midfielder Almen Abdi from doubling Watford’s lead.
And soon after a scramble in the box following a corner from the Hornets led to chances for Lloyd Doyley and Joel Ekstrand in quick succession – both efforts were cleared off the line as the Forest defence looked wobbly.
The Reds continued to struggle in dealing with Watford’s pacey attacks and found themselves conceding once again before the half came to an end.
England Under-21 midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah did well to keep the ball in play before picking out Vydra who had made a mazy run down the left-wing. The Watford star kept his composure, picking out Deeney at the far post who tapped home the second.
Before the break Forest had their own chances to get back into the game – Collins heading over from a Chris Cohen free-kick and Simon Cox skewing his effort from the edge of the box just wide of the target.
And Dexter Blackstock wasted the best opportunity of the first half just before the interval - failing to find the net after Cohen’s cross from the left had found him unmarked in the six-yard box.
The second period started in a much brighter fashion for the Reds than the first half had. Cox had looked the biggest threat for the home side and his cross from the right early on was nearly converted into the Watford goal inadvertently by Italian Marco Cassetti.
Soon after Watford gave the Reds a scare of their own when midfielder Cristian Battocchio’s cross from the right nearly caught out Darlow as it bounced against the crossbar before the keeper grasped hold of the ball.
Deeney and Vydra were combining superbly throughout the game, causing trouble for the Reds defence - and Deeney should have wrapped the game up when the Udinese loanee put him through on goal only for his strike partner to fire over the bar.
But the Hornets did finish the game off moments later when a sharp Vydra surged forward to lob the ball over the on-rushing Darlow and into the net for his second goal of the game.
The disappointing defeat means Forest remain 10th in the Championship table and are now six points adrift of 6th place Middlesbrough, who have a game in hand. In their next match the Reds take on Birmingham at St Andrew’s on Saturday 2nd February. Kick-off is at 3pm.
Nottingham Forest: Darlow, Jara Reyes, Ward, Collins (c), Halford, Gillett (Reid, 46), Cohen, Lansbury, Cox (Majewski, 61), Blackstock (Henderson, 77), Sharp
Watford: Almunia (c), Deeney, Doyley, Pudil, Vydra, Abdi, Cassetti (Hall, 69), Nosworthy, Battocchio (Hogg, 78), Chalobah (Yeates, 86), Ekstrand
Man of the match (Forest): Simon Cox
Referee: Andy Haines
Attendance: 20,732 (Away: 1,754)