FER­NANDO STAR SHINES BRIGHT

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By An­drew Brook

WHEN Slav­isa Jokanovic ar­rived at Wat­ford in Oc­to­ber they sat sec­ond in the Cham­pi­onship.

It has taken five months, but the Hor­nets once more oc­cupy an au­to­matic pro­mo­tion spot and Jokanovic be­lieves this is just the be­gin­ning.

Al­men Abdi, Matej Vy­dra, Troy Deeney and Fer­nando Forestieri grabbed the goals, but in truth only the lat­ter was ap­proach­ing his best as Jokanovic’s side eas­ily dis­patched a Read­ing team more fo­cused on Mon­day’s FA Cup quar­ter-fi­nal re­play with Brad­ford.

“We did enough of a good job,” Jokanovic said. “We played good foot­ball for 90 min­utes. We had some prob­lems, but at the end I must be happy.

“Fer­nando played a good game. I want to use him more out­side of his nat­u­ral po­si­tion, be­cause I be­lieve he can play in more po­si­tions. He be­lieves he can only play as a striker.

“He must be happy with his per­for­mance and it is good news for us go­ing into the fi­nal part of the Cham­pi­onship. He must be­lieve he is im­por­tant for us.

“Clean sheets haven't been easy for us this sea­son. At the end they scored their goal, but they caught us at the mo­ment in the game when we started to look a lit­tle re­laxed. Al­ways it is im­por­tant to con­cen­trate and we must be bet­ter at this.”

Nine changes from Read­ing’s last match re­vealed their pri­or­i­ties. Six play­ers had only two pre­vi­ous Roy­als starts be­tween them and their job be­came more dif­fi­cult in­side a minute when Abdi put them be­hind.

Per­haps be­cause of un­fa­mil­iar­ity, Read­ing's lop­sided off­side trap al­lowed the Swiss in­ter­na­tional through and he curled in his shot from the edge of the area.

Abdi, how­ever, lasted only six more min­utes, but his re­place­ment Forestieri be­came Wat­ford's con­jurer-in-chief. Many of his team­mates seemed con­tent to treat the game like the friendly Steve Clarke's se­lec­tions sug­gested it was, but Forestieri made his op­por­tu­nity count af­ter six games on the bench.

Af­ter Marco Motta pro­pelled a spec­tac­u­lar 30-yard vol­ley against the cross­bar and Forestieri’s bi­cy­cle kick forced Mikkel An­der­sen's best save, the Ital­ian's pass en­abled Vy­dra to dink over the keeper, as again Read­ing left ex­ces­sive space.

Three min­utes af­ter half-time Vy­dra and Forestieri com­bined again and the lat­ter crossed for Deeney to add a sim­ple third.

Read­ing’s young charges ap­peared eu­thanised by the third goal, but re­sus­ci­ta­tion came from sub­sti­tutes Jem Kara­can and Nick Black­man. Club cap­tain Kara­can had only played four pre­vi­ous min­utes since Septem­ber 2013, but he curled a shot in from 20 yards af­ter Vy­dra’s scuffed clear­ance.

Read­ing re­sponded with the most en­er­gised spell of the match, as Wat­ford’s non­cha­lant su­pe­ri­or­ity grew into care­less­ness, but Forestieri sealed victory with a goal his per­for­mance de­served, driv­ing into the box to score with a pow­er­ful fin­ish af­ter Deeney’s pass.

Clarke said: “I hope the fans un­der­stand the changes. It was a good chance for me to have a lot of young boys on the pitch.

“The two young cen­tralde­fend­ers who I plonked ei­ther side of Zat Knight will learn from that ex­pe­ri­ence, so it was a dis­ap­point­ing re­sult, but I have some things that I can take from the game.

“The dif­fer­ence was that Wat­ford were clin­i­cal and we weren’t. For long pe­ri­ods we were in the game. We showed good char­ac­ter to get back to 3-1. Af­ter that we had one re­ally great chance where Nick Black­man didn’t pick the pass to Jack Stacey and if that had gone in, I prom­ise you a dif­fer­ent end to the game.

“Bring­ing on Jem gave ev­ery­one a lift. He’s been a big player for the club and he’s had a hor­ren­dous two years with in­juries.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Images

OPEN­ERS: Wat­ford’s Al­men Abdi scores

HIGH FIVE: Troy Deeney, left, cel­e­brates his goal

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