FERNANDO STAR SHINES BRIGHT
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.”
OPENERS: Watford’s Almen Abdi scores
HIGH FIVE: Troy Deeney, left, celebrates his goal