Not many people would have predicted this comfortable margin of victory, especially with leading scorer Dave Kitson missing from the line up. The Royals made a flying start when Watford had to resort to foul play to halt a determined run down the left wing by Lloyd Owusu. Shorey's superb free-kick to the near post was met by the perfectly timed run of Sonko to bury a powerful header in the back of the net.
The remainder of the half was not particularly inspiring. Mahon was booked after ten minutes for the third cynical foul by the visitors. The referee needed to make his stand to prevent the trend from continuing. As has often happened this season Reading were quite happy to watch their opponents pass the ball across the park in front of their back four and midfield quartet for lengthy spells. Hahnemann was rarely called into action. When Reading were in possession they were far more threatening. Owusu was winning a lot in the air. Long passes were being dropped into space effectively and Owusu and Forster were making good runs to get on the end of them. Hughes again was having a good game at right back, a position from which his distribution is far more accurate. Little was causing Watford problems with his incisive play on the right. He curled one shot just wide, and might have scored had he chosen to shoot from inside the box instead of trying to find Owusu with a low cross. Watford had a couple of strikes which flew wide altough I felt Hahnemann had them covered anyway. Hughes made a great clearing header in front of his own goal just before half time. Forster finished the half wasting a good opportunity by checking back before scuffing his shot well wide. He was clear of the last man initially, and a sharper Fozzy would have gone straight for goal.
Forster started the second half with similar hesitancy. When put clear he again delayed his strike long enough to miss his chance, this time allowing a defender to block his effort. Soon after Hahnemann made a great save coming out the edge of the box to brilliantly close down and smother an attempt from Jackson. Play was generally scrappy but Reading produced some good attacking football at times. Brooker played Owusu into a good wide position. His cross was met by a stunning volley from Little which Jones did well to keep out. Sidwell followed up with a shot which Jones fumbled initially. Another good move presented Owusu with a chance in front of goal.
Admittedly the ball was slightly behind him but he made a real hash of it.
The long overdue second goal arrived with fifteen minutes to go. Brooker, who had generally not looked particularly effective, was again involved in the build up releasing Forster wide on the left. His cross was sweetly struck home from close range by Sidwell. That was enough to kill off Watford. Owusu finished the scoring with a well placed header from a fine cross from Brooker. If he gets the right service, Owusu is always likely to score with his head.
The icing on the cake was denied by the referee. Forster was hauled down when he was certain to score in the closing minutes. I accept referees are bound to make mistakes, but his decision can only be described as ludicrous.
Perhaps he thought Watford had suffered enough, but he did them a real favour because it was a clear penalty and a sending off! It was soon forgotten as the final whistle signalled a three nil win, three points, a third successive win, and following Sunderland's slip at home, third place in the Championship. Royals fans have every reason to look forward to 2005 with optimism.
Report by John Wells