Watford: Gomes; Motta, Ekstrand, Cathcart, Pudil; Watson, Guedioura (Layun, 57), Tozser; Abdi (Forestieri, 7); Vydra (Angella, 83), Deeney.
Subs not used: Bond, Doyley, Paredes, Anya.
Reading: Andersen, Keown, Cooper, Knight (Novakovich, 86), Travner, Akpan, Guthrie, Stacey, Taylor (Karacan, 58), Cox (Blackman, 58), Yakubu.
Subs not used: Lincoln, Edwards, Kuhl, Long.
An inexperienced Reading side faced a difficult challenge at Vicarage Road on a chilly Saturday afternoon: a high-flying Watford side intent on automatic promotion.
The Royals' manager Steve Clarke made nine changes to the team that won impressively at home to Brighton & Hove Albion on Tuesday night and handed out four full debuts. This was an unsurprising yet sensible decision ahead of Monday night's FA Cup quarter-final replay against Bradford City. Four players made full league debuts including the recently signed ex-Bolton defended Zat Knight. Academy youngster Niall Keown made his first league start for the Royals with his father, and BBC Match of the Day presenter, Martin Keown watching on. Jure Travner, signed in January and youngster Jack Stacey also received their first starts. There was little experience left in a changed Reading eleven with Hope Akpan, Danny Guthrie and Jake Taylor the only familiar faces.
The game didn't begin well at all as the home side took the lead after just 52 seconds when Almen Abdi scored after a clever through ball after good work from Watford captain Troy Deeney. Reading defended well from the first whistle but were unable to prevent Abdi's well-placed outside-of-the-boot finish.
Shortly afterwards, the Hornets' former Juventus right-back Marco Motta struck the bar of Mikkel Andersen's goal leaving the Danish goalkeeper helplessly reliant on the woodwork to keep the score at just 1-0. Motta's half volley from thirty yards hit the bar before harmlessly going behind for a Reading goal-kick.
During the first half, Reading seemed to be playing a rarely used 3-5-2 formation with Jure Travner and Jack Stacey as left and right-sided wing-backs respectively. They both found themselves in lots of space on and off the ball and Stacey combined well with Danny Guthrie, in the centre of Reading's midfield, to create a couple of crossing opportunities. A few corners were won by Reading, five in total, yet nothing came from this attacking pressure.
In fact, it was Watford who made the next impact on the game when Czech striker Matej Vydra was slipped through and past Reading's defence. The 22 year-old, on loan from Italian Serie A side Udinese, produced a decent finish to double his side's lead just before the half-time interval.
Shortly after half-time, within which the queues for refreshments and for toilets were unbelievably snaking back into the stands, Reading looked to push and halve the deficit. However, Troy Deeney again came to hamper that aim. This time he was involved as goalscorer after some good work from Forestieri down the right side. The 25 year-old Italian playmaker passed Travner with ease and then delivered a teasing cross into the path of Deeney. Watford's captain gleefully poked the ball into the back of Andersen's net.
It wasn't to be all doom and gloom for travelling Reading fans as injury-plagued Turkish midfielder Jem Karacan came on in place of Jake Taylor just before the hour mark. Soon after his introduction and a few aimless Watford crosses, Karacan, 26, scored his first goal since coming back from injury as well as his first since August of 2014 to pull one back for his Berkshire side. His smart, curling finish will be fondly remembered by a large number of onlooking Royals.
Unfortunately however, the Hornets were to have the game's last laugh as Fernando Forestieri was yet again involved as he scored the game's final goal. The little Italian's goalbound shot was cleverly bent around the arms of Andersen and topped off a top-draw individual performance.
The final score of 4-1 leaves Reading languishing in 17th place of the Sky Bet Championship just ten points above the relegation zone. On the other hand, it sees Watford move up to second place behind leaders Bournemouth on goal difference alone. Clarke and Reading fans shouldn't worry too much though. Today's loss and possibly performance, will be all but forgotten come Monday night if Reading can prevail against Phil Parkisons Bantams.
There was no real surprise among the travelling fans at the game's starting line-up as there is just over 48 hours between the final whistle earlier today and the kickoff of Monday night's FA Cup quarter-final replay. Anyway, it is the general consensus as well that it was always going to be tough for the Berkshire side as the 'first-team' most likely would have struggled against a decent Hertfordshire side.
The debut-makers all had good games with only one noticeable mistake from Niall Keown. The young right-back failed to clear the ball when under no real pressure in his own 18-yard box, instead giving the ball straight to Forestieri. The fourth and final goal came just seconds afterwards. Zat Knight however looked rusty to begin with but settled well in a Reading central defence that boasted two players over 6ft 4". Ironically, Knight, after cancelling his short-term deal with MLS side Colorado Rapids, was on trial at Vicarage Road before signing for Reading just two days ago. Karacan's smart finish came after a personal drought of his. His last goal was in mid August of 2013 in a 3-3 draw at home to today's opponents.
As I'm sure you'll agree, no one will be worried about Bradford anymore than they already are as a result of today's defeat. Changes were understandably made by Clarke and his backroom staff with the more important game of Bradford fast-approaching. Let's hope we will all be on our way to Wembley to face Arsenal in the semi-final of the FA Cup come the weekend of the 28th of April.