By Kevin Affleck
Not content with making a club-record start to a Premier League season, the Hornets showcased the depth of their resources by reaching the third round of the Carabao Cup for the first time in five years. There was also, just for good measure, yet another contender for Goal of the Season, this time from Domingos Quina. Starts to a season really don't get much better than this.
In beating Reading with goals from Isaac Success and Quina, Javi Gracia could not have wished for things to go much better. His first-choice XI largely got the night off ahead of the game against Tottenham; the team kept alive the hopes of a cup run; there was a clean sheet; Nathaniel Chalobah got 87 minutes under his belt; Quina served notice of his huge potential; Stefano Okaka made his comeback from injury, and everybody else picked up some vital match practise to ensure they will be game ready should the Head Coach need to call on them. Mission accomplished, job done.
Just ahead of the bright debut of Quina and a very composed showing from Ben Wilmot, the biggest plus was the sight of a focused and firing Success. The one-time club record signing had not been seen from the start in a Watford shirt in nearly two years, but we may look back at this game in time to come as the rebirth of his Watford career.
He led the line well, looked hungry, put a shift in and got his first goal since the one against Bournemouth on October 1. The way he frenziedly celebrated, just like he did at the final whistle on Sunday, said a lot about how this meant much more to him than just scoring his first goal in nearly two years. He is now fully on-board with what Gracia is trying to do and clearly feels part of things.
Quina is a bit further behind in the pecking order than Success but, blimey, he showed what all the fuss was about when the Hornets signed him on deadline day with a strike out of the very top drawer. Sam Walker, in the Reading goal, just about saw the Portuguese youth international's left-footed strike from 25 yards but could do nothing except follow its path as it flew passed him like a bullet into the top corner. The keeper barely moved. The season is only four games old yet we already have goals from Roberto Pereyra, Will Hughes and now Quina in the Goal of the Season category. All the best choosing the pick of that lot.
While the grounded Gracia will not be getting carried away with a win over a much-changed Reading side who have only won one of their first six, he will be pleased with the surprising level of cohesion that a side boasting five full club debuts and 11 seasonal debuts played with. They were the sharper and more productive of the two sides and even coped with an early switch from 4-5-1 to 3-5-2 after Gracia clearly saw something he did not like.
There was a lovely pirouette from Quina to illuminate the early exchanges while Marc Navarro was clearly keen to make his mark after not even making the bench for the first three league games. The summer signing from Espanyol chanced his arm with a speculative 35-yard free-kick that failed to even make it as far as the Reading keeper and then, undeterred, he tried his luck from even further out 10 minutes later with similar success.
With 52 per cent of the possession, Chalobah slammed a free-kick with the instep of his right foot just wide, Success almost capitalised on a sloppy back-pass from Liam Moore and then a lovely-worked corner involving Adam Masina, Chalobah and Femenía led to blocked efforts from Adrian Mariappa and Wilmot.
You felt a goal was coming, and not long after Success couldn't sort his feet out after Femenía flashed one across goal the face of goal, the Nigerian came up with the breakthrough on 36 minutes. Chalobah picked out the overlapping Masina with a slide-rule pass which the Italian then fed centrally into the path of Success. He nipped in front of his marker, rounded Walker, and slotted into an empty net. It was the least Watford deserved for a very bright opening.
The only time Reading really threatened was when Marc McNulty fired over and Nigel Gibbs - the Watford legend and Reading No. 2 - will have had his work cut out at half-time to figure a way back into this one.
Watford needed the comfort blanket of a second goal to just make their passage into round three that little bit smoother, and they got it when Quina pulled a rabbit out of the hat just past the hour. Even the Reading fans applauded the quality of it. From then on it was a question of how many Watford would get and damage-limitation for Reading.
In the end, it was just two, and Quina fully deserved the big pat on the back Gracia gave him when he was withdrawn nine minutes from time. He is not 19 until November and we can expect to see more of him when the Hornets play their third round match next month. The mouth waters.
HORNETS | Gomes (GK); Prödl, Wilmot, Mariappa (C); Navarro, Chalobah (Hughes 87), Quina (Doucouré 82), Masina; Femenía, Sema (Okaka 66); Success.
Subs not used | Dahlberg (GK), Gray, Janmaat, Cathcart.