FULL TIME: Wanderers 2 Watford 1
THE pressure on Owen Coyle has eased for a few days at least – but Wanderers ' victory over Watford was definitely not without its fraught moments.
The Hornets looked docile early on as Matt Mills headed the Whites into a fourth-minute lead, and their head of steam was diffused just before the break when Kevin Davies struck for the second time this season.
But there always looked likely to be a sting in the tail once Lloyd Doyley's lucky effort from the right touchline had nestled into an embarrased Adam Bogdan's net, and the final whistle was met with a feeling of relief rather than celebration.
Played in front of the lowest league gate in more than a decade, Coyle had made three changes to the side beaten at Hull, dropping Tim Ream, Chung-Yong Lee and Sam Ricketts for Matt Mills, David Ngog and Tim Ream.
And Wanderers got off to a dream start when former Arsenal keeper Manuel Almunia could only palm a Matt Mills header over the line with only four minutes on the clock.
That served to settle the nerves but the Whites struggled to manufacture any clear cut chances until midway through the half when Almunia made partial amends for his error by stifling a shot from Ngog.
Kevin Davies also headed a Chris Eagles corner just over the bar – but it wasn't all one way traffic, and Nyron Nosworthy must have thought he had equalised when he connected with Matej Vydra's cross, only to see his header hooked off the line by Ngog.
The edginess had begun to creep into Wanderers' play, and indeed the sparse Reebok crowd, before Kevin Davies provided a well-timed boost just before the break.
Eagles swung another free kick in from the right, and the skipper was on hand to divert the ball back across goal and just inside Almunia's far post for his second goal of the campaign.
Watford were still showing signs of fight and Mark Yeats showed why Owen Coyle's side couldn't rest on their laurels with a smart right-footed effort from the edge of the box that cannoned back off Adam Bogdan's crossbar.
That continued into the second half, and though Neutron Piccoli blocked a shot from Eagles on the line that could have made it three, it was Gianfranco Zola's side who had the momentum.
And they deserved to bring themselves back into the game – albeit somewhat fortuitously – when Lloyd Doyley's cross-shot seemed to catch Bogdan flat footed and drop into the net.
The young Hungarian keeper had endured a nervous afternoon and after the Hornets had dragged themselves back into the game, that feeling spread right throughout the team.
Only a great tackle from Tyrone Mears prevented Chris Iwelumo from netting a simple equaliser a few moments later when another cross caused panic in the Wanderers' back line.
Wanderers needed to muster another goal to truly put the game to bed, but while Mark Davies twice found himself in good positions, he failed to find the killer touch.
Watford looked blunt in the final stages, meaning the Whites didn't need to labour too hard to get over the finishing line.
But with much stiffer competition to come in the next week – Birmingham City and Sheffield Wednesday – they'll have to be a lot more convincing to maintain any forward momentum.