Sheffield Wednesday captain Martin Taylor had a night to forget against his former club as the Owls crashed to this emphatic defeat at Hillsborough last night.
A half-time substitute with the scores locked at 1-1, the centre-half and his Owls defence were left holding their heads as they made it just two wins in 17 games to heap further pressure on manager Dave Jones.
Chairman Milan Mandaric had publicly come out in support for Jones before the game, but even the loyal Owls owner would have been shocked by their second-half collapse.
Jones made three changes to the side which lost on Saturday. Out went captain Taylor – yet to appear in an winning Wednesday team in eight games since his summer switch from the Hornets – along with Jermaine Johnson and Jose Semedo.
In came Chris Lines, for his first start of the season after a long-term injury lay-off, Miguel Llera, from suspension, and Irishman Paul Corry.
The Owls started with a 4-3-3 formation, and will wonder how they were not in front at half-time.
Michail Antonio gave them a third-minute lead only for the impressive Fernando Forestieri to equalise 10 minutes later.
But the Owls were unrecognisable from the lame performers against Leicester City, pinging the ball around and hassling their opponents all over the pitch.
That they did not lead was largely due to former Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia, who not only saved Lines’s 29th-minute penalty but an array of Owls strikes.
Wednesday had got off to a dream start when Antonio pounced on Marco Cassetti’s wayward pass to dance through and hammer low past Almunia.
After being booked for diving, Forestieri then showed awareness to latch onto a swift throw, race across the penalty area before driving low under Chris Kirkland.
Former England striker Jay Bothroyd was playing wide on the right and was having an eventful game. First he chased back to deny Forestieri after Llera lost possession in his own half.
Then he won the spot-kick on 29 minutes when he was chopped down from behind by defender Daniel Pudil eight yards out. It was a definite penalty and the only surprise was the referee showed only a yellow card as Pudil was the last defender.
Any sense of injustice was heightened even further when Almunia guessed correctly from the spot-kick as Lines fired low to the goalkeeper’s right.
Despite the setback, Wednesday did not let their heads drop.
Bothroyd opted to shoot from long range when left-back Lewis Buxton – galloping down the wing on the overlap – looked the better option, but the pair were on the same wavelength moments later.
This time Buxton drilled in a low cross and Bothroyd was just unable to make clean contact with the ball as the Owls showed great counter-attacking skills.
Rhys McCabe – one of three central midfielders along with Lines and Corry – was next to test Almunia, as Wednesday pushed for a goal just before the break.
Bothroyd turned provider when his far-post cross was headed back towards goal by Antonio, only for Mamady Sidibe to hammer his effort over the crossbar.
Buxton was booked for an off-the-ball incident with Forestieri, before the match was held up as the referee limped off to be replaced by the fourth official.
The second half started scrappily and there was little hint at the collapse to come from the hosts.
Kirkland was becoming busier as the game dragged on though, Taylor having replaced Anthony Gardner at the interval.
First he thwarted Forestieri, as Llera allowed the ball to slip by him, and from the resulting corner Lines was on hand to head the ball off the goal-line.
But Kirkland could do nothing about Watford’s second goal. Mark Yeates delivered a free-kick to the back post and the visitors’ top scorer Alexandre Geijo headed home unmarked.
Manager Jones then reacted by replacing right-back Buxton with winger Jermaine Johnson, resulting in mixed chants from either end of the stadium.
‘You’re getting sacked in the morning’ jeered Watford fans, while Owls supporters in the 18,922 crowd chanted their displeasure at the change with ‘Jermaine Johnson – he’s not a right-back’.
Wednesday had been punished once at a free-kick and that was their undoing for the third goal. Another cross-field pass saw Taylor completely miss the flight of the ball, allowing Troy Deeney to score with ease.
It soon got worse.
Yeates left Kirkland stranded as he fired home a long-range effort, with thousands of home fans having already headed for the exits.
There was just enough time for Bothroyd to hammer high into the Kop from eight yards out to cap a miserable night for Wednesday.
Sheffield Wednesday: Kirkland, Buxton (Johnson 67), Gardner (Taylor 45), Llera, Helan, Antonio, Corry, Lines, McCabe (Semedo 51), Bothroyd, Sidibe. Unused substitutes: Bywater, O’Grady, Mayor, Jones.
Watford: Almunia, Cassetti, Hall, Ekstrand, Hoban, Pudil, Yeates (Murray 90), Chalobah, Hogg, Forestieri (Deeney 73), Geijo. Unused substitutes: Bonham, Dickinson, Vydra, Smith, Battocchio.
Referee: T Bates (Staffordshire).