Watford interim manager Tom Cleverley thinks there is a bright future for the club after the Hornets secured a 1-0 victory over Birmingham.

Cleverley was announced as interim boss after the sacking of Valerien Ismael and got off to a winning start thanks to Emmanuel Dennis’ 44th-minute goal.

Dennis pounced on a mistake from the hosts to fire the ball past goalkeeper John Ruddy for what ultimately proved the match-winner at St Andrew’s.

Cleverley said the victory was what he dreamt of in the build-up to the game but praised Birmingham for their performance.

“It’s exactly what the doctor ordered and it’s what I dreamt of last night,” Cleverley said.

“It wasn’t as perfect as it sounds, and we will address some of the problems we faced but I think if the players play with that much desire and heart to stop the ball going in our goal, and we know the quality our team possesses, there’s a bright future in us.

“I came to their game Tuesday and saw them in quite a flat way but today I thought they were excellent, so credit to us for winning the game.”

Cleverley praised his back four in being an integral part of claiming the three points and striker Dennis for scoring the winning goal.

“I can’t praise the back four enough, two academy products, and (Ryan) Porteous was the old head of the four and Dan (Bachmann) was called on a few times, a few more than I like and that’s my job to organise that better,” Cleverley added.

“The main thing today was the result and that back four deserves a big pat on the back.

“We know that (Emmanuel) Dennis has that explosive burst so as a defender you may think you are comfortable on the ball but then he appears from nowhere.

“We spoke to the players, we thought we’d create chances through high regains today and we didn’t win as many balls as we liked but the one that mattered went in.”

Birmingham assistant manager Mark Venus said he could not fault the effort of his players.

“I can’t protect the players for Tuesday, but I can protect them today, I thought they gave everything on the pitch,” Venus said.

“We talk about missing a little bit of quality, that was evident again today, but as far as energy, intensity, desire, purpose and team spirit, that was all there today.”

Venus says his players need be more ruthless in front of goal as they failed to score for a third successive league match.

“We have to finish better, let’s see it as it is, we have to finish better and we have to put the ball in the net,” Venus added.

“We have to raise our quality, we have to do better all those things, all the other things were all there today.”

Watford have sacked head coach Valerien Ismael following Saturday’s 2-1 home defeat by Coventry and placed former midfielder Tom Cleverley in interim charge.

The Hornets were beaten 2-1 by the Sky Blues to leave them 13th in the Sky Bet Championship, well adrift of the play-off places and seven points above the relegation zone.

Ex-Barnsley and West Brom boss Ismael had been appointed to the job at Vicarage Road in May and signed a contract extension in October, but he has paid the price for a poor run of form.

Ismael was the 20th managerial appointment under the Pozzo family. Of his 41 games in charge, Watford won 12 and lost 15, with 14 draws.

A statement from the club on Saturday evening read: “Tom Cleverley will assume the position of interim head coach at Vicarage Road.

“This follows Watford FC terminating the contract of Valerien Ismael after today’s home defeat to Coventry City.

“The Hornets thank Valerien and his staff for their dedication and commitment. However, the club’s board considers it an appropriate time to make a change in order to improve results.

“Tom Cleverley’s staff will be confirmed in due course.”

Former Manchester United and England midfielder Cleverley retired from playing last summer after six seasons with Watford and took up a role on the club’s coaching staff.

Haji Wright scored twice as Coventry came from behind to beat Watford 2-1 at Vicarage Road.

The FA Cup quarter-finalists do not play another Championship fixture until March 29 and needed the three points to remain in the Championship play-off picture.

United States international Wright converted a 40th-minute penalty to cancel out Ryan Porteous’ headed opener and then struck a composed 72nd-minute winner from the edge of the area.

The result was harsh on Watford, whose vibrant and energetic display belied their recent poor run of form.

Valerien Ismael’s side have now won just one of their past 10 league games and are in danger of being sucked into the increasingly-congested relegation battle.

Watford began positively, with an Edo Kayembe shot through the legs of a Coventry defender that was tipped away by the outstretched left hand of Brad Collins.

After Ismael Kone had pushed another effort just wide, the home side took the lead in straightforward fashion after 20 minutes.

A Ryan Andrews long throw found the head of Porteous, whose flick dropped over Collins and into the far corner.

At the other end, Wright took advantage of two Watford players running into each other, but he could only find the midriff of Watford goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann with his shot.

Having been outplayed for most of the half and looking disjointed, Coventry suddenly drew level.

Josh Eccles received a short pass from Ellis Simms before beating Porteous and then having his legs taken away by Bachmann, who had come rushing rashly out of his goal. Wright struck his spot-kick firmly into the corner.

The equaliser meant Watford extended their remarkable record of leading at half-time on just two occasions this season, the fewest of any club in England’s top four divisions.

With an FA Cup quarter-final at Wolves next weekend giving them a 20-day league hiatus, this felt like a match Mark Robins’ side needed to win.

Instead, it was Watford who continued to create the clearer opportunities, with another Kone shot followed by a Wesley Hoedt header that was held by Collins.

The Coventry keeper then stood firm at the near post to stop a strike from the impressive Yaser Asprilla.

But, just as they had in the opening period, Coventry conjured up a goal out of nothing.

Eccles played in Wright on the edge of the area and his shot was low and true into the bottom corner for his 13th league goal of the season.

Watford continued to press but lacked the ability to carve out any clear-cut openings before the final whistle that was greeted by boos from those home fans who remained inside Vicarage Road.

Watford manager Valerien Ismael refused to criticise goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann and defender Ryan Andrews for the clanger that left Watford having to come back from behind to secure a 1-1 draw at home to Swansea.

Ismael opted to drop previous first choice Ben Hamer and restore Bachmann to the starting line-up for the first time in the league since November 28.

But the Austrian was the key man in an 18th-minute mix-up that gifted the visitors the lead.

Andrews stopped Przemyslaw Placheta from reaching a long ball into the inside left channel from Matt Grimes by heading the ball back towards his goalkeeper.

But Bachmann had come rushing off his line without the right-back realising – and both were left watching in horror as the ball bounced into an empty net.

Ismael said: “It was a lack of communication. It has happened – unfortunately. There is no antidote against making mistakes in football.

“At half-time we had to clear the air and then we spoke positively. At the minute this is really tough – it is a challenge – but we cannot drop mentally.

“We came back into the game so it is step after step. Just at the minute we need to get all the positives that we can get – and I think we will become stronger after this period.”

Bachmann made two good saves after that however – first to deny Ronald on the half-hour mark after the Brazilian had caught Jamal Lewis in possession and then to stop a close-range header by Ben Cabango near the end of the first half.

Ismael added: “When you are in difficult situations you have to make changes so we changed players, in the first half the way to play and a lot of things on the training ground, including the schedule just to make sure the players were aware about the situation.

“Every player is involved and for me the keeper position is like an outfield player – it should be possible to change the keeper just to keep everyone involved.”

Watford levelled in the 57th minute from a corner that was swung into the box by Giorgi Chakvetadze, who had replaced Ken Sema just before the break.

Wesley Hoedt flicked it on at near post with centre-back Porteous appearing to divert it over the line from close range.

Watford dropped to 13th spot – two places above Swansea, whose manager Luke Williams has seen his side pick up seven points from the last three games to edge away from the drop zone.

He said: “I felt at half time we could have been in front by another goal but Watford were really aggressive in the second half and we deserved a point each.

“We were value for a goal even though it was fortunate in the way it came about.

“We are feeling in a good place and in all three games we performed to a pretty good level but there is no doubt that we have a long way to go to being the best team we can be.

“We have been 2-0 up, 2-0 up and 1-0 up at half-time so we have to make better performances in the second 45 minutes. This is an obvious one.

“In the second half we have to either maintain our level or find a way to control the game better – that is what we have to learn.

“Overall we have been competitive outside the really top sides in the division.”

Neil Harris hailed his Millwall players for displaying the passion he believes the club is built on as they edged past Watford 1-0.

Harris left Cambridge at the end of February to return to The Den for his second spell in charge, and has since steered the Lions to back-to-back wins to keep them above the relegation zone.

Earlier in the week, Harris had spoken about “bringing the Millwall-ness back” to the club, and he felt he saw glimpses of that as Zian Flemming’s early free-kick sealed the three points.

“The football club belongs to the fanbase, so what do they want to see from their team?” said Harris.

“Well, the good teams I’ve played in and the good teams I’ve managed they had heart, they had character, they had passion, desire.

“We could challenge, we could run and we had some ability as well, and that’s all the fans want to see.

“It’s my job to teach this group of players what a Millwall team looks like and today, we had it in so many ways. We didn’t take care of the ball well enough at times, we lacked a little bit of confidence and belief here at The Den that we showed at Southampton with the ball.

“So, that’s something that we’ve got to drip feed into the players, but as in spirit and character and atmosphere in the stadium, that was really, really positive.”

The good feeling was sparked just three minutes in when Flemming’s deflected free-kick found the bottom corner despite Watford goalkeeper Ben Hamer getting hands to it.

Hamer was almost left red-faced for a second time when he allowed a long ball to drift past him, but he breathed a sigh of relief when Duncan Watmore’s effort from a narrow angle hit the post.

The Hornets had more possession in a second half sorely lacking in quality, but a long-range shot over by Ismael Kone and a simple save by Matija Sarkic from Jake Livermore was the best they
could muster.

It meant a fifth defeat in six league games that drew an angry reaction from their supporters after the final whistle and left the visitors in danger of being dragged into the scramble for survival.

Watford boss Valerien Ismael said: “I think throughout the 90 minutes we were not intimidated by the environment and that we were solid.

“We raised the performance from last week, we were unlucky from a deflected free-kick, we were one goal down.

“The only thing we said was just to stand the first 15-20 minutes, the most powerful energy from the game will be there, with the win last week, with the new manager.

“We were prepared for that but, unfortunately, we conceded exactly the goal there, but after that I didn’t think Millwall had the chance to score.

“We were under control, we were focused on ourselves and the performance in this kind of away game was good, but it doesn’t help us a lot at the moment.

“We need to win games, especially in this period of the season, and when you come on a run like this, it makes it difficult for the players.”

Watford head coach Valerien Ismael admitted feeling some relief after his side ended their losing streak with a 1-0 win at Rotherham.

Neither side entered the contest with much confidence following three straight defeats apiece but it was Watford who snatched the points thanks to Yaser Asprilla’s second-half strike.

Ismael said: “We were ready for the battle. We spoke about it before the game.

“It was all about the result. We had to be solid and to do the basics right.

“Finally it was another clean sheet. It was very difficult but we managed well.

“Our focus was all about the result. We have had to stay positive. There is no excuse any more – we had to act on the pitch.

“Yaser is a player who has learned a lot this season and he is ready now to have an impact on games. I am very pleased for him.

“We were stronger in the line-up because we expected (a physical) game. We had to protect our goal and we defended well. We knew the ball would be coming in the air.

“It’s a big relief to get three points. The next challenge is to win the next home game.”

Both sides created decent opportunities in the first period. The nearest Watford came was through Asprilla but his deflected effort was just over the bar.

Rotherham’s Peter Kioso looked the dangerman early on and tested Ben Hamer with a header.

Watford went ahead just before the hour-mark, with Asprilla showing real quality to smash beyond Viktor Johansson after the ball had fallen to him on the edge of the area.

Rotherham then did all the pushing. Seb Revan fired just off target and Sean Morrison and Hakeem Odoffin came close with headers.

Watford were defending desperately come the end and it took timely blocks from Jake Livermore and Wesley Hoedt to deny Rotherham.

Millers’ head coach Leam Richardson still only has one win in the hotseat at the New York Stadium and his side are now 14 points from safety.

However, he is managing to remain positive.

He said: “You’re judged on the final result; I think we are up on every stat within the game apart from the result which counts.

“I am disappointed for the players. They gave enough effort and endeavour to get a positive result out of the game. That is where we are.

“I have said it before and I will probably be repeating myself a lot now until the end of the season, I knew the challenge coming in.

“There is no reason why we can’t give a good account of ourselves whether that be on a Saturday or Tuesday or Monday, Thursday, Friday. We have still got points to play for and an end goal.

“It is important we remain positive. It’s easy to ask negative questions.

“The lads know they have got to give a good account of themselves at Ipswich on Tuesday.

“The players were on the floor at the end but you have got to pick them up. There is nothing to gain by being negative.

“We are not kidding ourselves because we know it’s a tough division.

“I have been in worse situations than this and come through it.”

Watford gave their season the much-needed boost it required with a 1-0 win at struggling Rotherham.

Both teams went into the fixture out of form and on the back of three straight defeats but Yaser Asprilla’s second-half winner helps Valerien Ismael’s team to look up again.

Watford won the reverse fixture 5-0 but were happy to walk away from this one with a much narrower winning margin and were clinging on by the end.

Neat interplay between Hakeem Odoffin and Peter Kioso led to Rotherham’s first chance with Odoffin just firing off target from Kioso’s pull-back.

Andy Rinomhota also shot off target on the volley after Sean Morrison’s long throw dropped nicely for him.

Watford’s first effort came from lone striker Mileta Rajovic but his header, from Asprilla’s cross, dropped wide of goal.

Asprilla then came close himself with his effort from the edge of the box deflected onto the roof of the goal.

Kioso tested Ben Hamer for the first time in the match as he got on the end of Ollie Rathbone’s free-kick.

The home side started the second half on top and strongly appealed for a penalty when Rinomhota went down in the box.

Giorgi Chakvetadze was brought on by Ismael and he almost had a swift impact as he slipped Rajovic through but quick-thinking from Viktor Johansson stopped the attack.

Watford took the lead in the 58th minute when a corner eventually found its way to Asprilla on the edge of the box and he lashed an unstoppable drive into the bottom corner.

Rotherham boss Leam Richardson made a treble change in the hope of getting back into the game but it was starter Seb Revan who twice tried his luck in as many minutes.

The first effort was slashed at but the second would have temporarily worried Hamer before it trickled just wide of the post.

One of the new men, Jordan Hugill, could not get enough of a contact on a backpost header which again drifted wide.

An intervention from Jake Livermore denied Rotherham a leveller as he blocked a header from Tom Eaves after a Sam Clucas free-kick. From the resulting corner Morrison headed just off target.

Tom Ince had a good chance to put the game to bed after being slipped through by Livermore but his effort was wildly off target.

Watford skipper Wesley Hoedt was then in the perfect position to deny Rinomhota’s driven effort from going in.

Rotherham continued to push into added time and a looping header from Odoffin landed on the roof of the net.

Watford head coach Valerien Ismael was pleased at the second-half reaction from his side, as they spared their FA Cup blushes with a 2-1 win over Chesterfield.

A goal in the fifth minute of stoppage time from Tom Dele-Bashiru broke the hearts of the National League leaders, who would have felt they deserved at least a replay.

Watford won their first FA Cup third-round tie at home since 2018, and progressed to the fourth round for the first time since reaching the final in 2019.

But Ismael was content with avoiding having to go to the SMH Group Stadium for a replay.

He said “The main thing in the cup is always to come through, because nobody will talk about the actual game.

“We made the game complicated for ourselves, and credit to Chesterfield they played well with a nothing-to-lose mentality.

“In the first half I didn’t get the feeling we controlled anything, at half time I told them we had to come back in our mentality – to raise our standards.

“That is non-negotiable, to play to your standards. The second half was much better and it showed a good mentality to score in the last minute.

“We’ve overcome the challenge. I prefer to score in the last minute rather than have a rematch.”

Backed by close to 4000 supporters, Chesterfield almost conceded after five minutes when Yaser Asprilla intercepted a back pass from Branden Horton, but his effort was blocked by Ryheem Sheckleford.

Goalkeeper Ryan Boot was needed on 24 minutes when Ismael Kone found space to bear down on goal but saw his shot denied the shotstopper.

The National League side then stunned their hosts three minutes later. A cross from the byline by Sheckleford found the head of Joe Quigley, who directed a simple header into the net.

It could have been even better for the visitors less than forty seconds after the restart, when keeper Daniel Bachmann had to save from Ollie Banks, following a move involving Sheckleford.

After a triple substitution was made to change the fortunes of Watford, it was down to one of the replacements in Mileta Rajovic to finally unlock the Chesterfield back line.

His header from a cross by Yaser Asprilla on 76 minutes sent an audible sigh of relief around Vicarage Road.

Although Watford were by far the more energetic of the two sides, Chesterfield could have won with seven minutes remaining, when sub Ryan Colclough headed over from less than six yards out.

The game was settled deep into injury time when Dele-Bashiru struck low past Boot, to earn a victory that was possibly ill-deserved.

Chesterfield assistant manager Danny Webb admitted the late defeat was hurtful, but his focus quickly returned to his side getting back into the EFL for the first time since 2018

He said “It’s a kick in the teeth, but when we look at the other scores in the National League today, which is what our bread and butter is, getting out that division, they went for us.

“We’re six points clear at the top, we’ve had a cracking day out and we’ve taken a Championship side toe to toe. Their bit of quality came through at the end.

“The supporters will be a bit down and a bit gutted.

“When you come to these places, the notch goes up – there’s a bit more quality, they’re a bit fitter and quicker.

“I won’t say we outplayed Watford, but we gave them a good game.”

Watford head coach Valerien Ismael hailed his players for holding on for a point from a 1-1 draw with Stoke despite Vakoun Bayo’s 52nd-minute dismissal.

Striker Bayo was shown a straight red card for an off-the-ball clash with Potters defender Luke McNally.

The pair initially tussled for the ball and both ended up on the turf – but when they picked themselves up referee Scott Oldham was convinced he saw Bayo strike McNally as play continued elsewhere.

Hornets fans stuck with their side afterwards – and gave referee Oldham a hard time throughout.

“With 10 men we played some great football,” Ismael said. “The spirit was unbelievable in the stadium – for the first time this season I got some goosebumps. The fans gave us a lot of energy.

“I’m proud of my players because they stayed calm and showed great fighting spirit.”

Ismael agreed with the home fans’ assessment that Oldham had lost control of the contest.

“Everyone got that feeling tonight that something was wrong,” he said. “It was difficult to manage all the emotion because it was not only the players, it was all over the place.”

Oldham showed a yellow card to Ismael for dissent in the first half.

“My feeling was of injustice,” the manager said. “I know I have a job to do on the sidelines, to be an example, but I am human.”

Stoke head coach Steven Schumacher admitted his players had failed to capitalise on the red card but reckoned the decision itself was routine.

“I just saw the two lads clash on the floor, I don’t know what Scott’s seen,” he said. “It was a decision that went for us but the momentum of the game changed. Unfortunately we didn’t make the most of it.

“I’m sick of talking about referees – I’ve been on the end of a few mad decisions as well. It’s part and parcel of football – it’s what happens.”

Jake Livermore put Watford ahead in the 15th minute, bundling home from close range from a corner to celebrate his first goal for the Hornets.

Ryan Mmaee’s fine strike levelled the scores in the 34th minute and despite chances for both sides before and after Bayo’s departure there was no further scoring.

The draw extended Stoke’s unbeaten run to five matches, three of which have been under Schumacher, who replaced Alex Neil on December 19. The Potters are 19th, seven points clear of the relegation places.

“We showed some good character, especially after going 1-0 down from a set-piece,” he said. “That was a disappointment but we responded really well.

“It was a great finish from Ryan. It was a goal he deserved. He has led the line really well in the last three games.

“At half-time I said to the players that the game was there for the taking if we continued to play with some energy and show more quality in their box.

“Unfortunately, especially when they went to 10 men, we just didn’t have that killer pass that would have been the difference.

“It wasn’t a poor performance but you could see there were some tired bodies out there.”

The result left Watford in 10th place, four points off the play-offs, but the draw was an upgrade on Boxing Day’s 4-1 home loss to Bristol City.

“From minute one we were much better than Tuesday,” Ismael said.

Liam Manning promised that his Bristol City side will get even better after their 4-1 victory at Watford.

The Robins thoroughly deserved their triumph, their third straight win under former Oxford boss Manning, who arrived at Ashton Gate last month.

It was also their first on the road under Manning, and City’s first back-to-back triple since November 2020.

Manning said: “We’re going in the right direction but I told the players afterwards that we can play better than that.

“That’s what excites me about the group. The challenge is to strive every day to improve, but there were so many positives today.

“Three or four weeks ago, I was giving interviews saying how it would come together for us, and it would happen.

“I’m delighted for the players. They’ve stayed level and grounded, they haven’t got too flat when we’ve lost or super high when we’ve won, and that’s the most important bit – head down and work hard.

“The game plan worked, I’m very fortunate to have a staff who are as obsessive and intense as me.

“They put a lot of hours in to create what we want to do. And huge credit goes to the players in the way they implement it.”

That game plan saw City go ahead in the 28th minute. Watford midfielder Edo Kayembe’s attempt to head clear from Taylor Gardner-Hickman’s free-kick fell straight to Cameron Pring, who hammered home.

Then, two minutes into first-half added time, Watford skipper Wesley Hoedt put Tommy Conway’s cross into his own goal – without a City player anywhere near.

Substitute Giorgi Chakvetadze narrowed the lead four minutes into the second half, only for Mark Sykes to make it 3-1 almost from the restart.

City replacement Andreas Weimann killed off the game with City’s fourth in the 83rd minute against his former side as Watford stood vainly waiting for the offside flag after the Austrian had been set free by Joe Williams’ pass.

Watford boss Valerien Ismael had been hoping to see his side break into the top six, but he said: “It’s a big disappointment.

“We gave the game away from the first minute. We made too many mistakes, which made it difficult to give a fluid display.

“What summed up the match was when he came back into it at 2-1 and then conceded. That was sloppy. We beat ourselves. We have to take control of the ball more.

“We have to always stay on a level where we can win the game. But against City we beat ourselves – it’s as simple as that.

“We never had control. Fatigue is no excuse – it’s the same for every team. We know we have the solution, but on the other hand we must make sure that everyone can perform at the correct level.”

Valerien Ismael hailed a “great performance” after his Watford side heaped further misery on struggling Rotherham with a 5-0 thumping at Vicarage Road.

Watford endured a tricky start to the campaign, but are now six games unbeaten and charging up the Sky Bet Championship table after their biggest victory of the season.

Despite just six places separating the two sides heading into the game, the gulf in class was evident throughout, with Mileta Rajovic scoring twice before second-half goals from Edo Kayembe, Tom Ince and Matheus Martins.

“We came out of the challenge of losing three games very well,” said Ismael. “I think now we have built something strong.

“We need to recover because the next massive block will come in the big December games. But now we feel more ready.

“We know the players better and what type of players we need for each game. It was a learning process, but we feel we are moving in the right direction. Now the results show up.

“With the feeling we’ve had from the beginning that we are on the right path and now the results are showing, it will help to build our confidence.”

Watford’s two first-half goals came in near-identical fashion, with Ken Sema providing perfect deliveries from the left flank for Rajovic to finish inside the six-yard box.

Kayembe added the third after 54 minutes, turning his defender after Ryan Porteous had driven at the Rotherham defence.

Substitutes Ince and Martins then completed the rout late on with the visitors paying the price for making all of their changes and playing the final 10 minutes a man down after Cafu added to their long injury list.

“The first two goals were exactly what we wanted, to come around the block of the defender,” said Ismael. “We have to cross more, to shoot more, to force the opponent to defend more, just to keep the pressure on.

“Today was a team performance because the bench, the players who came in, gave us another breath and got their reward. Another clean sheet and five goals, a great performance.”

Defeat leaves Rotherham four points adrift of safety and without a win on the road for more than a year – a run that stretched to 21 league games.

Already battling a lengthy list of absentees, they lost Cafu, Daniel Ayala and Sam Clucas to worrying hamstring injuries.

“It’s a painful result, but the end is even more painful,” said Rotherham manager Matt Taylor. “The result is a big blow, but to lose three players of that calibre, for a team like Rotherham, is massive for us.

“I didn’t think there was much in the first half, but the game was past us before we could do anything about it.

“We’ve not trained since Tuesday so people can’t say we’re working them too hard. This league, to a team like Rotherham with our personnel, really highlights our weaknesses.”

On his side’s dreadful away record, he added: “We’ve not been good enough away from home. Last season we ground out enough points for survival. I didn’t see enough of that grind and stubbornness today.

“It’s tough at the moment. If you get anything away from home for Rotherham United you’ve done really well.

“Our fans can sing and shout whatever they want – I totally understand that because when you’re getting beaten every away trip. Why should you spend your hard-earned money to watch us?”

A resurgent Watford continued their march up the Sky Bet Championship table with Mileta Rajovic’s double helping the hosts heap further misery on Rotherham with a 5-0 thumping at Vicarage Road.

Valerien Ismael’s side endured a difficult start to the campaign, but are now six games unbeaten and eyeing up the top half after their biggest victory of the season.

Despite just six places separating the two sides heading into the game, the gulf in class was evident throughout as Rajovic’s brace and second-half goals for Edo Kayembe, Tom Ince and Matheus Martins proving no more than the hosts’ domination deserved.

Injury and illness had forced Ismael into three of five changes made from the goalless draw at Huddersfield, including a first league start this season for goalkeeper Ben Hamer after regular shotstopper Daniel Bachmann was ruled out due to a concussion in training.

Rotherham manager Matt Taylor opted for a rare two-man frontline in an unsuccessful bid for elusive goals.

Starting the day four points adrift of safety and without a win on the road for more than a year, Rotherham’s hopes were dealt a blow after just 10 minutes when Watford scored with their first shot on target.

Ken Sema provided the perfect delivery, whipped from the left flank across the six-yard box, where Rajovic was able to burst through the defence and turn past the helpless Viktor Johansson.

Having offered little attacking threat, the visitors were forced into a change in the 33rd minute when Cafu replaced the injured Sam Clucas. The Portuguese midfielder immediately went closer than any of his team=mates had managed, smashing a 25-yard free-kick with his first touch of the ball which Hamer beat away.

In the fourth minute of first-half stoppage time, the same Watford combination that made the opening goal struck again. Sema outmuscled his defender, turned on the afterburners and squared in almost identical fashion to the opener, with Rajovic tucking home from close range.

Watford added their third in the 54th minute when Ryan Porteous drove at the Rotherham defence and played the ball to Kayembe. The Democratic Republic of the Congo midfielder’s expert right-foot control allowed him to turn his marker before firing home with his left.

With all of their substitutes used, Rotherham were forced to play the final 10 minutes a man down after Cafu went off injured, allowing Watford to add two more to the scoreline.

Substitute Ince provided the fourth goal after Ryan Andrews broke rapidly down the right and eluded two Rotherham defenders with his assist.

Martins then wrapped up proceedings in the fourth minute of stoppage time, drilling home after Rhys Healey had turned his defender to work some space on the edge of the Rotherham box.

Watford manager Valerien Ismael believes Mileta Rajovic’s injury-time header in a 2-2 draw with Millwall at Vicarage Road could prove a key moment in his side’s season.

Ismael said: “The morale, the mentality we showed again tonight was something great. It has been a good week for us with two wins, one draw.

“For sure you want more, but we are showing the mentality of a team that supports each other. At the end of the season, maybe we will talk about this day being a massive point for us.

“The Championship is a long run and these are all the values you need, either to win games or at least not to lose, to stay in the game. We made it perfectly this afternoon.

“For sure we are at home and you want to win the game, but our fans pushed us until the very end and gave us the belief we needed. They believed that something can happen. The team needed that.

“The feeling was there from the crowd and it lifted the players. We showed that we are able to score at any time in the game. We’ve got the squad – we are fit and we believe in ourselves.

“In this league anyone can beat anyone so you need the mentality, the desire, togetherness and belief from the beginning. Then you just need the structure and some quality to make the difference.

“We keep improving. I see the positive side from our work and we are coming. The stability is back in our squad.”

Ismael also hailed the impact of his substitutes Imran Louza and Rhys Healey.

Louza supplied the cross for Rajovic to head home, but Rhys Healey had earlier headed Jake Cooper’ s goalbound effort up and against his own bar with Millwall holding a 2-1 lead.

Ismael added: “I was pleased to see the mentality of the players and the impact from the bench. Louza made the assist, Rajovic scored the goal, but just before that Rhys Healey made a massive save. This is why I’m pleased.

“For the first 60 minutes we were excellent, but then we lost control and the game became hectic.

“Millwall put us exactly where they wanted to put us. Our build-up wasn’t as clinical and our clearances were sloppy.

“Short clearances, another throw-in, another free-kick and they started to build momentum and it was difficult to take control. But at the end we showed with the quality we’ve got we can score at any time.”

Millwall conceded an early goal from Yaser Asprilla only for Zian Flemming to equalise before Wes Harding’s 85th-minute header appeared to have won it for the visitors.

It was the central defender’s second goal in as many games.

Caretaker Millwall manager Adam Barrett said: “I’m delighted for Wes. He’s a great pro. He has come into the group in recent weeks and is a bit of a leader.

“It was nice to see someone attacking that ball with real intent. Hopefully. there is more to come from him. He’s really stepped up.

“I’m definitely disappointed after we got ourselves in a wonderful position there to go 3-1 up with Jake’s header and somehow the ball stayed out.

“Obviously at the end, there, it’s a real sickener to take. I was very disappointed to see their goal go in the back of the net. It was a kick in the teeth.

“We have a good bond in there. We just need to be a little bit braver. You can see it in spells. There’s been a lot of upheaval in the club in the last week or so, but the boys have stuck together.

“It would have been nice to take the confidence from a win into next week on the training pitch.”

Barrett admitted he has heard nothing about the managerial situation at The Den.

He said: “No, I haven’t heard anything. I’ve just about had some sleep in the past seven days. It’s been a hectic week and as far as I know I’m coming on Monday as normal.”

Valerien Ismael lauded his Watford players for their “brilliant” team performance as the Hornets ended a 16-game winless away run by beating Swansea 1-0 in south Wales.

Substitute Ken Sema struck a spectacular winner in the 82nd minute to earn the visitors all three points with what was his first goal of the campaign.

It was Watford’s first win on the road since beating Norwich 1-0 at Carrow Road in January, and boss Ismael was full of praise for his squad.

“It’s a very long time [since Watford won away], nine months now,” said the Frenchman.

“Congratulations to the players. I said after the game ‘thank you’ for another team performance.

“It was important to be strong and win our duels. We knew that we’ve got the quality to make the difference at any time.

“It was a brilliant performance in a difficult away game. We managed the challenge well.

“It’s a great feeling for everyone, especially for our fans, who came all the way to Swansea in midweek. They will drive back home tonight with a smile on their face.”

Harry Darling and Matt Grimes had decent chances to open the scoring for the Swans while Vakoun Bayo headed straight at Carl Rushworth with what was Watford’s clearest opening in a fairly tame first half.

Kristian Pedersen’s effort in the 72nd minute was ruled out as the contest appeared destined to end goalless.

The defender headed Grimes’ corner beyond Daniel Bachmann, only for referee Andrew Kitchen to disallow the effort after spotting a foul in the box.

It left Sema with the opportunity to steal the headlines late on, with the Sweden international’s thumping strike flying past Rushworth and into the net.

Darling twice went close in the final stages as Swansea pushed for an equaliser, but Bachmann produced a pair of fine saves as the Hornets tasted success on the road at last.

Defeat – Swansea’s second in succession following a four-game winning streak – saw Michael Duff’s side drop to 18th in the Championship table while Watford moved up to 15th.

And Duff was less than impressed with referee Kitchen’s decision to disallow Pedersen’s header.

“I thought we had a good goal disallowed,” he said.

“I think it’s that type of night where, if that goes in, we win the game.

“They (officials) said there was a foul in the build-up to it, but I’ve watched it back several times. I don’t know where the foul is.

“For us not to see where the foul is supposed to have taken place is frustrating because it was one of those nights, it was fine margins.

“They go down the other end and they find a moment of quality where the lad sticks it in the top corner from 20 yards. That’s the one bit we couldn’t find tonight.”

Manager Valerien Ismael believes Watford’s dramatic late 2-0 home victory over 10-man Birmingham will give his side a huge lift.

The Hornets went into the game having won just one of their opening five matches and appeared set for more frustration before the visitors lost Lee Buchanan to a second yellow card in the 88th minute.

Watford took full advantage, scoring twice in added time through Mileta Rajovic and Ryan Andrews to give them a first win since the opening day of the season.

Ismael said: “I think that if we have a review of the first five games we should have more points but we made a lot of mistakes.

“Today was important for the mental side that we finally got the reward. We forced the red card and we forced the goals.

“Hopefully that will give the confidence to our players for the next game.”

Ismael was full of praise for substitute Yaser Asprilla, who drew the foul from Buchanan that led to the Birmingham full-back’s dismissal before teeing up Rajovic for the opening goal.

He added: “Everyone can see he has the quality to be a key player. He can be something special but sometimes we just missed the outcome.

“We work with him every week, we speak with him and say it is now time to step up otherwise it is just entertainment and finally he had a big impact on the game.

“And then he combined the both, the entertainment with the ability to make the difference.”

Rajovic had scored twice on his debut against Coventry before the break and found the target again with a powerful header.

Andrews, 19, slotted home five minutes later for his first senior goal.

The outcome meant Birmingham suffered a first league defeat of the season.

Blues manager John Eustace, a former Watford player, could not disguise his disappointment at the manner of his side’s defeat and was critical of referee Keith Stroud.

The match official issued seven yellow cards to the visitors, including the two that led to Buchanan’s departure.

Eustace said: “To come away with no points is really frustrating.

“I was disappointed with the inconsistency of the referee but it is what it is. No excuses, I still expect us to defend properly with 10 men, like we did with 11.

“They managed the game very well without getting punished.

“I was really pleased with the performance and I was very proud of the efforts of the group.

“We limited a very good squad of players to nothing. The way we defended, the way we carried out our game-plan was excellent.

“To go down to 10 men, with four or five minutes to go, was obviously very frustrating.

“But I am disappointed we conceded because I still felt we could defend the cross better.”

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