Watford 4 Stockport County 1

Last updated : 08 January 2007 By Gary Holmes

Premiership strugglers Watford survived an early scare to progress through to the fourth round of the FA Cup with a comfortable 4-1 victory over Stockport County at Vicarage Road.

Malkay Mackay: Bagged an unlikely brace.
It looked like a shock might be on the cards when David Poole shot Jim Gannon's League Two side into the lead midway through the first-half, but the Golden Boys were soon back on level terms through Malky Mackay. Tommy Smith put the home side in front just after the restart and the gloss was applied by Mackay's second and a goal on his debut from new signing Moses Ashikodi.

It was no surprise that Aidy Boothroyd gave the teenage striker his first start, given Watford's problems in front of goal this season, but the omission of Ashley Young from the starting XI only served to fuel speculation that he will soon be leaving Vicarage Road.

The England Under-21 international is known to have been the subject of six bids since the transfer window opened, with one thought to be in the region of £7m. But if Young does move, he will be cup-tied after Boothroyd decided to bring him on as a second-half substitute.

Watford made the brighter start and they had two goals disallowed before they were stunned after 23 minutes. The defence were caught out by a perfectly-weighted slide-rule pass from Tony Dinning and Poole timed his run to perfection, sprinting clear to calmly beat the advancing Ben Foster.

County's joy was to be short-lived though. On the half-hour a Smith corner from the right was flicked on by Darius Henderson and the unmarked Mackay turned the ball inside the unguarded right-hand corner of the net with his left foot.

Tommy Smith: Capped fine display with crucial second goal.
James Spencer produced a fine save to keep out Jordan Stewart's 25-yard shot in the latter stages of the first-half, but the Stockport keeper was helpless to prevent Watford taking the lead three minutes after the break. Both Ashikodi and Henderson failed to get shots away but the ball broke for Smith on the right side of the six-yard area and he managed to slide a low shot past the keeper and inside the far post to give the Golden Boys an advantage they were never to lose.

Damien Francis should have made it 3-1 and he was nearly made to pay for a glaring miss from six yards when Stephen Gleeson headed Poole's cross narrowly wide. But Watford made their place in round four safe with 15 minutes remaining when the visiting defence pushed out looking for offside as Stewart whipped in a free-kick and Mackay stole in round the back to prod home at the back post.

To add insult to injury for County, they handed Watford their fourth goal on a plate. Gareth Owen tried an ambitious back-pass that put Spencer under pressure and, in trying to hack the ball clear, the keeper sliced the ball across his own six-yard area and Ashikodi slid in to net a debut goal.

Golden Boys man of the match: Tommy Smith. Workrate epitomised the importance Watford put on the tie.