Watford 2-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers
WATFORD SURVIVED a late rally from the 10 men of Wolves to move within a point of the Play-Off's.
Goals from Nathaniel Chalobah and Troy Deeney told far from the whole story as Wolves bit back despite seeing Christoph Berra dismissed in the first half.
Gianfranco Zola brought Daniel Pudil, Jonathan Hogg, Deeney and Fernando Forestieri in for Ikechi Anya, Almen Abdi, Alex Geijo and Matej Vydra.
Stale Solbakken brought Tongo Doumbia into the heart of midfield for suspended captain Karl Henry.
The opening quarter of an hour was a chess match between two possession-adept sides with chances very much at a premium.
It took until the 13th minute for a noteworthy chance, Forestieri and Deeney linking up before the latter saw his shot blocked. The ball fell to Mark Yeates who saw his effort blocked once more before sitting the ball up for Daniel Pudil to slash wide.
Deeney had a good chance shortly after when he burst into the Wolves 18 yard box before shooting straight at Ikeme.
The forward had been pulled back outside the area and after playing advantage the referee dismissed Christoph Berra awarding the Hornets a free-kick.
Hogg was the next to go close when Deeney hooked a precise ball into the midfielder who instantly controlled and volleyed wide.
In the 37th minute Watford's pressure finally told when Yeates picked out Forestieri down the left-hand side allowing the Italian to square for Chalobah to prod home at the second attempt.
Forestieri then collected Chalobah's return from a short corner and drove into the area before dinking a shot over from 17 yards.
Chalobah should have scored again on the stroke of half time, angling a low drive narrowly wide of Ikeme's right hand post.
Pudil saw his low shot flash narrowly wide of the far post as the referee called time on the first half.
With Wolves down to 10 Zola decided to go for the jugular in the second half, introducing Vydra in place of Marco Cassetti down the right flank.
The first chance of the half saw Yeates's right-wing cross dropped by Ikeme on or over the line - one for the Football League Show.
A determined Hogg saw another opportunity go begging when he controlled a chipped pace and struck well wide on his left foot.
Watford were eventually punished for their profligacy in front of goal when Bakary Sako swung a deep free kick into the back post, Manuel Almunia misjudging and clawing in the leveller.
Watford immediately got back on the front foot, Chalobah seeing a shot blocked wide before Ikeme dropped a routine into the near-post with Deeney earning another Horns corner kick.
From the resulting corner Deeney re-established the hosts lead when he stooped to flick his header beyond Ikeme.
Seven minutes later Watford were lucky not to concede a penalty when Tommie Hoban thundered into a challenge with David Edwards, the Wolves midfielder booked for diving.
With Wolves throwing everything at Zola's side, Chalobah collected a high pass on the run, driving into area before tickling a shot wide.
In the final seconds substitute Vydra was found by Forestieri on the break. The Czech forward's touch was poor and allowed Ikeme to collect the loose ball.
A deserved victory even id the Hornets made hard work of what should have been a routine win with the combination of their numerical advantage and early domination.
Credit to Solbakken's side for their endeavours however, the Black Country outfit provided much greater threat with 10 and the game was never over.
Watford: Almunia (c); Doyley Thompson), Ekstrand, Hoban; Cassetti (Vydra), Yeates (Smith), Hogg, Chalobah, Pudil; Forestieri & Deeney.
Subs not used: Beleck, Anya, Murray & Bond (GK).
Wolves: Ikeme; Stearman, Johnson, Berra, Ward (c); Pennant (Batth), Doumbia (Davis), Edwards, Sako; Doyle (Ebanks-Blake) & Sigurdarson.
Subs not used: de Vries (GK), Nouble, Forde & Foley.