FORMER jailbird Troy Deeney proved Barnsley’s tormentor-in-chief as the Reds crashed to a poor defeat against the Hornets.
Deeney, who has served a prison sentence for affray, bagged a brace in his 100th appearance for the club to make it nine games without a win for Keith Hill’s struggling side.
But, despite defeat, the Reds remained just outside the Championship drop zone.
The Hornets buzzed and the Reds misfired - and even Hill had to acknowledge his team had been taken apart.
It’s worrying times at Oakwell and, unless the Reds get a win soon, the pressure won’t go away. Hill knows it.
“That was probably the best team performance against us so far this season,” said Hill.
“Watford were excellent in every department and are clearly the team in form at the moment.
“But we’ve got to start doing our jobs better. As good as the opposition may be, we’re making avoidable mistakes and at this level you get punished for that.”
Hill made one change to his starting line-up following the encouraging midweek 1-1 home draw with Burnley.
It came across the midfield four with Emile Sinclair being given the nod for his first start following his loan switch from Peterborough United.
Youngster Reuben Noble-Lazarus dropped to the bench despite having impressed against the Clarets.
However, the Reds soon fell behind to a poor early goal, but they did rally and were in contention at half-time despite the deficit.
The opening goal came after 10 minutes through a simple set-piece effort. Mark Yeates swung over a corner-kick and Deeney rose almost unopposed to nod easily past a stunned Luke Steele.
Ten minutes later Akos Buzsaky teed up leading scorer Craig Davies and his goalbound strike was superbly palmed wide by former Arsenal stopper Manuel Almunia.
From the resulting corner-kick Almunia was at it again as Marcus Tudgay’s point-blank header was somehow plucked from just underneath the crossbar.
The Reds were battling hard but were saved by the woodwork just before the half-hour mark. Yeates floated over another corner and this time wing-back Marco Cassetti looped a header on to the top of the crossbar and behind.
The visitors thought they had finally levelled six minutes before the break, only for a dramatic intervention from centre-back Tommie Hoban.
He did brilliantly to get back to clear a Sinclair effort off the line after the forward had rounded Almunia and looked odds on to slot the ball into an empty net.
Buzsaky and Sinclair both fluffed half-chances soon after the restart, before the Hornets bagged a second goal on the hour.
Deeney was the creator this time, backheeling expertly into Yeates’ path, and the Hornets midfielder scooted round the back and slotted convincingly past Steele from the acutest of angles.
Five minutes later it was 3-0. With the Reds defence still trying to get organised, Fernando Forestieri tapped the ball to Deeney and he smashed a low shot into the corner to just beat Steele from 25 yards.
The predictable fourth goal following seven minutes from time.
Watford sub Matej Vydra was clumsily felled inside the box by defender Jim McNulty, and the Czech Republic hauled himself off the deck to slot home the spot kick.
Yeates almost made it a nap-hand for rampant Watford when he drove a peach of a shot on to the post, before Barnsley grabbed a late consolation goal a few seconds before the final whistle. Tudgay got it. pouncing on a poor back pass from Joel Ekstrand and squeezing a shot past Almunia for his second goal in as many games.
By then a large chunk of the 300-strong travelling support had already headed for the exits.
Watford boss Gianfranco Zola was delighted after presiding over a fifth win in seven games but said: “I didn’t really think the final result was a fair one for Barnsley We deserved to win, of course, but not by that margin maybe.”